Meet Kelly Urban, a tenacious nursing Mom who will gladly sacrifice her own needs to ensure her children have their needs met.
Interviewing Kelly, I discovered that she’s experienced numerous breastfeeding challenges. Kelly admits that she felt tested to the limit many times. She even suffered a nervous breakdown in the early days of her daughter’s life.
Read on to find out how she overcame her challenges and reached 2 incredible nursing milestones:
3 Years Nursing her daughter, Lola, and
1 year TANDEM NURSING Lola and her baby brother, Harry… and counting.
Here’s Kelly’s interview…
Why is it so important to YOU to breastfeed?
The obvious one is you’re taught it’s the best nutrition for your child. It’s good to know that even if your children are having a bad food day they are still getting everything they need.
There are so many benefits. When they are upset, they usually become peaceful when nursing, it’s security for them. And it’s also so convenient, they can drink wherever we are, without any preparation. It’s just so much easier than having to prepare bottles – almost feels like the lazy way.
I do my best to go the natural route with everything for my kids. I believe in their immune systems developing naturally and breastfeeding is a great help. We have the option of providing our babies with what nature intended, which would be impossible to replicate. I feel lucky to have been able to give them that. Much in the same way, I tend to avoid the medicalized route in my approach to my children and myself.
We live in a city and I drag my kids to work with me every day. Much of the food you get is pumped with processed poisons. I am glad that breastfeeding at least gives them something pure and obviously, unprocessed nutrition. I really am not extremist in my style, my kids can have a candy bar once in a while, and I enjoy a glass of wine sometimes.
Is there a reason why you chose extended breastfeeding?
While I was pregnant with my daughter, I would never have thought that I would breastfeed for longer than a year. To be honest, I didn’t have a goal in mind. Had someone suggested extended breastfeeding to me then, I probably would’ve thought that’s crazy. Then I had Lola, and my ideas about parenting changed quite a lot. This didn’t happen from one day to another, I think I grew into my choices. I don’t like labeling anything, but you could safely say that I am an Attachment parent.
Breastfeeding for a few years and mostly self-weaning are now the way for me. Lola is not ready to stop and her relationship with breastfeeding is a strong one. I have had times where I had to talk to her about drinking less often, which was met with a lot of resistance, but we are okay now. With her having started Kindergarten, it gives her and her brother extra immunity which is super.
I’m quite content in the way we are doing things. There are moments I imagine myself at a Spa or a weekend away, but I know that things are the way they are, for a limited amount of time. While it is happening, it feels like forever, and it has it’s frustrating moments, but I stand firm with my choices and am quite happy to have made some sacrifices. My wish is that they know and feel that I am there. When they are still very young, it was always an outer body experience to be away for even short periods of time, it doesn’t feel right to me. I firmly believe, the more dependent they are now, the more independent they will be later. Little people need a foundation from which to build trust on and I hope for them that they grow up to become individuals who stand their ground.
This is not to say that I don’t find it tiring and frustrating often, and I am so grateful that their father is so wonderfully supportive and involved.
I find it so sad that many women don’t have the choice to be with their babies the whole day. The current system does not give you enough maternity leave. A four month old baby must have a hard time understanding why their mother is suddenly not there anymore. This is not to say that you can’t still carry on breastfeeding, and certainly doesn’t mean that you are not giving your baby enough love! It just presents new challenges. Hopefully, we all do the best to our abilities.
I take my hat off to pumping Moms who ensure that their children have access to breast milk when they return to work. I have a friend who is a Doctor and has to work and be away from her 1 year old daughter the whole day. She pumps milk for her so that she can have breast milk for the next day, and then she nurses her all night as well. Now that’s dedication! I find that far harder than what I do. She has all my respect!
Did you have any challenges?
Yes, sure. I had many challenges. When Lola was a newborn I had seriously cracked nipples and blisters. Possibly a bad latch, but I was also new to breastfeeding. My nipples were incredibly sore and I was dreading every feed. What helped the healing was a nipple shield that I used for a few days and my midwife advised me to let the winter sun shine on my nipples for a few minutes a day, and that worked like a charm. I also used Medela cream which also helped.
Lola cried every single evening for an hour or two when she was about 6 weeks old and it carried on until she was 4 months. That is when I suffered so much anxiety and led me to have a panic attack. I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dying. Luckily my brother was there to talk me out of it. A friend sent me a brilliant piece of writing as to why babies feel the need to cry, and since then I have been quite at ease with it. I held her, she cried and “told” me about her day, and it was always amazing to see how calm she was afterwards.
The next challenge was the phase when Lola wouldn’t fall asleep without the boob in her mouth, and as soon as I would attempt to unlatch her she would wake up crying her eyes out. I was not able to get up and leave the bed. This is when I had fantasies of weaning her, because it was almost unbearable. I went back to sore nipples and I was over-exhausted. I ended up taking the approach of talking to her, she would have her drink in bed and then I would lie in bed with her until she was asleep. I still do it this way today. She was upset at first, but this adjustment was necessary for both of us to be okay.
