As I sit here in the early days with my third baby girl, just 11 days old, breastfeeding is second nature by now. The familiar sound of her cooing and sucking, the subtle sound of her drinking, reassuring me that she has latched on correctly. Gazing at her as she slowly dozes off into the milk drunk state that provides such comfort and nourishment for her.
I’m a passionate advocate for breastfeeding, and I love helping women get off to a good start with their bubs. I actively aim to educate about the benefit for both mum and baby. It’s undeniably the best way to nourish not only our children but also our bodies.
THE BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING
The benefits are seemingly endless. From better bone health, lower breast cancer risk, to easier weight loss and strong mother-baby bonding. And just quietly the ‘mechanics’ of milk production, it’s ingredients from immune modulation to nutrient supply to microbiome development – the intricate communication that the saliva and sucking by the baby sends to the milk production. Things that ‘just’ happen without our attention at all. Magic I say.
IN HONOUR OF WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK
I marvel at the magical mystery that breastfeeding is and the empowered feeling when solely one’s breast milk nurtures, strengthen and comforts a baby for six months until solids. I sit here with poor posture and a sore lower back in the dark hours of the night feeding hour after hour, drowsing in and out of sleep and scrunching up my face in discomfort as I get the let-down and my milk comes into my breasts like tiny little pinching needles. It’s not all a joy ride – but it truly is magical. And I got thinking.
Although we know the benefits and see the beauty of a breastfeeding mother nurturing her bubba we must indeed honour the pain and down right struggle it can be. Because breastfeeding is not a natural skill that comes easily to the majority of new mothers. It is a learnt skill. It is a skill that can seem too darn hard and painful that the benefits don’t outweigh the pain and agony.
I remember back in the dark hours of the night with my first born baby, almost seven years ago. The feeds were 90 minutes per boob, and the milk came in so aggressively that I would cry at every feed. I remember reaching out to the fantastic team at The Australian Breastfeeding Association via email at 2 am trying to find out if the pain was normal. It turned out I was headed down the mastitis route in an excessive speed unless I learnt how to manage my clogged ducts on both my nipples. I remember it felt like tiny sharp pieces of glass was in my milk, cutting me with every suck my baby made. I would brace myself by tensing every muscle in the body during the long feeding sessions.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
I had to put warm compresses on my breasts and nipples and sterilise a needle to burst the little-clogged ducts before every feed and then allow the milk to burn and cut in pain as she would feed. It was three months of intense pain and discomfort until it all settled down. Argh, those dark and painful lonely nights. But then it all settled, and I had two years of nourishing my child through breastfeeding that I am proud of today.
So here’s my massive high five to us breastfeeding ladies. The agony. The beauty. The inconvenience. The simplicity. The magic. The power and pure awesomeness of nourishing our babies. The ups and downs. The hard work. The cool-ass-cave-woman skill that breastfeeding is, bloody well done!
Let’s not shame a mother for choosing to feed for just a few weeks or months.
Let’s not judge a mother for feeding her baby for several years.
Let’s not pretend it’s easy.
Let’s not discourage women from breastfeeding by our own bad experiences.
Let’s not feel ashamed and forced to cover up in public.
Let’s instead feel proud to have mastered the skill.
Let’s celebrate the milk and the closeness we get with our babies; it won’t last forever.
Let’s offer a feeding mother more water and a snack.
Let’s marvel at the magic that milk can on its own adjust itself according to your baby’s immune need and nutrient requirement.
Let’s ponder on the mystery of ‘dysphoric milk ejection reflex’. You may not know the term, but you may know the feeling – the abrupt emotional “drop”, brief negative emotions ranging in severity from wistfulness to self-loathing when the milk comes in.
Let’s remember to ask for help.
Let’s salute the mother who always worries that she doesn’t have enough milk.
Let’s salute the mother who feels engorged and has constant milk spots on her clothes.
Let’s remember to honour our bodies, the lumps and bumps and stretch marks.
Let’s be realistic – learning the feeding skill just after having pushed out your child can be overwhelming.
Lets never feel we didn’t try hard enough because no matter what your breastfeeding journey looks like, chances are you did your very best.
My very happiest of wishes for every new mother who is learning to breastfeed.