S1 EP1 – Introducing Breastfeeding … with ABA

Breastfeeding … with ABA podcast transcript.

Link to the podcast episode.

[Music intro continues in background]

SKY: Why … why do you need to hear from ABA? Why get involved with ABA? And I think it is because we’re parents, you know. We’re your peers, we’re all parents who’ve been through it before. ABA was started over 50 years ago by a group of mums in a lounge room in the suburbs of Melbourne who just wanted to support each other.

Welcome to ‘Breastfeeding … with ABA’. A new podcast brought to you by volunteers from the Australian Breastfeeding Association. ‘Breastfeeding … with ABA’ is a podcast about breastfeeding, made by parents for parents.

Kathleen: Each pod episode has an accompanying blog post with more information and handy links. Check the show notes, or head straight to the website – blog.breastfeeding.asn.au for more information.

SKY: We are recording this podcast from different parts of Australia. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are recording and on which you are listening. And we pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging, and to any Aboriginal people listening to this podcast. We also pay our respects to Aboriginal women who have breastfed their babies and raised their families on this country for thousands of years.

So, on each episode you’ll hear from different ABA volunteers from around Australia.

My name’s Sky, I’m a volunteer community educator with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

KATHLEEN: My name’s Kathleen, I am a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

KATE: And my name’s Kate, and I’m a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Sky, what’s this podcast all about?

SKY: Now we know that most women want to breastfeed their babies. In Australia, around 96% of mothers start out breastfeeding. [Music fades] But so many stop before they are ready. One of the reasons we’re involved with ABA and that we’re doing this podcast is because we want to change that. For most of those women who stop breastfeeding before they want to, it’s not down to something that they’ve done wrong or anything wrong with them or their babies. It often comes down to a lack of good information and support at the right time. How different would it be if every new mum could get the support and information they needed to overcome the early challenges?

KATE: In this episode, we’ll be looking at some of the ways breastfeeding and breastmilk are amazing and unique to every mother and baby. We’ll talk about the different ways you can access accurate breastfeeding information and also how you can grow your parenting village, to support you and your family. Lastly, we’ll introduce this podcast series as a whole.

When we’re pregnant, a lot of us think about the birth and we plan for that and learn about it really carefully, but I also think for a lot of us breastfeeding comes as just all a bit of a shock.

SKY: [laughing] when your babies are small, it’s just the best thing when you’ve got used to it and you’ve both got the hang of it. But it is a learned skill isn’t it? Because while it’s natural it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone and we need to learn how to breastfeed.

KATHLEEN: Oh, that’s absolutely right and not just us, but our babies too. I remember thinking when I had my second baby, it was so different from the first and I thought, ‘I’ve got a handle on this, I’m all about this’, and the second one was different from the first one, and the third was different again, I had to learn each time!

SKY: Yeah, each baby is unique, and each breastfeeding experience is unique, and each mum’s breastmilk is unique. It’s amazing stuff, isn’t it? It’s like a dynamic, living fluid.

KATHLEEN: And it changes throughout the course of the day to meet the needs of your baby, but also throughout the course of a breastfeed. The milk at the start of the feed is not the same as the milk at the end of the feed.

SKY: And it helps if your baby gets sick. It’s really important to keep on breastfeeding if you or your baby gets sick, your breastmilk will already contain antibodies to infections that you’ve previously fought off. But also as you’re exposed to new illnesses and infections or if you know your baby’s been exposed to them, your breasts will start to produce those antibodies in your breastmilk. That can take a few days, so it’s really important to keep on breastfeeding and your immune system will start to produce those antibodies and they’ll be transmitted through your breastmilk.

The other thing, when your baby’s sick, is that you might find that breastmilk is the only thing that they will eat or drink, and you’ll especially notice it with older babies that they might go off solids completely but they’ll keep on breastfeeding while they’re sick and they keep on getting that nutrition as well as the antibodies and it helps them to get well quickly, and recover.

A lot of women, when they return to work think that they need to stop breastfeeding, even though the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond as long as both mother and child want to. A lot of people think that they need to stop when their baby gets to, say, 12 months old. I think that the second year of breastfeeding, particularly if you return to work and your baby is being exposed to all those childcare germs and general life germs. It can make such a difference to their health and wellbeing.

