Yvonne Bookey gave birth to her third baby, Charlie, at the Rotunda in May of this year during the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic. Yvonne and her husband Greg have two other children, Thomas, who is six years old and Sophie who is four. “I was definitely more anxious this time around. Not having the usual family support in the lead up to and after the birth made it a bit more difficult”, Yvonne recalls.
At the Rotunda Hospital, strict visiting restrictions were put in place in March to minimise and reduce the risk of spread of Covid-19 to staff and patients which impacted the time that partners and other visitors could spend in the Hospital. “Rotunda staff treated me so well. Everyone was so supportive and attentive, especially my amazing midwife, Sarah. All of the attention was on the new mums, with no husbands or partners getting in the way”, she remembers jokingly. “I think they should consider keeping some element of visitor restrictions. As a new mum in hospital you spend so much time coordinating visits and worrying about how you look and what baby is wearing. But when there are no visitors, all of the mothers just talked and fed and bonded with our babies.”
It was after going home that Yvonne really noticed the big differences of having a baby during the pandemic, both the good and the bad. “I’m very close to my mum. When she first came to visit Charlie, we couldn’t even hug one another, so that was quite emotional.” However, the family recall the strong support from neighbours, friends and family, “When we came home from hospital all of our neighbours had written lovely messages with chalk across the road and on our windows. There were so many special moments – I will never forget the kindness.”
Yvonne continues to look on the positive side of things 12 weeks after birth. Yvonne has breastfed all three of her children noting, “I’m very lucky because my milk supply has been strong and all of my children have been good feeders. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy. It was sore at the start, but that passes.” She has found that with Charlie, breastfeeding has been easier because during Covid-19 she has less to do and there aren’t as many social engagements as she would have had when feeding her other children. “I have nothing to do and nowhere to be, so I have more time and less interruptions.”
Yvonne did notice that when she needed to go out, it was a bit more challenging to breastfeed in public both because of the fear of picking up the virus and in terms of finding a space to feed. “The shopping centres removed all of the benches. There was nowhere to go, sit and feed for 10 minutes so the one time we did need go to a shopping centre, I ended up feeding Charlie in the car. It was ok but I have found that I mostly stay local now.”
Overall, Yvonne is enjoying her time with her family and feeding Charlie. “I’m enjoying this time around more than the others,” she notes. “I haven’t introduced the pump at all and I’m not intending to. I also think I won’t stop feeding as soon as I would have on my other kids. Of course, it won’t go on forever but I’m just enjoying it at the moment.”
To finish, Yvonne gave her top tips for breastfeeding mums:
1. Don’t put off seeking professional advice. If you’re feeling unsure, the midwives and, if needed Lactation Consultants, are there to support and encourage your breastfeeding journey so use that to your advantage and talk to them, especially in the early days.
2. Don’t be afraid to show emotion. Breastfeeding can be an emotional journey so if you are feeling upset or overwhelmed, make sure you have someone you can talk to whether it is your partner, a friend or family member, or a professional.
3. Take a little bit of time for yourself each day. I recommend getting yourself up, showered and dressed. I know that during quarantine, I sometimes be tempted to stay in the PJs because I wouldn’t have loads of visitors but afterwards I would feel a bit slumpy and I didn’t feel good about myself.
4. Believe in yourself. There can be a lot of pressure wondering is baby getting enough and am I doing this right, etc. But don’t give up, have confidence and if you need to talk to someone, reach out.