Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Irish Breastfeeding Mum Says Exactly What We All Need To Hear

Emma Howlin is a friend of mine. In fact, she has written for Raising Ireland as a guest blogger several times.

She is funny, she is eloquent, she is smart. She is a mum of two and she has breastfed both of her kids like a rock star.

Not only that, but she has completely lovely, solid, sound advice for other mums who are hoping, trying or struggling to breastfeed. She does it with a calmness and wit that doesn’t make you feel like you’re being judged or pressurised, just that your mate is giving you a dig out.

It’s pretty astounding that breastfeeding support isn’t her actual job, because we could use more people like her. I sure wish I’d listened to someone helpful like Emma to give me the encouragement I badly needed when breastfeeding wasn’t working out for me. But then hindsight is still a total bitch.

Check out this recent post on Emma’s Facebook page about the latest media attention breastfeeding has received, courtesy of celeb parents Jamie Oliver and Adele – Emma’s message is beautifully written and is understandably getting a lot of attention online.

Bear with me here 🙂 I’ve mulled over the whole Jamie Oliver breastfeeding comments and Adele’s response and you know…

Posted by Emma Howlin on Monday, March 28, 2016


See what I mean about her? Amazing x

Breastfeeding, but not breast-feeding. Another Option!

After last weekends’ Great Twitter Chat on my ‘Breastfeeding: A Pain In The Tits?’ article, I can’t stop talking about it to everyone I meet. Most women are in agreement that whether you or I breast or bottle feed our kids is nobody else’s business, and everyone just needs to get on with their own lives. BUT, there was a definite sentiment amongst many of the women I spoke to who hadn’t breastfed either for a long period of time, or at all, that a their reasons stemmed from a lack of information and support on the matter.

So I’m gathering up shit-loads of no-nonsense, practical advice for anyone who might be interested, on the subject of breastfeeding.

Step in my good pal Sinead, mother to the most adorable, dainty princess Harlow. Sinead and I were due our babies on the exact same date – we were ‘Competitively Pregnant’, you know (they bleedin’ won) – so Eva and Harlow are almost the exact same age. I breastfed Eva for two months and switched to formula feeding. Sinead is still feeding Harlow breastmilk exclusively – but not with her boobs. I’ll let her explain in her own words.

Sharyn x

“I had my little one nearly 8 months ago and becoming a mum has been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. But, like most mums, I have had my challenges.

I come from a family who are very supportive of breastfeeding and when I was pregnant I read everything I could find about it. I decided I really wanted to breastfeed my baby. I even YouTube’d how to get baby to latch on properly so that I would feel confident on our first try! I did what the advice said and when I had my baby I fed her immediately skin to skin. While in hospital my baby fed without difficulty, latching on well and no pain, I thought I had hit the jackpot,” what’s all the fuss about”??

Then, after 2 days, we went home. She started to scream…., and scream. She screamed the house down. I couldn’t get her to latch on in all the hysteria. Thankfully I remained calm, thinking “she can’t scream forever”….well, she gave it her best shot! This proceeded to happen every night, the sun would go down and BOOM, screaming! In the first few weeks my little one wanted to be on the boob around the clock. She might drift off after a few minutes on the boob, looking like a tiny cherub in my arms, but as soon as I would take her off the latch the hysteria would start again.

I slept in 30 minute intervals those first few weeks and felt like I was losing my mind with tiredness. During the day she was a lot more content so I’m sure people thought I was mad telling them just how hard it was.

Then I got mastitis – lovely. This is no joke ladies, not only is your boob really painful but you get the shakes and feel like you have the flu. Naturally, it just so happened I was on my own with Screamer all that day so couldn’t do what I needed to, which was rest. So I was carrying Screamer in my arms at the top of the stairs when the shakes got really bad and everything started to go fuzzy. I have never fainted before but it definitely was not the glamorous swoon I have seen on the telly. I just sort of lowered myself to the floor with Screamer tight against me and lay there, on the stairs until the fuzz ebbed away. I knew I couldn’t keep going as I was.

