To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August) this year, we met with different parents who shared their stories of breastfeeding and breastfeeding difficulties in the hope that they could support other people with their own breastfeeding journeys. The challenges and difficulties that each of these families faced were unique to their own situation, but it was clear that for all of them, the right support from healthcare providers, family and friends was the key to overcoming those challenges.
We acknowledge and understand that some parents may experience more breastfeeding challenges than others. We also recognise LGBTQIA+ families have valuable experiences with human milk feeding in all its forms.
“Every drop of breastmilk is gold,” an obstetrician once told Hana.
Hana lost confidence in her ability to breastfeed after a traumatic breastfeeding experience with her first child. However, she felt supported by the nurses in the hospital to keep trying, especially when she was given help with latching of her baby.
“The kind of tiny details shown to me by the nurse when I was holding the baby were so helpful,” says Hana.
While in the hospital after giving birth to her second child, Hana was able to get this support straight away, which increased her confidence. Hana found being afforded extra time in hospital to concentrate solely on feeding her baby most helpful.
Hana said when she is feeding her son and he smiles at her, she feels happy.
Early on in her pregnancy, Emily wanted to learn as much about breastfeeding as she could. Her partner was keen to learn too, as they both knew how important it was that he also understood. They attended classes well before their baby was due, where they were able to learn all about how to make breastfeeding work. When their baby arrived, Emily felt informed and empowered.
However, even with all her new knowledge, Emily didn’t always find it easy. When she did experience difficulties, she was able to lean on her family and the Australian Breastfeeding Association support helpline (1800 686 268) for help.
“I was able to talk to someone and tell them exactly what was going on. It was a therapy mixed with some practical advice about things I could do.”
Cultural expectations around modesty meant that Deepmala had to overcome more than learning how to breastfeed. As well as difficulty with latching and nipple pain, she had to advocate for herself and explain to her community that she felt comfortable breastfeeding in front of family and relatives.
“Because in our culture we don’t breastfeed in front of people, in front of anybody especially the males of extended families and community.”
Deepmala stood strong and breastfed in the places she was comfortable. She felt very supported by her workplace to express milk at work and work flexibly around the needs of her baby. Having this support made this time much easier!
Alice felt overwhelmed with different advice when she was experiencing breastfeeding difficulties. It made her feel like quitting. But after being referred to the City of Maribyrnong drop-in breastfeeding service, she says her journey changed.
“Hands down, I don’t think I would have continued feeding without that resource.”
At the breastfeeding drop-in service, Alice received practical advice in latching techniques. It was through a conversation with a Maternal and Child Health Nurse that she came to realise what a journey breastfeeding can be.
“You have to be patient, you have to be persistent, and you have to persevere because it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.”
With her family living in Indonesia, Nikita’s lifelines for breastfeeding support were the midwives in the hospital and a lactation consultant. She experienced lots of swelling and pain after the birth of her daughter, but she was shown how to breastfeed lying down, which made things much better for her.
“My maternal child health nurse, she is my rock, because I was really struggling.”
Nikita was also able to make friends through a local parents’ group. Not only was the social connection great, but she also learned about how every baby is different and has their own unique needs.
“She was born so tiny and when I look at her now, she’s thriving, she’s growing, she’s happy, she’s healthy.”
When Rosie was pregnant with her daughter, she wanted to learn as much as she could about breastfeeding. She used social media and the Australian Breastfeeding Association website – to hear about others’ experiences and get informed. Informing herself this way meant Rosie was empowered when she gave birth to her daughter.
One of the things that Rosie struggled with was cultural expectations from her community about breastfeeding. She had to overcome beliefs and misconceptions that “if breastmilk couldn’t grow a big baby, it is not good as formula”. This only made her more determined!
“How can milk from me not be nutritious enough?”
Marie thinks it’s good to talk about breastfeeding challenges because they are normal!
Marie experienced sore nipples, bleeding, mastitis, and other challenges during her breastfeeding journey.
The things that helped her to overcome these challenges included:
“I realised that whenever I had an issue or pain or discomfort, with the right support it was quite short-lived.”
We encourage all families to reach out for support with breastfeeding. You can get support through your local Maternal and Child Health Centre or through some of the resources listed below.
Breastfeeding support resources
The photographs in this story were taken by Jody Haines. Find out more about Jody and her work on her website https://www.jodyhainesphotography.com/