KATHLEEN: I breastfed my 3rd baby much longer than the other 2 and in that year after she turned 1, she would get sick because her big brothers brought all sorts of stuff home but she would get better so much more quickly than they did when they were the same age and they got sick. I find it’s such an easy way to right the wrongs of the world, whether it’s because they’re not well, or because they’re frightened, or because they’re a little bit hungry or they’re a little bit lonely. It’s a quick and easy way to reconnect with them. And just to make the world a happy place again.

SKY: When you’ve been away from your baby all day at work, the easiest and quickest way for both of you to reconnect is just put them to your breast and have a, you know, a lovely cuddle and a breastfeed and just feel like, as you said, everything is right in the world again.

KATHLEEN: It’s also a lovely way to force you to stop and slow down, as well. You sit there and you feed, and you might be watching TV or you might be reading, or flicking through things on your phone, but you’re sitting there and you’re still and you’re stopped, and you’re just having a bit of a rest which a lot of us don’t take the time to do. We rush from one thing to another and, then when we do come to a stop, we absolutely crash. So that time, at the end of the busy day at work, just stop and cuddle your baby and just be still and close together. Gosh I miss that. I really do [laugh]

SKY: Absolutely! We all complain about being woken up in the middle of the night for feeds, but when you breastfeeding, particularly a newborn in the middle of the night, that’s when all of your prolactin is at its highest and it’s actually really good for your supply and really good for your baby and it gets them back to sleep really quickly but it also gets you back to sleep really quickly. Which I actually kind of miss now [laughs] that I’m no longer breastfeeding.

KATE: So, everyone’s breastfeeding experience, just like their breastmilk, is unique, but there’s also a lot we have in common. And lots of things that we can learn from each other. So how does the Australian Breastfeeding Association, or ABA as we like to call it, fit into the landscape of parenting and babies?

SKY: There’s lots of health professionals and doctors and midwives and so on who are all have lots of breastfeeding knowledge, so why do you need to hear from ABA, why get involved with ABA? And I think it is because we’re parents, you know, we’re your peers, we’re all parents who’ve been through it before. ABA was started over 50 years ago by a group of mums in a lounge room in the suburbs of Melbourne who just wanted to support each other. And, in lots of ways, nothing’s changed, you know, that is still what we want to do.

KATHLEEN: Yes absolutely. It’s finding your village, it’s finding those people you can ring and say, ‘I’ve had a really rough night, can we share this day together because I don’t know if I can make it through on my own’. And there’s no judgment, you just rock up to a meeting, your hair might not be brushed or washed. It might be pulled back into a messy bun because that’s all you’ve got the capacity to do and nobody cares. They’re just happy to see you and your baby and they’ll offer you a cup of tea, maybe some cake if you’re lucky, hold your baby while you drink that cup of tea while it’s still hot. Oh, my goodness! The power in that is just amazing to make that day right for you.

KATE: Right across Australia, groups of volunteers organise meetings, get togethers, for mums to come together with their babies and talk about breastfeeding, parenting, and everything else that goes with this phase of life.

KATHLEEN: I went to my first meeting, I remember there were people with babies of all different ages and I kind of thought this is a really lovely addition to my parenting toolkit in that with my mothers’ groups friends all our babies are the same ages so we’ve never seen what happens at the next stage of where babies are at, because our babies are all the same age. Whereas, I’d go to an ABA meeting and there’d be somebody with a baby a couple of months older than mine and they’d be able to say, ‘Oh yes, my baby did that too and this is the way I approached it’. And I would see that it was normal and that I hadn’t broken my baby or myself. And I would be able to be a little bit prepared for what was coming next because of seeing those women with older babies.

