Thanks so much for your lovely, supportive comments on last week’s post, Danielle’s honesty really touched a lot of you. This week we’re hearing from Become Mum regarding how she dealt with an extremely difficult decision.
I had to stop breastfeeding. It was six o’clock and we had just finished the first feed of the day. My mum said, ‘well, if you need the medication then you have to stop’. I agreed reluctantly. The single dose of Risperidone was working, but I was still having trouble sleeping, and controlling my toxic thoughts. And so that was the final time I breastfed my son, on January 2nd 2016 at six o’clock.
I am still lactating, however my supply has reduced dramatically in the last two weeks. It has been a process that has required family support, and my new friends @Mummymidwife2be and @honestmumma on Twitter. Seriously, without my network on Twitter I think I would be a caved mess right now of mastitis and serious depression that no amount of mindfulness or medication could have helped me with.
I have suggested five tips for physical wellbeing, however there are also some emotion suggestions; the ways to help ensure that you, your baby and your family are safe, healthy and relatively happy during this time of abrupt transition. Because to wean suddenly, as in to go from a full breastfeeding relationship to zero breastfeeding contact in the space of one feed, is going to cause some emotional trauma for everyone involved.
Although the decision to stop seemed abrupt, it had been two weeks since I had began the medication. You can continue to breastfeed on most medications, however anti-psychotics are one of the few classes in which breastfeeding is not recommended. The risks outweigh the benefits. I had been prescribed Risperidone to ‘get me over the holiday period’ where so many services close for two or more weeks in Australia. My doctor had diagnosed me with severe postnatal depression with a psychotic episode. Yup, I was crazy. And so this medication was vital in stopping the intrusive thoughts that were wracking my being. And at five and half months postpartum it was time to put my health first. Although really, my health should have been first all the way along, because without a healthy mumma, you ain’t got a healthy bubba (sorry for the Aussie slang).
After the six o’clock feed my mum- whom I was staying with for two weeks due to the new medication side effects- took Master X so that I could pump. She topped him up with a bottle of formula (I think he only took about 20 milliliters) and so it began. I expressed every feed and in between for comfort, if required. My mother and sister provided my son with lots of cuddles and physical contact. My body was missing him and I believe that he was also upset from the sudden cessation. He stopped smiling. He stopped laughing. And he even stopped looking for me. I isolated myself from him for the first week, seemingly unintentional. I only realised it much later when my husband Mr. A came to get us. My breasts were still producing milk and leaking every time that I went close to Master X, however the engorgement had subsided. It was week two.
Whilst my body was overtly grieving for the end of the relationship, my mind was jumbled, trying to grasp at the light that the medication had provided before I was plunged, once again into dark grief. I recall the second night, weeping into my pillow, drenching the bed sheets with my salty tears, wondering why this had to be so cruel. After about an hour, the tears ceased long enough for me to realise that it was almost midnight, and that I was hungry and needed the bathroom. As I emerged from the guest room, my sister came out of hers and asked me if I was okay. She held me while I cried, made me some warm milk and toast, and listened whilst I grieved for the relationship. This happened on multiple occasions throughout the first week.
Emotional support for the baby, family and mother are vital in sudden cessation of breastfeeding for any reasons. The avenues in which you find this type of support vary. Your baby will need physical support so it is important to try and have close friends and/or family around to help reduce the isolation from mum because of her swollen, sore bosom. Mum also requires intensive support through physical help with family tasks like feeding and caring for bub, as well as emotional support. The hormone changes from sudden cessation also play as a factor. My hair began to fall out and I desperately missed the release of oxytocin from feeding.
I had to be around family for the safety of myself and Master X, however my online friends were also very important in that they had been through similar experiences. I was also in regular contact with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, where I could honestly talk about the physical side effects and they helped me in maintaining physical breast health. I have not had mastitis, and although we are still working on enjoying bottle feeding, we are healthy and happy.
You can read more from Become Mum on her blog, or find her on Twitter or Instagram. She is currently running a wonderful guest blogging series of her own called PND Solidarity. If you have suffered from a Perinatal Mental Illness and wish to share your story please click here for more details.
*If you would like to contribute to the My Mountain series with a piece about your own biggest parenting challenge please email firstname.lastname@example.org*