A little bit about my personal journey:
I always knew that I was going to breastfeed, or that I would at least give it a red hot go. I found my birth to be an incredibly positive experience, and easier than I anticipated. I didn't, however, expect breastfeeding to be so difficult. I was like the people mentioned above, focusing on how the baby would exit my body, and less about how I would feed it. I assumed my body would just make the milk, and that was that. I figured my boobs would: get full and hard, the baby would drink from them, and then they would get soft again... only to get hard again and full of MORE milk. Pretty simple, or so I imagined.
Wouldn't you know, it actually isn't that easy a lot of the time. So often there are feeding issues, latching problems, tongue ties, or low milk production. Some of these things are 100% out of our control, and we shouldn't berate ourselves about it. This incredibly moving blog post nearly brought me to tears, and it's all about the expectations we place on ourselves as new mums.
My milk came in on day 2. Day 2! If you're not familiar with having babies yet, let me tell you, that is crazy soon. Usually milk comes in about day 5-ish. Since we went private cover (5 days in hospital) I was lucky to have the around the clock support from the midwives, and boy did I need it.
I was in so much pain. The density and the weight of the breasts were insane. It was a euphoric experience when she would suckle and I'd get the sweet sensation of the let down as the milk poured out of me. I had crazy cracked nipples that were so (temporarily) damaged I couldn't even stand the air touching them as I walked around my hospital room naked. One night in particular stands out in my memory. I was in our hospital suite and my husband was holding her. It was time for a feed and I flat out didn't want to do it. I'd been dreading it since the moment I burped her after her previous feed, hours earlier. I was crying, really upset, and feeling like a bad mum. In my head I had the slogan on loop "Breast is Best! Breast is Best!" And while I knew that to be true, and I doubt people would argue with that, I still felt the weight and expectation to succeed heavy on my exhausted, sleep deprived shoulders. And let me tell you, it was heavy.
I was trying to explain my situation to my husband, "You don't understand what it's like! I have to feed her, and if I don't she will die." Now, now... talk about dramatic! I was hormonal as hell, and obviously there are other avenues to take, but in my mind, at this point in time I didn't want to continue. I was dreading the latch, that initial attachment that cuts you so sharp, it's like searing razor blades. The anxiety would slowly creep in as each feed got closer and closer. Why don't people talk more about THIS part, I had thought to myself. Thankfully we have some really supportive friends who are married and have two kids. They had actually warned us, and my husband in particular, about the trials of breastfeeding and how difficult it can be for a new mum. My husband was such a rock, God love him. He kept reminding me what a good job I was doing, and how tough I was. He also reminded me that I'd just given birth, and if I could do that, I was capable of anything. He'd sit with me while I fed her, stroke my head and get me fresh water to drink. That breastfeeding thirst is no joke.
Around day 4 my midwife gave me some frozen nappies which were an absolute godsend. Highly recommend this is you're suffering from engorgement. Place a nappy (diaper) in the freezer until hard, and viola! You don't need to wet it or anything, just place the cold nappy in your bra for instant relief.
Once we got established and my nipples were healed, life got so much easier. I would still dread the latch, but as time went on it kept getting easier and easier. I kept saying to myself, it won't be tough forever. I'd say it took me a good month and a half to really get the hang of it (and toughen up those nipples). I'd get my boobs out whenever and wherever they were needed. I'd breastfeed on the plane next to a stranger, at the park, during my husband's basketball games, the list goes on. I didn't do this to make a statement, I did it because it's my duty as a mother to feed and nourish my daughter. If that happened to be while I was shopping at the mall, then I'd snag a seat and feed her. I didn't see the point in scurrying off to find a parent's room on the other side of the mall to feed her in a sterile room. I would just sit down, get comfortable and do my thang. Sadly, I always felt the need to have a remark tucked away if some dickhead wanted to comment on how, when and where I fed MY child. Thankfully, I've yet to have that problem, but some women aren't so lucky as you can see here.