The latest challenge came when I fell pregnant with Harry and my nipples became extremely sensitive. I developed a breastfeeding aversion when Lola fed. This continued throughout the pregnancy and carried on once Harry was born. By far this was, and sometimes still is, the hardest part of my breastfeeding journey. When googling sensitive nipples, I soon learned that I was not alone with this which has helped me cope with it. Strangely, it is bearable on some days and a cringe-worthy feeling on other days.
Another hiccup came with Harry’s birth. Lola had to accept that her brother also needed to have “booby” and this took a while for her to get used to. Sharing “her boobies” with Harry was not easy. Her reaction was to feed excessively and she was so emotional. She wanted to drink all the time. To her, it was extremely intense. And as for me, I had to grit my teeth through the breastfeeding aversion and my lack of sleep. It took months for her to be truly okay with the changes. I felt it was best to let it be, and it all worked itself out.
Another thing that is always very taxing is when they are both not well. They both have way more to drink than usual, upping their immunity, and I don’t put any limit to their feeding at all. I have reached crazy heights of tiredness during those days. Especially, because they are not synchronised. Just when one is done drinking, the other one has a turn. I’ve had nights where I’ve spent the entire night switching between feeding both children. Then my body is so tired and drained, it feels like the nutrients have all been sucked out of me, and invariably, I tend to get sick after a period like that. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen too often, and I am sure formula feeding moms have a similar experience.
The challenges come and go. I have my moments where I wish it was all over, but the rewards are clear.
What made you push through the challenges & continue?
I am very stubborn about my choices. I would be riddled with guilt if I gave up, because it would feel like denying them a basic right. I would not be okay with myself.
What helps me is knowing that whatever hardcore struggle I’m going through, it only lasts a few days. Whenever it gets too much and I reach my breaking point, it has a way of becoming manageable again.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
In Winter it feels like I have two hot water bottles on either side of me. We huddle up close, it feels like the biggest hug. They nurse when they need to.
Can you describe any joys of nursing… any beautiful moments you’ve experienced?
There have been so many… one example is lying in the bath, both of them in my arms, drinking… and when they communicate with each other on a feed. They make eye contact and both have a giggle. Another is when Lola tells Harry which boob is his, it is so cute.
Also, I feed absolutely everywhere. Recently, we were on a game drive and Harry fell asleep in my baby carrier while nursing. I doubt, he would have fallen asleep without nursing, that way we all got to enjoy the drive until the end. It simplifies life all the time.
Much in the same way, it enables me to do my shopping, hands-free. He nurses in his baby carrier en route to anywhere. This way I don’t lose time and can get on with my day. Mostly, if people even notice, the response is a positive one.
What do you feel are the Top Benefits of breastfeeding:
- Immune Boosting
- Comfort and security
Any advice for Moms considering Tandem Breastfeeding?
Whatever I was worried about, worked itself out. Anything from the position of how they would feed, how often they would drink, and if there would be enough milk. All of these happened quite naturally and all I had to do was to take their lead.
I didn’t expect the beginning period after Harry’s birth, to be quite as intense as it was for Lola. I did not feel that limiting her excessive feeding to be good timing, because I did not want her to see her brother as a threat. So it was just the first few weeks that required a lot of energy and patience towards her, but this, too, all settled down a few weeks later. Now it’s no longer a thing, it just happens.
One of my biggest worries before having Harry was how Lola was going to cope without me while I was in the hospital. I had never spent a night away from her and she had never gone to sleep without me there. I think I was more worried about being away from Lola than I was about being in labour.
For three days before Harry was born I had contractions come and go. On the day he was born I was having the most intense contractions during Lola’s lunchtime feed. I called Terence, my partner, and told him that it would probably be a good idea to return from work soon. As Murphy’s law would have it, everything slowed down again and I was ready to enjoy a beautiful day on the beach, but then Harry decided to turn everything up a notch. We stopped at my mother’s house to drop Lola there for the night, and then my waters broke on my Mom’s lounge floor. I remembered my midwife saying that with a second baby, everything can go quite fast after your water has broken. So we tore off to the hospital in peak hour traffic. We had to drive in the emergency lane all the way from Milnerton to Vincent Pallotti (about 15kms). Amazingly, my midwife arrived from Muizenberg (about 30kms away) at the same time as we did. I felt lucky not to give birth in the car, and I could certainly see Terence’s relief.
After that it took only 45 minutes for Harry to arrive. We had a beautifully peaceful experience that evening. I remember feeling so calm and happy. Everything I had worried about just lifted itself off my shoulders. Even though it was as painful as it was the first time around, I dealt with it much better. I was going to go home the same night, but it was good that my midwife suggested to stay one night in the hospital to establish Harry’s latch. He fed without any problems. Terence went to get Pizza from Magica Roma, a perfect Friday night. As for Lola, she stayed awake until Terence got back to her at 11:30, when she fell asleep absolutely exhausted. I had expressed milk for her but she wasn’t interested, and my brother gave her junk food to keep her happy.
To this day, this is still the only night I ever stayed away from Lola. She is three now and I can see her little character becoming more and more independent, and with that, she is drinking far less often than a year ago. She did that all on her own. We shall see how it will end, but it will be when she is ready.
If you’re looking for more information on Tandem Breastfeeding, Hilary Flower’s Book: Adventures in Tandem Nursing, is a must-read. Review to follow.