Mama Matters in an open and honest conversation with Ana Sampaio Barros, co-founder of BTTR creative agency in Vienna, Austria – about how breastfeeding feels: the emotions, doubts, challenges, and joys of the first weeks with a newborn baby.
Listen to the full interview here or enjoy the checkout
some of the highlights in the text below!
Delia from Mama Matters (MM
Anna, I feel very special that you agreed to have this chat with me, it's a super special time for you because you're in the postpartum time! And that's quite challenging to say the least. Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to talk! How old is your daughter, Alma, right now?
Ana Sampaio Barros (Ana)
Almost two and a half weeks. Two and a half weeks? Wow.
And how are you feeling?
Um, yeah, physically, I'm great. I was very lucky to have an easy labor. So, my recovery was quite fast. I was out and about in the first week already and I was very happy about it. Mentally, it's a different story, it’s a different rhythm. I'm still catching up and my head feels way behind and I'm super tired. So, mentally I'm not as good as physically right now.
Is it very different to what you expected?
Yes, exactly. I expected the opposite. Everybody says that you need six weeks to recover and I prepared for that. Of course, there's different neighbors and different stories. I was just lucky to have an easy one. Basically, I prepared myself mentally to be in bed and do nothing, which for me is already challenging.
You are the managing director of a creative agency so you were the active type right. So that must have been a big change for you, to have to sit in bed for two weeks...
Exactly. So physically, I didn't have to stay in bed for as long as I expected but then I started breastfeeding...24/7! And then I was stuck! But not because I needed to physically heal from labor but because Alma needed me to just be there and that, mentally, was a different process that I had to go through.
And to be honest, I'm still trying to let go of the fact that although I feel great, I'm still stuck. I'm not this super mum that can still sit in front of the computer and write emails and do some photo editing in between, because although I feel fine, I'm a full time mum and I need to breastfeed the whole time.
So I have no real chance to have time for myself, which is okay. But I was not prepared for that.
Yeah, I think taking your time is the best thing you can do and not put too much on your plate, but practice more self care. Leave the work to be done by someone else if you can and just focus on yourself, your baby and your body. I think that's all you can do at the moment. I remember it was the same for me. I just felt stuck on the couch for hours. I was literally feeling like this is never ending.
Me too! The days are super long.
I especially wanted to talk to you about breastfeeding because you're also using our organic bamboo-cotton pads. And you said something that, you know, was music to my ears that they're basically saving your life at the moment.
Yes, they’re saving my nipples, which is my life at the moment, hehehhe!
Wonderful! You mentioned before that breastfeeding has been harder than you imagined. I would like to explore this a little bit with you. What did you expect and how is breastfeeding different to what you expected?
It was really challenging right at the beginning because I was in a lot of pain and for that I was already not ready. Right after Alma was born, I was in bed and the midwife put Alma on my breast and I was like, wow, it's gonna be magical: I'm breastfeeding for the first time, I just had a baby and now I'm becoming a woman. I have my breasts out and I'm going to feed my baby for the first time. And then I was like: What is this? Ouch ouch, ouch, this is not a blessing.
Yes, everyone thinks, breastfeeding should work because it’s such a natural thing to do. So it's going to be a blissful feeling. And it just isn’t, at the beginning it often comes along with a lot of soreness and pain.
Just right after going through all that pain of labor I was contracting myself because I was in pain again. And it should have been this beautiful moment but it wasn’t! So she gave me silicone caps right away because she saw my face contracting and I was like, in a lot of pain. So, from the very beginning, I had these silicone caps between me and my baby and it was already completely different than how I thought it would be.
And then, the first night in the hospital, Alma was crying the whole night. I was trying to breastfeed and she wasn’t grabbing and I was alone. During the night I asked for quite a lot of help from the midwives and at one point, I was even embarrassed because I was asking them to come all the time to help me. And I was like, ok, everybody goes through this, I need to manage.
So the first week was quite challenging, because I was telling everyone that I'm in a lot of pain. And everybody was telling me it's normal. And I'm like, it cannot be this normal. Because if we all go through this amount of pain, I would have heard it before from many women! It cannot be that we suffer so much in the first week and everybody just says it’s beautiful. Makes no sense to me!
Yes, our society just doesn't talk often enough about these things. There are certain topics that we skip and it's not good. We're not doing ourselves a favor if we don't talk about the challenges too. Breastfeeding is hard at the beginning.
Yes, it made me feel like I had a problem. Because if I didn't hear it before, I was just comparing it to common sense. If I was having all that pain, and everybody else was saying that breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, it means that I have a problem! So my breasts are not okay, or my nipples are different and I need to take care of them differently. That was the first challenge when it comes to breastfeeding: understanding that I am ok, everybody goes through that and I just need to get used to it. –Understanding that there's nothing wrong with me. That was the first challenge!
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