Weeks old: 27
I like: Games involving me being bitten (very gently of course), my new toys, boobs
Mummy is learning: Never to turn her back on me, to jump around in front of me like a loon when I am in the Jumperoo so I join in
Recently some of you might have seen stylised pictures popping up on Instagram or Facebook depicting breastfeeding mothers and babies. This is part of a “movement” called ‘Tree of Life’ that aims to normalise breastfeeding and to show the connection between mother and baby through the roots of a tree representing milk ducts and a tree the nourishment being received by the baby. You can read more here.
I think I have been quite fortunate that I grew up with my mother breastfeeding my brother at home and out and about and with friends who breastfed their babies so it has always seemed like a completely normal, natural and logical thing to me but I realise that this is not the same for everyone and that many expectant or new mums may never have actually seen someone breastfeed or know anyone who has. As someone who has found breastfeeding to be rewarding (and sometimes challenging), I feel like being part of something that might get more mums to consider initiating or continuing breastfeeding (if they want to and it’s emotionally and physically healthy for them and their babies) is important, which is why I want to share what breastfeeding has been like for me.
In many ways I have been lucky. I had a straightforward delivery, which immediately enabled me to have skin to skin contact with Little O, who was alert and strong and latched himself on to feed within minutes of being born. While he had a mild tongue tie, which caused me some pain for the first couple of weeks of feeding, this was reversed early on and I have not found feeding painful since.
I think being informed about how certain elements of breastfeeding work really helped to establish my expectations early on. I was not surprised when Little O fed for hours on end as a tiny baby or failed to establish a feeding schedule like a formula fed baby might. As Mr O was also informed, he knew he’d need to support me by bringing me food and water while I was “trapped under the baby” and by keeping things like household chores in check. This kind of support and understanding is definitely essential in the early months.
I started feeding Little O in public when he was only a couple of days old. Initially I fed with a cover over him but these days I don’t really bother. Apart from a couple of odd encounters in South Africa no one has ever even seemed to notice or care that I was feeding (and if they’re bothered, fuck ’em). I also spend less time feeding out and about these days as Little O goes longer between feeds and is easily distracted so he often can’t focus on his feed if we’re anywhere noisy or interesting.
For the most part I have found breastfeeding convenient and relatively easy. I don’t have to carry any feeding equipment or sterilise anything. I also weigh less than I did before I got before pregnant despite the fact that I never stop eating because breastfeeding burns so many calories. It’s free and until Little O was six months old it stopped me from having a monthly period (which was nice). I know it’s often longer for some mums. It also makes me happy to know that I am giving Little O the best possible nutrition, made just for his little body, while introducing him to new flavours via what I eat and passing on my antibodies to him to help keep him healthy. At the same time I am helping protect myself from breast cancer, diabetes and obesity.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. I am the only person who can feed my baby, which means that I can’t ever really leave him for very long. Not only will be not take a bottle, but pumping breastmilk is a complete pain in the arse. It also means that all the night feeds, of which there are many, are on me. Little O derives lots of comfort from feeding so I am the person who puts him to bed, calms him when he is upset and settles him when he wakes. Essentially my boobs are in and out all day and the more layers you have on, the more annoying it is. When I return to work in March/April, it’s going to be a huge adjustment for both of us.
Now that I have reached the seemingly magical milestone of six months of exclusive breastfeeding people have started to ask me when I might stop and the answer is that I am really not sure. Once I am back at work I would like to continue, either by only feeding when I am home with Little O in the mornings and evenings and over weekends or by also supplying pumped milk and hoping he takes to some kind of non-human receptacle. In fact I would like to do so until he feels ready to stop. He’ll need milk in some form or another until he is at least one, whether breast milk or formula. My mother breastfed me until I was two and my brother until almost three so so-called “extended breastfeeding” seems very normal to me. However, I understand that once I am back at work this might not be realistic. I suppose only time will tell.
For anyone who is breastfeeding but finding it challenging or who is pregnant and not sure whether to try at all, I would say ask for support, learn as much as you can and know that it definitely gets better and easier over time. And if it doesn’t work for you, then just don’t sweat it, happy and healthy mum and baby are the most important thing of all no matter how you choose to feed.