Olivia Mackinnon is a force of nature. A ball of energy that radiates fun and optimism, it’s hard to imagine her motherhood journey was not always sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there were times it nearly broke her spirit. In her 9-5, Olivia is Head of Content for One Fine Baby and mum to Eva Joy, 5 and Freddie, 3. In her words, Eva is her ‘do first, think later’ and Freddie is her ‘think first, act second’.
A journalist by trade, Olivia is an outspoken advocate on many issues facing parents today. From the work-life-juggle and the cost of childcare, to breaking taboos by speaking so positively of her caesarean birth experience and addressing formula feeding shame, she is not afraid to tackle the big topics head-on and share them with the huge One Fine Baby community, guided by her lived experience as a working mother who works with new parents daily and understands intimately what they are going through.
As one of the first in her friendship group to have children, so many of Olivia’s experiences were without reference to information on what choices others close to her might have made - the sharing of knowledge and experience that mums in particular are so good at fostering.
“I had my head in the sand with my first pregnancy. I had a pretty textbook pregnancy and labour, albeit with some low blood pressure in my second trimester. I knew I would have a vaginal birth, and more than likely opt for an epidural as my mum had done, and I had been told was an incredibly normal choice. Although I don’t regret my epidural, it definitely slowed things down very quickly, and led to forcep intervention when Eva’s blood pressure dropped and I developed an infection. I suffered a 3B-grade tear, and was told by a doctor that it might be safer to opt for an elected caesarean next time.”
The experience understandably stayed with Olivia, and when she fell pregnant with Freddie 13 months later, she was adamant that an elected caesarean was safest for her to prevent re-tearing, despite midwives telling her she could birth safely vaginally.
The early days of motherhood were a joy “...a kind of bliss you dream about when you have your first baby. Every milestone was reminiscent of a trip to Disneyland. I thoroughly soaked in every moment for those first few weeks.”
And then colic set in.
Infantile colic is an adjective to describe excessive crying of unknown cause in otherwise well infants. There is no definitive reason for colic and no known single effective treatment. It is estimated to affect up to 20% of infants and usually resolves after 3-4 months. It is known to be a contributing factor for maternal depression and linked to shaken-baby syndrome.
Being pushed to the absolute edge undoubtedly has an impact on those first few months of parenthood and is still raw for Olivia recounting her experience even now.
“To be honest, it rocked me in a way that I can’t quite explain. The constant crying had me hysterical some nights because they both looked like they were so in pain. We even took Eva to emergency a few times as I thought she must have something really wrong. Having been through it once I was no more prepared the second time around. I was constantly googling what I could do to get through it. I bought every colic treatment I could get my hands on and my mental health took a major decline.”
“I remember feeling so helpless and so in love from about week 4 to week 9. It was a weird kind of paradox. Everyone just told me to ‘get to 12 weeks’ and it would all be better. And they were right.”
When Eva began refusing the breast at the 5 month mark, Olivia remembers feeling disappointed at first.
“Even before having kids, I could always sense the pressure that ‘breast is best’. I inherently believe that ‘fed is best’, whatever that looks like for you and your family. I am a big advocate for protecting your mental health as a mother, and doing whatever is most beneficial for you and your baby at that particular time.”
Olivia enjoyed breastfeeding Eva right from the start, introducing an expressed bottle at night time so her husband Nathan could do the 6pm feed. This routine worked well, though Olivia recalls not being able to express as much as hoped and incorporating formula around the 3-4 month mark.
“At around the 5-month mark, Eva began to become increasingly distracted on the breast. She’s always been very inquisitive - a people watcher - so she was formula-exclusive by 6 months of age.”
“With Freddie, at almost 3, he would still be on the breast if I let him. He only just stopped his nightly formula a few weeks ago. Freddie was exclusively breastfed for around 2 months before we introduced mixed-feeding. He was a hungry boy, and I always felt he was still hungry after a breastfeed, so I would ‘top up’ with a formula feed.”
Having found what worked for her and her family, Olivia is pragmatic in her approach to feeding and has sound advice to any new mum feeling a sense of guilt, shame or struggling to find reassurance or information on feeding.
“Don’t listen to the noise. Breastfeeding just doesn’t work for every mum. It shouldn’t hurt, or cause you stress and anxiety. It used to really hurt when Freddie would latch, so it became clear something was wrong. I asked for help to improve his latch and everything changed. Breastfeeding for you may also be amazing, and you may find it really easy. That’s great! The thing to remember is that we have so many amazing choices around us. We have access to so much information and recommendations from mums who have been there. At the end of the day, when you become a mum, you’re gifted a thing called ‘mother’s intuition’. It’s there for a reason and it works, listen to it. No-one knows your child better than you do.”
If you suspect your baby has colic, read more about it and use this Dr Golly Action Plan. Be sure to make an appointment and see your GP.
Seeking support is an important part of looking after yourself. It’s good for you and it’s good for your family. If you need support, you can phone your GP or child and family health nurse. You could also call Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or PANDA on 1300 726 306.