COMPASSIONATE TO NO END.
Amy is founder of #mumlifeproject, self proclaimed reality tv tragic, mum to Emily and all round super-duper person - posting positivity to mums across the country, just because.
Amy spent her lunch break giving us the low down on her battle through painful nursing and a detached nipple, the importance of trusting your body and the beautiful purpose behind the #mumlifeproject movement.
Tell us about your nursing experience with your daughter Emily.
At the time I hated it.
I wasn't one of those mothers that loved the nursing experience. I was quite sick from complications during Emily’s birth. With my body struggling to recover, breastfeeding really took its toll on me.
Emily fed every 2 hours and with a whole bunch of health issues to deal with, I was mentally and physically exhausted.
I also struggled to find my place as a mother - I felt disconnected from the person I was before.
I didn’t want being a mother to change me, but it obviously changes you completely and that transition took awhile for me to accept.
I think at the beginning, I felt restricted by breastfeeding - like I didn't have any control over my own body.
I now look back on it with fonder memories and really wish I just surrendered myself to my new role of mother sooner.
Was there anything that made breastfeeding particularly difficult for you?
Emily never ever took a bottle, so it soon became obvious that I would be in this for the long haul. There was no point even expressing milk anymore, because no matter what bottle we tried, she wouldn’t take it.
It was extremely hard at the beginning, made worse by a semi-detached nipple on one side. It required stitches but because my boobs were still becoming so engorged there was no point - they would just keep popping the wound open. There was never any chance for the wound to dry out as it was always wet - either from leaking milk or Emily sucking.
It was the most painful thing I've ever experienced, it hurt more than my c-section. I eventually needed 2 rounds of antibiotic ointment applied after every feed and oral antibiotics too. I often needed to take pain killers 30 minutes before feeding.
I remember crying almost every feed from the pain. I remember letting Emily cry, knowing she was hungry, but needing a few more minutes to psych myself up enough to bring her to my breast.
Eventually it healed, but it was weeks of excruciating pain.
After about 4 months I began to find a groove, but at the time I still felt restricted by what I could do.
I had to be with her always because the no bottle situation meant it wasn’t possible to leave her with anyone for longer than an hour.
I breastfed for 12 months and we weaned on her 1st birthday. We were both ready. I would have persisted if that’s what she needed but I was led by her, just as I was throughout our whole breastfeeding journey.
When times were tough what drove you to persist?
I found the night time feeds toughest. Sometimes I would be getting up 4 times a night to feed. It was utterly exhausting.
Emmy didn’t gain weight as quickly as the doctors would have liked either, so I began to question everything about my ability to feed her. Was she getting enough milk – how did I know? Was I doing it right? How did I know if she was attached properly? These are all things that you learn, but at the beginning it really is a leap of faith.
I like to be in control, I'm a planner. It was hard for me to let go and trust my body to give Emmy what she needed.
There were SO many times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t have a choice… Emmy wouldn’t take a bottle so despite how I was feeling, despite wanting to quit, I had to keep going.
What support did you get in making breastfeeding work for you?
I had support from all corners – friends and family, my husband and especially from my Mum. I wouldn’t have got through it without her.
I also had an AMAZING lactation consultant who helped me with everything – I stopped Googling and reading forums and blogs.
There is SO much advice out there, it was becoming overwhelming.
My lactation consultant/midwife became my point of call for all questions and it was her knowledge and calming influence that really helped my state of mind.
Every baby is different and if we are luckily enough to have another babe, I will still go and see a lactation consultant.
It was the best money I ever spent.
What advice do you have for other women struggling with breastfeeding?
You are both learning. It takes time, for you and your baby. You will find a groove, but it does take work. Trust yourself.
What is #mumlifeproject, and how did it all come about?
The #mumlifeproject is all about sharing the love - supporting other Mum's who might be going through a rough time.
My first year of parenthood was amazing, my babe brought me so much joy, pure and utter joy - but becoming a Mum was tough.
It wasn’t until about 12 weeks later that I started to see through the blur and haze. Those first 3 months were really tough for me.
I had friends who had kids and babies and they seemed to be killing it. I felt like a total failure - I could barely function.
I weighed almost 100 kilos, so despite having this amazing beautiful baby - my confidence, health and happiness were at an all-time low.
We struggled with infertility, so Emily was such a blessing to us; she was wanted more than anything in this world. But, during those first weeks I doubted if I was even cut out for this mothering gig at all.
I doubted myself constantly. CONSTANTLY. I put such unrealistic expectations on myself.
I’ve met some amazing women on Instagram, strangers who gave freely of their advice and love, and lifted me up when I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. I found a sisterhood of women. I’ve made lifelong friends.
They’ve rallied around me in times of #mumlife despair and more often than not, they've gone through the exact same thing.
When you’re a mother, you don’t regularly get told that you’re doing a good job - to be honest, sometimes that’s the only thing you need to hear.
When you’re having a bad week and you’re full of self-doubt, knowing that someone is on your side is the most empowering thing there is.
I know firsthand how tough #mumlife can be. It just became a passion of mine to help other Mum’s that were feeling a little lost. The #mumlifeproject was born.
What’s next for Amy Shipp?
Who knows! I barely know what day of the week it is!
I have some exciting ideas about the #mumlifeproject and how it can grow to help and support more Mamas in need.
My main hope is that the project continues to bring a little bit of happiness to the mailboxes of deserving Mamas when they need it.
If they can say they kept going and didn’t give up because of the #mumlifeproject - that will make my heart sing. That’s what the project is all about.
What’s the best advice your mum ever gave you?
“You can do this. Believe in yourself. You’re an amazing Mum.”