SKY: I often say that joining ABA is like joining the biggest mums’ group in Australia. You know, there is an ABA mum somewhere in Australia who has been through exactly what you’re going through who can empathise and help and have ideas and help you work through your own challenges and make your own plans. We’re all parents, all of us ABA volunteers, and we all understand what it’s like, you know? We are there to support each other and it’s an amazing feeling. I remember so distinctly meeting with my new mums’ group when our babies were all about 4 months old and they’d all suddenly started waking through the night. And we were all just going, ‘what’s going on?!’ [laughs] And I went to ABA that same week and said, ‘what’s going on?’ and all of these mums who had been there before who had older babies and older children said, ‘oh it’s perfectly normal, your baby’s starting to wake up and take more interest in the world and so they’re actually not having as many feeds during the day. Quite often or not, filling up as much and so they’re making up for it at night time. It’s super common, happens to almost everyone’ and I was like, ‘oh … that’s … that is amazing!’ [laughter] It just made me. I mean it didn’t stop the sleeplessness being a challenge, but it made me feel better about it because it made it normal, you know. And it meant that I understood that others went through it, that I was supported and it was normal and that was so reassuring, because as a new mum you don’t know what’s normal and you don’t know if you’re doing it right, and you’ve got this tiny vulnerable little person who you love more than anything in the world, and you’re terrified that you’re going to do something wrong or, you know, that you’re not being a good parent to them, and ABA is just so reassuring from that perspective, because you’ve got all these mums telling you ‘no, you are doing it right, you’re doing great, you’re doing well, we’re here for you’.


MARGARET: Hi, my name’s Margaret Grove. And I’m an ABA volunteer from Sydney. You’re listening to Breastfeeding … with ABA. I became involved with ABA because my obstetrician told me I should join NMAA, as it was then called, Nursing Mothers’ Association of Australia. My friends either had older children, or hadn’t started having babies yet, so I wanted to meet people who were at the same point in their lives as me. I also had no experience with babies, so quite frankly I was a little scared of the whole experience ahead of me. I went to my first face-to-face ABA group meeting when my son was just a few weeks old. I was shell shocked. There were toddlers running all over the place. However, I did come back, and I have stayed on for over 40 years, 37 of which I have been an ABA counsellor.

I love being a volunteer with ABA for many reasons. Of course, I enjoy supporting women to breastfeed, but I also like having met many like-minded women and the friendships I’ve made over the years. I’ve also developed knowledge and many skills through ABA. Not only in breastfeeding and counselling, but in many other areas, including advocacy, public relations, management, public speaking, and governance. I was preparing to go back to paid work when my first baby was 6 months old. This was quite unusual 40 years ago, as not many women worked outside the home. Before I joined ABA, I fully expected to have weaned by then. However, once I became an ABA member, I realised that I could continue breastfeeding even after going back into the workforce. I continued breastfeeding Scott until he was around 2 years old. Then I had two daughters whom I breastfed even longer. Our son turned 40 this year, when I returned to paid work my husband resigned from his job and looked after Scott while I was working. Co-parenting was very unusual at the time and we thought we were paving the way for things to change in the future. They’ve changed a bit, but not nearly to the same extent that we expected. My ABA volunteering has come in waves. I’ve been an active volunteer. Then things have tapered off, twice to the point where I thought I should probably resign as a counsellor. Both times, someone suggested I should go on the ABA board, which I did. I’m currently the ABA president, a role in which I feel both privileged and humbled to be in. As president, I have the opportunity to meet the most inspiring people who work for ABA, either in a paid or volunteer capacity, or both. It’s quite amazing what we are able to offer mothers and their communities, and I am very proud to be a part of this Association.

JESSICA: If you’d like to support the work we do, please consider becoming an ABA member. Visit: breastfeeding.asn.au for more information.


KATHLEEN: Isn’t it weird how we always blame ourselves?

KATE: Ah, yes! [laughter]

KATHLEEN: ‘So, my baby’s started to wake in the night again and I don’t know what I’ve done wrong.’ Well, it’s so nice to have a calm voice say, ‘You haven’t done anything wrong, that’s developmentally normal, that’s what babies do. You might have also noticed that your baby doesn’t feed for as long each time now, that’s normal too. They’re much more effective at getting the milk from the breast than they were when they were brand new. And having that weight lifted off my shoulders just that it wasn’t something I’d done, or anything I needed to change, I just needed to change my expectations … such a simple thing makes such a profound difference.

SKY: It’s just lovely to share a moment, share a hot cup of tea. Just sometimes I’ve cried on the shoulders of other ABA mums and often we’ve laughed and just talked and had a little moment out of the day to connect with other people who are going through the same things as us.

