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I always felt like the only person in the world doing it on my own

I always felt like the only person in the world doing it on my own
I always felt like the only person in the world doing it on my own

Words by
Abby Johnston

Brittany is a free spirited, life loving adventurer, raising her daughter Harriette on the sunny Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

We chat to Brittany about raising a baby solo, planning to fail at breastfeeding, feeding on demand, why it’s OK to cry and the importance of your village (and your morning coffee).

How were your early days of breastfeeding, did it come naturally to you or did you have to work at it?

I was so intimidated at the thought of breastfeeding, I think I was very naive about it.

I had a tin of formula, bottles, steriliser…everything read to formula feed, waiting at home for my return from hospital.

Without much thought I just assumed I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I thought it was hard and that only certain people could do it. Looking back now I just had absolutely no confidence in myself, so thought of course I won’t be able to do it.

As soon as Harriette was born the midwife put her straight on my breast and she had no issues latching on. I remember thinking, wow, I can do this! My milk came in about 48 hours later and Harriette was back up to her birth weight in a week. I had and still have a really good milk supply, which I’m very thankful for!

In the first few months I got the dreaded mastitis a handful of times. The first time I got it, it was really hard. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I remember being so delirious, but I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding - I knew it was best for Harriette.

The second time around I was determined to beat it without antibiotics, so did some research and managed to get through with some natural remedies and LOTS of feeding! The first 24 hours is the hardest, but it wasn’t enough to put me off feeding.

Aside from the mastitis, I’ve loved every moment of breastfeeding. It’s been the one part of my journey as a mother that I’ve never questioned - I know I’m doing the right thing.

I gained a confidence i never had. the appreciation and love now have for my body knowing giving daughter all she needs to thrive is something felt before.
What does a regular day with Hariette look like at the moment?

For us, every day is different! I’m so not a routine mum.

I’m just not the type that works around the clock for sleeps and feeds — I follow Harriettes cues.

We start most days at about 6am. Breakfast and coffee are first priorities, always! If the sun is out I like to go to the beach first thing, or meet some other mums and bubs at a park or cafe. Getting out everyday is a must for me, even if just for a coffee!

Harriette has never been into napping (sob) - she will only nap once a day if I’m lucky. Sometimes it’s only in the car, but if it’s at home that’s when I ‘aim’ to get my housework done.

There is really no structure to my day. That would probably be horrific for some mums, but for me doing the same thing each day is my nightmare!

I will be working and studying full time next year, so I want to make the most of my time with Harriette at the moment. We go on lots of daily adventures — as long as she is loving it, so am I!
How often is she feeding these days?

I still demand feed, but generally, breakfast, lunch and dinner and anywhere from 2-4 feeds overnight.

Harriette has only slept through once, so I still feed lots over night. Depending on teething she could drop a couple of feeds or want more. I don’t limit her at all — she wants it, she gets it!
How long do you expect that you’ll keep breastfeeding, or will you just take it as it comes?

Initially, I thought 12 months. I laugh at that now because she is nowhere near weaning! I’m just taking it as it comes, I figure if my body is making milk for her she needs it.

At night I feed her to sleep, which is probably a bad habit but I know it’s not going to be forever and it comforts her…so whatever!

There is so much judgment with the length you choose to breastfeed for. Stop before one and it’s too early. Keep feeding after one and it’s too old. I’m constantly hearing ‘isn’t she too big now’.

You know what’s best for your baby so don’t let other people influence your decision!

You’re raising Harriette solo right now - power to you - how has that been?
Thanks. If I’m honest it’s all I know. I’ve been on my own since pregnancy so I have nothing to compare it to. It’s made me grow into a persona I never knew existed inside me.

I have always depended on other people and I’ve never been on my own, so this has been a huge learning curve for me. I’ve matured so much and become very independent.

The early days were sometimes really hard. I remember the first time I went to a shopping centre I was by myself with Harriette and went to the parents room to change her. There was a couple in there with a newborn - they were both fiddling around looking for a nappy and I just burst into tears. I wished for that moment that I had that too.

I’d never even held a baby before I had Harriette, so everything was so new to me.

When I gave birth it was just me and the midwives in the room. I just got the job done and I think That’s how I would describe most of this year.

I’ve been so blessed with my daughter and I really enjoy doing everything for her, I can’t imagine sharing her with anyone else! I try not to let myself think of the negative because it doesn’t change anything.

Nights are where I’ve had my biggest struggles being on my own. Because she doesn’t nap very much it gets to a point where I’m sometimes just so exhausted — but I know it’s not going to last forever.

I’ve only just recently ‘admitted’ I’m on my own. Whilst it’s been obvious I’ve never stated that I am or I’m not.

I absolutely hate the term ‘single mum’. I never, ever refer to myself as a single mum.

A mother is a mother, partner or not! I feel like a lot of judgement is placed on sole mothers, while a sole father is applauded and seen as a hero. I think parents — single or partnered — should be celebrated and congratulated. It’s a hard job no matter what the family situation!

It’s taken me a long time to be ok with my situation but I am at a point where I can say I am proud of myself and I think I am a great mum.

If you could give one piece of advice to the mums out there taking on motherhood solo what would it be?
It’s OK to have days where you want to give up. It’s OK to feel lonely sometimes and it’s OK to cry. Believe in yourself because you can do it. No matter what your situation, there is always someone else doing it with you.

When I was pregnant I wished more than anything I had someone to talk to - to tell me I was going to be able to do this and do it well. There will be hard times, but there are so many good times that follow.

I always felt like the only person in the world doing it on my own. You see all these happy families around you and sometimes feel so crappy.

But that’s OK - and trust me, you will grow so much and become such a strong person because of it.

I would love to connect with women in similar situations. I admire sole parents so much! Raising a child on your own makes you no different to a woman raising a child with a man by her side.

They say ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ - what does this mean to you - who is your ‘village’ at the moment?

I was just thinking this the other day! I would love to move to this village (laughs). I completely agree!

There are so many elements of parenthood I never knew existed.

It’s easy to get yourself into a rut when you’re feeling overwhelmed and running on zero sleep. Even if you are just connecting with others mums online, you need all the support you can get. When you see that other people feel exactly like you, it takes so much weight off your shoulders.

I feel like when you become a mum you join this club and you just understand things a lot more. Suddenly the screaming baby at the supermarket doesn’t annoy you anymore - instead you give the mother a smile and you know exactly what that feels like.

I’ve met some amazing women that have children around the same age as Harriette and spending time with them is great. I’m constantly learning new things too.

My sister has been absolutely amazing, she is my best friend and has helped me so much. I’m also so thankful for my parents - they are always willing to look after Harriette when I need a break. I’m on my own in my house, but I love my village and couldn’t do it without them all!

Mothers can be so judgmental and bitchy, and women are constantly comparing themselves to others - it just has to stop. I wish more people would focus on being great role models to our future generation - help each other and especially stick together as mothers. It would make life as a new mum so much easier!

If you could recommend three inspiring mama’s to follow on Instagram who would they be and why?

My good friend Kimba who also lives on the Gold Coast. Our babies were born just one day apart in the same hospital and we had no idea! She has a beautiful family of three and I just loved her Instagram before we ever met.

Someone I’ve followed from before they become a mother is @lonijane. She seems like an awesome girl and I love watching her journey through motherhood - and she makes some epic food!

Another account I love, I stumbled across when I was pregnant is a lovely mama called @brittneyvalverde. She does motherhood so well and makes me want to pack up and move to Hawaii in a split second!

Follow Brittany