Breastfeeding is not always easy, but with help it is possible to overcome difficulties, first-time mum Kylie Ballantine says.
Kylie’s son Reid Comeskey weighed only 1.6 kilograms (3 pounds 9 ounces) when he was born on February 27 this year, 10 weeks before he was expected. When Kylie first started trying to breastfeed him she knew things could go wrong but did not realise how tough it could be, she says.
‘‘Your nipples can crack, and bleed. There are all these horrible things that can happen.’’
Women can contract infections, especially when their milk is backed up, she says. In Kylie’s case, she experienced problems because since Reid was premature: her body was not fully prepared to feed him, and he was not taking in much milk.
They ended up staying in hospital for six weeks, with Reid being fed through a nasogastric tube. Kylie received some ‘‘amazing’’ support from her midwife, her friends and family and Jackie Martin, a midwife and lactation consultant who is helping to organise the Big Latch On in Marlborough.
Kylie wants to continue breastfeeding Reid until he is at least a year old. She was never tempted to give up trying, she says, mainly because she is planning to return to work as an early childhood teacher and she wants to have some contact with Reid during the day.
‘‘That’s why I really stuck it out. I was really, really determined. He hasn’t had a bottle so far.’’
Kylie is taking part in the Big Latch On, which is nationwide and involves breastfeeding in a public place to raise awareness, and to ‘‘destigmatise’’ it, Kylie says.
Earlier this year she was at a family event and covered Reid while she was feeding him, but it just ‘‘felt really wrong’’, she says. She took him to a cafe not long ago and breastfed him there, and although it made her feel ‘‘a bit uncomfortable’’ it was mainly because she was afraid of making other people uncomfortable, she says.
‘‘[Mothers] shouldn’t feel like that. It’s a natural thing.’’
Breastfeeding helps mothers develop an amazing bond with their children, she thinks.
At the moment Reid has developed to the level of a 3-month-old baby.
‘‘He’s had to do some of the developing he would have done in utero outside,’’ Kylie says.
He will catch up to babies his own age, but it will take a while. He is doing ‘‘fantastically’’ well, and she describes him as a ‘‘determined’’ baby. Although she has been an early childhood teacher for 10 years, having Reid has been a learning curve for her.
‘‘All the years of teaching doesn’t prepare you for looking after a newborn baby.’’
Jackie Martin says she is expecting between 35 and 55 mothers at the Big Latch On, which is organised by the Marlborough Breastfeeding Network and hosted by Plunket. It will give mothers of young children a chance to socialise and will be an opportunity to raise awareness about breast feeding. A morning tea will be organised by Plunket volunteers.
New Zealand has a very high proportion of mothers who want to breastfeed, more than 90 per cent, she says. While many mothers go through the process without any problems, others find it very hard.
Most of the time they are aware of what can go wrong beforehand, but often they find it hard ‘‘to comprehend that those challenges might happen to them’’.
‘‘Having the right support to get through this really works,’’ she says.
It is important new mums realise there is help available to them in the community, like Plunket and the breastfeeding clinic. There are also social networks set up by other women, and national networks like La Leche League.
Kylie Ballantine and Reid Comeskey, 5 months, will be at the Big Latch On on Friday.