Breast is best. Except when it's not.

Emily Jade with her husband and baby daughter Millie

So it turns out I’ve been starving my baby. More about that in a moment.

Last night, I was breastfeeding while watching the news – as I’ve done so many times since I brought my beautiful little girl home from the hospital 8 weeks ago –  when one story seemed to speak just to me.

BREASTFEEDING figures are in steady decline, even though national health guidelines recommend feeding infants the old-fashioned way.

A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found only 40 per cent of mothers still exclusively breastfeed their babies at three months and 15 per cent of mothers are still breastfeeding at five months.

This is despite health guidelines that recommend breastfeeding for the first six months.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare surveyed more than 28,000 parents, with the data to be fed into the national breastfeeding strategy.

According to the survey, the biggest reasons for using formula were wanting to share feeding with a partner (28.5 per cent) and the belief that it was as good as breast milk (26 per cent).

Only 7.8 per cent of mothers said they used formula because they wanted to return to work.

Since it is so close to Christmas there is nearly four generations of women staying in my home and so we muted the news and discussed the issue as it and my breasts were staring everyone in the face. Not only that, yesterday I picked up a script from the Chemist to help me produce more milk because I have been starving my baby.

That’s not the nicest thing to realise, I’m not in a third world country, I shouldn’t be starving my child, and yet here I was doing exactly that because I was determined to do what was best for my child, and yet I really wasn’t.

It started when I got home from hospital. The beautiful nurses did their best to help me feed, and it did work.  By the time I left, after a lot of agonising coercing and pushing and pulling of my nipples and boobs into my child’s mouth I left with a beautiful baby latched to my breast. It really is the most beautiful thing in the world, seeing your child nourished from your own body, those big trustful eyes looking up you gulping away at a substance that gives them all they need and more. I was on top of the world and everyone around me was patting me on the back and congratulating me for conquering such a difficult task, and it really is difficult.

As I gingerly walked out of the safe confines of the hospital afraid of the outside world and the evils it potentially held for my helpless child, posters advertising breast feeding were plastered on every notice board. I got the point, breast is best, my breast is best and together me and my boobs would protect my baby from harm.


Two weeks later I was an emotional wreck, if my baby wasn’t crying she was latched to my chest sucking for dear life. Visitors would come and coo and first ask how breast feeding was going and then tell me that this was the best time because all babies do is eat and sleep.


Not my baby, all she would do is eat and cry.

She has colic one tribal elder would say.

She has reflux another.

Maybe she’s windy, give her Infacol, Infants friend or at least 20 minutes of winding, that should fix her.

I tried it all, I had too. I had already walked around Westfield with half my boob flapping in the air conditioning after desperately trying to console her in the long line in Medicare and popping a boob in her mouth to settle her and then frazzled and fatigued I had forgotten to put it all away.

I simply couldn’t get a single thing done, not even a small five minute trip to the shops without having to feed her to keep her happy.

Then the health nurse picked up that something was wrong. She hadn’t put on any weight and after some gentle probing discovered that she hadn’t pooed in nearly two weeks. A sign that she wasn’t eating enough, I wasn’t feeding her enough.

I was the problem, a breast augmentation 10 years previously where my nipples where re-aligned was probably the culprit. Most women can breast feed after a boob job, but sometimes when nipples are realigned the breast ducts are damaged making it difficult for your milk to flow.

I was devastated at first. Not only was I starving the thing I would now lay down and die for, but a choice I had made in my youth was the reason I couldn’t do what I was longing to do. But you know what?  I got over it so fast. When I put that bottle of formula in her mouth and she drank the bottle dry and then slept for 4 straight hours I knew I was doing the right thing FOR HER.


However, having said and done that, I still desperately want to breast feed my child for all the reasons they tell you, immunity, bonding and ease and so I haven’t given up.

I started milking myself like a cow daily on the breast pump to increase my milk. That was and still is the most disheartening thing I have ever done. Watching the tedious drip drip drip of my milk into the bottle, struggling to get past 50 mls after 40 minutes, while my ample next door neighbour jumps on it and 150 mls gushes out in 10 minutes. One day, after two weeks of persevering I managed to squeeze out 100 mls, I wanted to throw an expressing party with breast milk coctails to celebrate.

And yesterday I collected a script for Motilium a drug that was made to stop stomach issues like nausea and vomiting, but strangely also increases your flow.

Can I tell you I’m scared to take it. The instructions came with list of possible side effects, like a rash, ulcers or cold sores and worse the swelling of my face, lips, mouth or tongue. I have the potential to spend her first Christmas looking like the elephant man, but I’m willing to try because I still believe breast is best.

And so today, as I feed for as long as I can, and then top my hungry little munchkin up with formula I am preparing myself for the worst yet hoping for the best, but ultimately all I really want is a happy healthy baby and right now she can’t tell the difference between formula or breast, but she sure can tell the difference between full and empty.

Emily Jade O’Keefe was the female voice in The Cage Breakfast team in Brisbane on 104.5 Triple M. She freelances for Channel 9 on Kerri-Anne, writes for the Courier Mail and on the weekends moonlights as a Marriage Celebrant. Visit Emily Jade’s Blog here.

Would you (did you) breastfeed exclusively for 6 months if you could?