I really wanted breastfeeding to go well. I felt everyone would be terribly disappointed if I stopped, especially me. I knew all the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and myself and felt I would be devastated to stop at that time. So, I rummaged out the little breast pump I had bought before Screamer’s arrival. I had bought it with the intention of using it on the odd occasion I would be away from Screamer. I had invested €125 in a Medela Swing which is a tiny electric pump, about the size of an old disc man. So anyway, on hideous mastitis day, baby was about 4 weeks old. I knew the best thing to do was clear the blockage in the painful boob and go the doctor. But, as I was on my own that day and too sick to leave the house, I just pumped until the infection cleared. Now, as you can imagine, this hard earned breastmilk was treasure, I couldn’t just bin it! With a little research I found you can refrigerate breastmilk for up to 5 days, so I kept it. That evening, I gave said bottle to Screamer, and something magical happened; Screamer slept. She slept for 3 hours straight. An absolute miracle, glorious. It meant I could get help. Every time prior to this that Screamer was, well, screaming, she was handed to me with “she needs the boob”, when in actuality, she didn’t always “need the boob”, she just needed someone to hold her and love her through the screaming. But I know it is hard to differentiate between crying due to hunger and crying for reassurance.

So anyway, that’s how I started pumping my milk, and how I felt I could continue breastfeeding and keep my sanity. Pumping might not be for everyone and I know breastfeeding your baby is best. It just is. No one can argue the facts. But this is how I got through. I consoled myself with the knowledge she was getting all the nutrients nature intended, but, selfishly, I gave her a bottle so I could get some sleep. It slowly went from one feed of pumped milk a day to solely pumped milk when Screamer was about 10 weeks old.

It took time for my body to get a routine established but now I pump 4 times a day. First when I wake up at 8.00 for 30 mins, then between 12.00 and 13.00 for 20 mins, then at about 17.00 and 22.00 for 15 minutes each. I found out you make the most milk in the morning, fascinating!

So there you have it, Screamer doesn’t scream anymore. She grew out of that at about 8 weeks. She is a very healthy and contented baby. Far more relaxed than her mother. I went back to work when she was 6 months old – I’m a nurse so I do long hours both night and day shifts and I still feed my baby solely breastmilk. To be honest, I am proud that we are still plodding along together pumping as we go but I still have guilt. That niggling in the back of my mind that she is not breastfed from the breast. I think mums put a lot of pressure on themselves. No one has ever said or done anything other than being totally supportive of my choice to pump but it’s me. This just happens to be the way I muddled through my first time being a mum.

No one ever gave me the option of pumping as just that, an option. I wrote this so that other mums might know that this is a viable option if you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall breastfeeding a screamer. Pumping is a rarely discussed method of continuing to breastfeed with its health benefits included, while getting the positives of bottle feeding, like getting your other half to give you a hand the odd time. I don’t know how long we will keep going, but if I can do it, you can too.



Breastfeeding: A Pain In The Tits?

Firstly, let me say this: I am 100% a fan of breastfeeding our babies. And I am 100% a fan of bottle feeding our babies. Therefore, you might conclude that A) I have done both and B) I am taking my usual judgement-free stance on what other people do to feed their babies…and you’d be right.

But all the statistic waving on the subject of breastfeeding in Ireland of late is giving me, quite frankly, a large pain in my tits. Surely I am not the only person who realises that the real reason we have such low numbers of breastfeeding women in our country is because NO BODY TELLS US THE TRUTH ABOUT IT.

Newsflash: Breastfeeding Is Hard For Some People. Why won’t anyone just admit that to expectant mothers, instead of saying ‘Breast Is Best’ ad nauseum, without outlining the realities of how breastfeeding works? Wouldn’t our young mothers do better with realistic expectations, instead of believing it’s going to be all ‘babe-suckling-at-the-boob-by-the-candlelight’; only to become disheartened when the breastfeeding begins and it doesn’t follow what they’ve been told?