And while I'm ALL for normalising breastfeeding, and do it anywhere I please, you won't find me posting brelfies
(breastfeeding selfies) on my instagram. Why not? Personally, I'm not sure that's the kind of photo my daughter would want out in world when she's a teenager, or older. Having said that, I will like the hell out of anyone else's brelfies or breastfeeeding pictures, commenting with all the heart eyes I can #YOUGOGIRL
Nowadays the public feedings are less frequent since my daughter typically breastfeeds first thing in the morning and at bedtime. My goal was to breastfeed for a year, and I've achieved that. It's actually 396 days of breastfeeding and counting. Doesn't sound like a lot when I write the number out. Sometimes I feel like it's been an eternity, and other times I feel like I blinked and I have a babbling toddler.
I'm not sure where the breastfeeding journey will take us or how long it will last. What I do know is that feeding her has been such a wonderfully unique bonding experience, and one that I'm very appreciative to have had.
Now I'll tell you a little about the science about our magical bossums and their sweet nectar.
According to Doctor Ghebreyesus, the general director of the WHO (World Health Organization), "Breastfeeding babies gives them the best possible start to life. Breastmilk works like a baby's first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive."
The first food consumed by most infants around the world is breast milk. Human milk has been engineered through evolution to provide the child with the best possible chance of survival. Making breastmilk is no small feat for the body, requiring 500 extra calories a day to produce enough for one child. When you're pregnant, the body only requires 300 more calories a day, and that's to grow a human. You'd think it would be the other way around!
Breastmilk is rich in fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It has custom antibodies for the bub
and it also contains HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides). They don't benefit the mother in any way, and they're impossible for the baby to digest, so why does the female body work so hard to make milk with this additional component? The sole purpose of HMOs are to feed the gut biome of the infant drinking the milk. Feeding the good bacteria in the gut is key, especially since 70% of the immune system is harbored there.
Baby's digestive tracks are super delicate in their first year of life, which was one of the reasons why I aimed to breastfeed for 12 months. Breastfeeding also helps mums to recover better after birth, and lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers later in life. The act of breastfeeding has also been linked to lower maternal depression.
According to the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey, 96% of mothers initiated breastfeeding. After that, exclusive breastfeeding dropped. Less than half of babies (39%) were exclusively breast feed for 3 months, and 15% of babies were exclusively fed to 5 months.
So what's the moral for this post? It's sure as hell not for bragging rights or shaming formula users.
It's a call to action to help mamas out there, to build them up and give help when it's needed. So often new mums don't ask for help. If you say, "Let me know if you need anything " I assure you, your girlfriend won't ask. If you drop off a home cooked meal or offer to sit with her while she feeds, that's helping out. Remember what it was like for you, and be there for your new mum friends when their time comes. Haven't had a baby yet, that's cool. Remember this post and be there for your mates because they might find feeding difficult too. Conversely, they might have a walk in the park breastfeeding. Each and every experience is unique. We should all be delicate with our words and shroud mamas with continuous love and support.
I hope that this post is also a reminder to practice humility and non-judgment when you're talking to other women and mums that might be struggling.
If you're looking for some breastfeeding inspiration, check out these gorgeous Instragam accounts
Breast Feeding World, Normalize Breastfeeding, The Badass Breastfeeder, Breastfeed Without Fear, Black Moms Breastfeed, and Mother Muse Mag.
If you live in Australia, and want more information about breastfeeding and support, head to the Australian Breastfeeding Association or call 1 800 mum 2 mum
That's 1 800 686 268
Are you a breastfeeding mum that loves an online forum for tips and support?
Check out the this great community support page.
Are you super passionate about breastfeeding and want to help others?
The ABA would love to have you, click here to volunteer your valuable time.
Are you super geeked about boobies and breastfeeding and want to know more about Australia's breastfeeding expert group? If so, click here.
La Leche League is a fantastic resource for those of you living in the USA. They have a facebook page, as well as a blog, and offer local meet ups too.
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