Being A Breast Feeding Contestant On Reality TV - LEGO Masters BTS
Most people wouldn't know I was a breastfeeding mother on season 2 of LEGO Masters. This presented many challenges and struggles that no one else had to deal with, making my experience a little unique.
Being a breastfeeding mother is hard. Even more so, mum-guilt is hard.
Before I start, I want to say that everyone was incredibly supportive, not once did I ever feel like I couldn’t ask for help or made to feel uncomfortable by the producers, contestants, and everyone in-between. Everyone always acted with best intentions and I am grateful for all the support I received.
Being a breastfeeding mother is hard. Even more so, mum-guilt is hard. All I could think was ‘I breastfed my first daughter for a year, I have to give my other child the same amount of love and dedication, or it simply isn’t right’. With this thought tormenting me, I decided to continue breastfeeding Zaidia who was 8-months old when filming began. I was all set with my pump, breast milk storage bags, ice packs and eskies, I would travel back home every weekend with the next 5 days of breast milk for my daughter. She still had formula as a back-up, in case of emergency.
There was a lot of trial and error in the first week or two. I had been given a nice large, private, space to pump in, in the mornings, during lunch breaks and end of filming if needed. The only downside of this was that I had to be driven away from my new friends and the delicious food and it used all of my downtimes, so while everyone had a casual lunch break and bonded, I was stressing that I couldn’t pump fast enough or eat fast enough to be back on time. After two or three days of this, I was feeling very excluded and isolated, so I requested to pump in our pop-up change rooms inside the green room. I figured Annie would sit with me and chat to me while I pumped since she too had been a breastfeeding mum earlier in the year, hoping she would be with us for quite some time. Stupid elimination build ruined that. But she did give me some of her leftover breastfeeding supplements before she left us! Best Human.
Pumping before filming ended up causing too many scheduling delays. So, I began getting out of bed at 4 am every morning to be able to do a proper full pump before getting picked up at 6 am. Which made me a little more tired, and bit crankier than I’d like to admit until I adjusted. So, by week 2, I had lost the only person who completely understood the world of a breastfeeding mum, I was having less sleep than most and missed out on a lot of weekend bonding. But at least we had finally established a routine that worked. The next issue was that the stress of the competition and breastfeeding hit my usually super-awesome immune system HARD, allowing my sinus infection to become so severe that on my second weekend home, I ended up in emergency. Now anyone could have experienced this, however being a breastfeeding mother, I could only have very limited medication. During our fairy tale challenge, I was very dopey from the painkillers, and I was struggling to build a simple wall, Tim ended up tearing it down and rebuilding it. Later on, I also got hit with tonsilitis and had to be put on penicillin for the first time, which turns out, it makes me very nauseous. Don’t get me wrong, in no way was I being put in an unfair position, lots of us got sick and we all just pushed through it. I don’t think anyone considered it a disadvantage until someone was left without half their team.
You might be wondering why I continued to do this to myself. I was also wondering that. The established routine was killing my supply, half my diet was food to improve milk supply. I began to underproduce and Zaidia started having formula once to twice a day to make up for my failure to pump. My immune system was failing me. I kept missing out on fun bonding-with-friends weekend activities because I was home breastfeeding. I was stuck inside a tent which was inside a 35+ degree room, pumping and eating simultaneously. I was feeling pretty miserable about my self-inflicted situation. So, after a couple of weeks of fighting my mum-guilt, conversations with close friends and my mother, a few lunch breaks of hormone and stress-induced silent crying in the breast pumping tent, I made the call to quit breastfeeding early for the sake of my well-being.
I wish I had known that drying up your supply stirred a whole new cocktail of hormones. Somehow, I was feeling even more miserable about the situation. After just 3 days of trying to kill my supply, I was so regretful that I tried to kick start the supply again, but failed. It was the end of my breastfeeding era. The competition was actually a great distraction from all the mum-guilt I had, and I found that I was more focussed on what I was doing than any other time in the competition. But in the last few months, we have actually come to realise Zaidia was having mild reactions to the dairy I was consuming while pumping, so by me finishing up breastfeeding earlier, I actually helped her more than continuing. Which has been the push I needed to get over my mum-guilt.
If I ignore all my breastfeeding-related drama, there is only good memories and lots of laughter. I deeply miss everyone from the show, and I hope that one day there will be an opportunity to return to the LEGO Masters set. Looking back on my experience, I remember three main things. The misery I endured to continue breastfeeding, the satisfaction of completing each LEGO challenge and all the dinners I refused to miss because I lived for those nights of friendship and laughter. I would do it all over again, just so I could be with everyone again.
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