Nope, our health service continues to omit the relevant info, and leave our poor new mothers to fend for themselves when the new baby comes along. If you attend any of our maternity hospitals’ ante-natal classes when you are expecting a baby, you will most likely come away with the following (false) info:

1. If it’s your first baby, you’ll be overdue. You will know you are in labour when your waters break and you feel something like a period pain. Definitely stay at home for another two hours until the pain in unbearable before you come in to the hospital because we’re mad busy.

2. Don’t ask for the epidural until you have been in labour for hours and hours and hours. At the point that you do ask, it may or may not then be too late to actually get the epidural. And sure why would you want it anyway when you’ll have a quicker birth without it? (See Point 1: ‘We’re mad busy’).

3. Breastfeed your baby. It is the most natural thing in the world. Sure they do it in India.

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot!

First thing off the cliff should be that statement ‘It’s the most natural thing in the world’, because it isn’t for lots of people. What breastfeeding needs is time and patience and support and a demo video of how to get your baby to the boob successfully in public. These are the logistical challenges that modern mothers should have the answers to.

If the Irish health service really wanted to increase the numbers of women breastfeeding in Ireland, I would suggest that they perhaps send all expectant mothers a pack called ‘The Truth About Breastfeeding’. The cover letter would read as follows:

‘Dear Mother-To-Be,

We hope you and baby are healthy and well. In the event that you choose to breastfeed your new baby boy or girl, we wanted to send you the following items out of the goodness of our hearts:

A nipple guard, some super-robust breast pads, nipple cream, a realistic schedule of when you should expect your baby to feed week by week, and when you should be resting your boobs and body, a demo of how to do it in public, a decent breast pump, a bottle and carton of instant formula for when you need it (and THAT’S OK), a list of non-arsehole-riddled coffee shops and restaurants where your baby can feed in peace, and a voucher for M&S so you can get fitted and buy yourself a nice new bra when the time comes that you stop breastfeeding.

Also, everything you decide is up to you.

Love, the Irish Health Service’

[Like this ranty madness? See more over at ‘Breastfeeding Is Back!’]



Breastfeeding Is Back

There is a marked difference in attitude, between when I had Jacob in 2011 and having now had Eva in 2014, so far as breastfeeding is concerned.

In 2011, I was uninspired, underwhelmed and slightly badgered by midwives and public health nurses about breastfeeding. It was just something I ‘should’ have been doing, and if I didn’t master it, I was a bit of a disappointment. Aside from that, I didn’t really feel like I had anyone around me who I could talk to about the whole process of breastfeeding, who was like me and who would offer practical advice.

As a consequence, I put my head in the sand about it and after about two and a half weeks of miserable breastfeeding attempts with Jacob, I fucked the breast pump across the room (narrowly missing Ass Monkey’s pretty head), smashed it against the kitchen sink, and that was the last my boobs and I spoke of it.

But in 2014, things have changed. I mean, there was still this conversation with an ole bitch at the maternity hospital when I was registering my pregnancy:

Ole Bitch: And do you plan on breastfeeding your baby?

Me: I do.

Ole Bitch: Did you breastfeed your first child?

Me: I did.

Ole Bitch: For how long?

Me: For approximately two and a half weeks.

Ole Bitch: (disappointed stare) What happened exactly?

Me: (already texting Ass Monkey to get into the room before I punched the head off her) EH I STOPPED BREASTFEEDING???

Regardless of Ole Bitch’s attempts to put me off forever – just to spite her – I’m happily combination feeding Eva boob and bottle, five weeks in. I still have absolutely no idea how I’ll breastfeed in public without having to take all my clothes off like I do at home, but for the moment, that’s fine with me because I’m not planning on going anywhere.