KATHLEEN: One of the things that is great about ABA and that sort of community of mothers is you often have questions that you’re not going to ask your doctor, because they’re a bit kind of trivial, or you’re just not quite sure about something, or it doesn’t really seem like it’s a medical thing, or you might not have an appointment coming up and you really need an answer to that question now. And those are the kinds of questions like, you know, is it normal for my baby to do whatever, smile at me while they’re feeding? Is that going to be a problem? You’re not going to ask your doctor that or your maternal and child health nurse that, but you might ask other mothers at ABA and just get that reassurance until you find your feet and grab your confidence a little bit.

SKY: Yeah and isn’t it amazing how much as new parents, actually any parents, we talk about poo?


SKY: So, you need your village so you can talk about poo with them! [laughter]

KATHLEEN: With people who understand and don’t look at you a bit weird when you start obsessing about what’s in your baby’s nappy.

SKY: (laughing) Absolutely!

KATHLEEN: And one of the beautiful things about ABA is everyone is supportive and understands why it’s important to you. Nobody questions that you want to breastfeed, and they will do their utmost to help you reach the goal that you set yourself. We’re not going to set your goal for you because your goal is your goal. But, we can help you reach the goal because we understand that it’s important to you and so we’re not just going to fob you off.

SKY: We start from the premise that we know breastfeeding is valuable, and normal, and just part of life and we want to support you to do so as long as you both want to.

KATHLEEN: We’re all there to support you but we understand that your journey is your journey.

SKY: Yep

KATHLEEN: And we’re not going to tell you how to do things.

SKY: Yeah that is so true. It is really about helping each of us work out what our own goals are, what we each want to achieve, and feeling supported to get there. And just having that empathy around us and in an environment where, as you said before Kathleen, breastfeeding is normal and is supported, absolutely. And that’s probably a really good time to remind everyone that the Australian Breastfeeding Association has the national Breastfeeding Helpline, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year including Christmas Day. And it’s staffed by ABA volunteers, who are taking calls in their own homes. The number is 1800 686 268. That’s 1800 686 268. And you can find it in the show notes, too.

KATE: Write it down, stick it on your fridge. We also have a fantastic LiveChat service through the website so you can have a chat with a breastfeeding counsellor or community educator and ask them a question that you might have. Always remembering that no question is a silly question or is too small. If you are asking a question or wondering about it, ask someone, put your mind at ease.

SKY: Yep, and there’s probably lots of other people who are wondering the same thing! (laughter) So that’s also a good point to promote our Facebook group which is linked with this podcast and blogs. Look for ‘Breastfeeding with ABA’ on Facebook. It’s a closed, private group where you can chat with our like-minded mums and parents. You can also find the link to that in our show notes.

Okay, so it’s going to be a great season! This season will run for 8 weeks and we want it to be a resource that any new parent will find useful and that you can come back to and listen to. These issues are timeless, they apply for every new parent. You’ll be able to listen to short episodes while you’re breastfeeding your baby or going about your day. So, let’s talk a bit about this podcast and what you can expect to hear in the coming weeks.

[Music in background]

KATHLEEN: This season, our very first season, we are focusing on new babies and those early days of being a parent. So we’ll be covering things like waiting for your milk to come in, what happens if you’ve got cracked nipples, what about baby poo, managing your milk supply — have you got too much, have you got not enough, the all-important and one of the things that we obsess about which is sleep, crying babies, and most importantly finding that village, finding that group of people who will be your cheer squad as you go through this. And if you want a little bit more in depth, you can go to the blog that is linked to each episode, and there’ll be links and more information from the blog as well if you want to really drill down into that topic.

SKY: And I want to just say a word about sponsorship and advertising. On this podcast we will hear about other ABA services and products that we think that you will benefit from. We are a not-for-profit member organisation. We’re a charity, so we need to look for sources of income to support our activities. You may also, therefore, hear about non-ABA products or services that we have carefully chosen because they are consistent with our goals and aims.

Thank you for listening to the very first episode of ‘Breastfeeding … with ABA’. It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak with you.

KATHLEEN: So lovely to talk to you again, Sky.

SKY: Do you like what you’ve heard? Please rate, review and subscribe to ‘Breastfeeding…with ABA’. We’d love it if you would share this podcast with all of your friends and family and help us to reach more families.


TRANSCRIPTION // Madina Hajher