Latch on

Marlborough Express - The Saturday Express, Marlborough - - HEALTH -

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.

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