The difference is that I have much more positive and practical support this time. I now know about nipple guards and the best creams to use to ensure that I’m not in pain (because seriously, why would you put yourself through that? The sleep deprivation and the emotional roller coaster with a new baby is enough to contend with), and I also know SHIT LOADS OF AMAZING WOMEN WHO BREASTFEED.

Isn’t that the trick? That there are people we can all relate to who are showing us the way? (Who can forget ‘role model’ Jordan saying that she didn’t breastfeed her kids because ‘Boobs Are For Sex’? NICE ONE, ASSHOLE). That’s why I think this ‘Breastfeeding Buddy System’ from Friends of Breastfeeding is great. It is currently in the experimental stages but they will pair you up with someone who will support you through the whole process of breastfeeding, from getting comfortable doing it at home, to getting outdoors and breastfeeding in public for the first time.

If you’re interested in reading about it, or finding out how to sign up, click the link HERE

***It’s really important to stress that breastfeeding is not for everyone, and that’s ok. For many women, it isn’t ‘the most natural thing in the world’ that lots of people say it is. Whatever works for you is all that matters, make your own choices for you and your family and remember you are an Amazing Parent ;o)

Sharyn x


Boobs, Glorious Boobs

We love this story from the UK during the week – a whole heap of ‘Don’t Fuck With Us’ breastfeeding mothers decided to stand (also sit, lean etc) in solidarity with fellow mother Wioletta Komar.

Wioletta was unbelievably asked to leave a Sports Direct store in January simply because she was openly breastfeeding her son.

Get. A. Grip, Sports Direct.


Read the full story here: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-27253488

The Milk Bank

I was waddling up Earlsfort Terrace at 8 months pregnant, listening to the radio, when they started talking about the human milk bank. My first reaction was the same as many others – HUMAN milk bank? Eeeeeew! But the more they spoke more about it, the more interested I became. Based in Fermanagh, it is the only human milk bank in Ireland. They arrange for donated breastmilk to be transported wherever it’s needed.  There is a massive shortage of donations, probably due to the limited number of potential donors and the fact that not many people know about it.

Primarily, the donations go to premature babies who can benefit hugely from breastmilk.  However, there are more unusual circumstances where donations are needed, like a woman who had undergone a double mastectomy and couldn’t breastfeed her baby. Donors are usually mothers with a surplus of milk. However, there have been a number of very brave and generous women who donated in honour of their babies who died shortly after birth.

I put it to the back of my mind while basking in the joys of late pregnancy (sausage feet, hot flushes, the hips and pelvis of a 90 year old), followed by the joys of early motherhood (endless nappies, marathon breastfeeding sessions, the heady mix of sleep deprivation and overwhelming love). By the time my little man was about 4 months old, I’d started giving him a bottle in the evenings and figured I could replace the evening feed with a donating session. I called the milk bank, spoke to a lovely lady who went through some standard vetting questions with me (quite similar to those you’d have to answer before donating blood), and she sent me out a starter pack of pre-sterilised bottles. After that, it was all about the pumping!

As milk can only be kept frozen for three months, that’s as long as I had to collect the minimum donation amount of 3 litres.  I was only expressing once a day – with the odd evening off for a well deserved and needed glass of wine – so it took me three months to collect the required minimum. It may seem like a long time but I took it one evening at a time, sometimes collecting a whopping 100mls, sometimes only 20mls. (There was also that bottle I dropped on the floor – yes, I did actually cry over spilt milk).

But what a sense of achievement when I was done! After that it was a trip to my GP so he could take a blood sample for me to send off with the donation, then straight to the post office with the precious product of my poor overworked boobs – and off it went to the milk bank. Fittingly, by express post!

Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from the milk bank letting me know that my donation went to four babies. Cue one chuffed head on me – job done!


**If you are interested in donating breast milk or would like more information, call the milk bank on 048 686 28333 (from Northern Ireland, call 028 686 28333) or email milkbank@sperrinlakeland.freeserve.co.uk