Mama, Trust Your Intuition
Updated: May 6
BY CAMPAIGN PHOTOGRAPHER & GUEST WRITER, KAREN HOLT
When I was pregnant with my son, Reef, I felt a sense of calm about the impending breastfeeding journey.
I’d learnt so much through feeding my daughter, India, a few years earlier and felt I had a much greater understanding of what that lay ahead.
But after an emergency caesarean section followed by complications that included blood transfusions, fluid replacement and two days separated from my baby...
My goal to breastfeed Reef seemed like a far off fantasy.
I remember so vividly lying in my hospital bed, wondering if Reef was ok, I cried thinking he must be wondering where I was. The nurses gave me syringes to collect my colostrum, but it took time and a lot of attempts. I had to ask for help every single time I tried and thankfully the persistence paid off.
I cried again as soon as those golden drops started to slowly fill the syringes.
With the internal bleeding I experienced, the blood loss made it hard for my body to produce milk and I’m sure stress was also a contributing factor. Once Reef and I were reunited I put him straight on my breast to feed. The nurses told me not to because he had just been fed (formula) and he wouldn’t be hungry.
My Mama instinct told me to anyway and he latched naturally very quickly.
The joy I felt was almost as great as the moment he was born. When my milk finally did come in I didn’t experience engorgement. Instead it kind of dribbled in. I was so shocked the first time I saw it had leaked on to my hospital clothes.
Shocked, but hopeful. It kept me going.
As Reef stayed in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) on a separate floor to where I was during our hospital stay I had to feed him every three hours according to the NICU schedule. They also fed him formula which made it so much harder to get our feeding on track.
But I persisted.
For six days and nights I fed him to that schedule round the clock. I would stay until the next scheduled feed started in the tiny breastfeeding room and only go back when I was needed for blood tests or checks with the doctor. I begged the nurses to call me to come down if he cried.
It took everything I had in my – also healing – body, but I persisted. I let my Mama intuition guide me.
As soon as we got home we fed on demand. It took time and patience. There were so many tears. I wondered if we would get past two weeks and with every feed I wondered if this would be the last. With the amazing guidance of our supportive paediatrician, nurses, and lactation consultants I was able to continue to breastfeed Reef.
It’s with absolute amazement now that I look down at my 11-month-old as he feeds.
I’ve leaned on my friends a lot. In the early days they brought me food, held him when he cried and helped us to find our way. The truth is, you can’t do it alone. Breastfeeding is hard. That’s a fact. We’re conditioned to believe it will be easy, because it’s a natural thing. We build up expectations in our mind of what it will be like and in my experience it has been quite different.
I’m sharing my story with you not because I want you to feel sorry for me.
And not because I think breastfeeding is the only way – that’s between you and your baby. I’m telling you this because if you do want to breastfeed your baby here’s the secret to making it work – it takes a village. No matter how hard it is in the beginning, surround yourself with a support network that understands what your goals are and you will have the best chance of getting to where you want to get to on your breastfeeding journey.
Get rest when you can. Accept all the help.
Drop all your expectations and forgive yourself. And more than anything trust your intuition.
As the saying goes:
When a baby is born, a mother is born too... And in the moment you’ll know what is best for both of you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Karen is a conscious creative based in Hong Kong, who strives to tell the intricate stories of conscious brands by capturing imagery, meaningful written word and content that illustrates the beauty of their business.
She also shoots family portraiture, capturing connection she has a strong love for the outdoors and a passion for natural light, colours and texture.
Karen lives on South Lantau with her husband and two children.
See more of her work here