I went into motherhood without much thought about breastfeeding. Insofar as I did think about it, I expected it to be something I would do without much hassle or emotion. I had literally no idea about the amazing physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies or that it was something I would have to work hard for.
I distinctly remember sitting up in a chair in hospital in agony after the emergency cesarean of my first baby and telling the midwife I wasn’t sure what to do or how to feed her. It was around 10 am, I’d had the c-sec at 3 am and had barely held my baby since. The nurse took my breast and brusquely shoved it into my baby’s mouth and that was that.
Welcome to motherhood.
The following weeks were one giant blur. I would feed her for half an hour in the night (multiple times a night) and spend the next half an hour trying to get wind up because if that didn’t happen, she wouldn’t settle again. I was so incredibly tired and my baby was often upset because I was trying to feed her on a schedule using a bracelet that told the time of her last feed and how much longer we had to wait until she could feed again…
Second time around was a little better. I fed my baby on demand and he was more settled and I was a lot calmer. I was beginning to learn more about attachment parenting concepts and decided it reflected my values and the needs of my children much better than the parenting advice I’d received the first time. I was trusting my instincts a lot more and a happy baby reflected that.
My third baby slept WAY too much and I found myself expressing in the wee small hours just to get rid of the excess of milk my body was making (I froze it for later use). I know they say you make what you need but that wasn’t the case for us. Even when I tried not to express (so as not to make more), I ended up in agony and with mastitis. So. Not. Worth. It.
Baby number 4, although born in the middle of a very hot summer, was a great little drinker (perhaps this was why!) and kept my supply at a normal level so I didn’t once have to express. I was pretty chuffed with this and we managed to feed until about 8 months.
My last 2 babies were also comparatively easy to feed, and although I always found the let down to be uncomfortably painful, we got through and found it so much easier to be able to feed on demand without needing to remember to bring bottles with me.
The longest I fed was 12 months (my 6th baby). The others all weaned between 6 and 9 months and I felt like it got easier each time. I am immensely grateful that I was able to breastfeed each of my babies, even if only for a few months and even though it was often a struggle, it’s not something I ever wished away or hoped would end sooner.
Whilst an incredible gift, breastfeeding can also be incredibly depleting so it’s important to stay on top of your physical wellness (supplements, plenty of fluids, rest and support) and your mental health during the long days of nursing.
Whatever your experience with breastfeeding your babes, I hope that it’s a time you can look back on and feel at peace with… trusting that you did your best for your baby and yourself.
Happy International Breastfeeding Week!