My breastfeeding journey, because she’s worth it.

A new list has been created in my list book. (Yes I have a book especially for lists) The latest one is called, Future Blog Posts.  There is so much I want to write about that I have had to create a list to stop me forgetting.

Today, hubby and I have been discussing and planning weaning.  But having still not started this process this subject will have to wait.  My daughter is nearly 25 weeks, and the vast majority of her similar aged friends, (Don’t you just love that babies have friends!?) have already started solid foods. We have not. Weaning is a really sensitive subject for me, or rather what it represents. The end of the new-born stage.  If I could, I would keep my darling daughter away from solid foods forever, or at least until there is another little baby in my  life and I am ready for her to move to the next stage. When you have a baby, you are told, time, and time again, “enjoy it, it goes so fast”.  These words have been like knives to me, YES I KNOW IT GOES FAST, STOP REMINDING ME. I want to stop time, I want to keep my baby a baby forever.  Now, clearly, my daughter comes first, and therefore however much I desire a baby forever I also want her to grow and become the happy, capable, clever, beautiful and caring woman she is already proving she will be.  But the insecure mother in me wants her to stay small forever.  To need me forever. My friends, talk with joy, of the freedom that weaning has brought them. I don’t want freedom. I like being needed, I like not having a life of my own. For perhaps the first time ever, my life has purpose and I’m terrified that when weaning comes, my purpose will go.

The truth of it is, I love breastfeeding. I love it for many reasons, and just for a change, here’s a list!

  • It’s free.

Babies are not cheap – they cost an absolute fortune. Luckily, their food does not.

  • It’s convenient.

Try as hard as you like – you can not forget your boobs when you leave the house, nor can you misplace them in the house. (even if you are as messy and disorganised as I am!)

  • It’s good for baby

The health benefits have been proven, so I am not going to harp on about them.

  • It creates an excuse for Baby and I time.

When the in-laws are putting their arms out for baby as soon as I walk through the door, a response of “I’m going to feed her” is all it takes. (“And yes, I am still feeding her myself.” “yes, STILL!”)  If she and I need some quiet time, then breastfeeding is the best excuse ever. I am more than happy to nurse in public, but an excuse to get away from it all once in a while is also appreciated.

  • It’s good for me

I have a string of health problems, but since I have been breastfeeding my health has never been better.  I have been able to give up no less than 4 medications.

  • I look amazing!

OK, I am not a supermodel, and never will be. But I have always been a size 16 before, and suddenly I have been able to buy size 8, and they are too big! I eat cake every day, I eat cheese, I eat chocolate.  While writing this I have eaten a whole box of Christmas biscuits, (I am hoping hubby wont notice they have gone) and 4 drumstick lollies.

For these reasons, and many more breastfeeding has very quickly become my obsession.  And I want everyone to know it.  I understand that some people are not fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed for health reasons and these people have my respect, however, those who can, but choose not to, are a group I do not understand.

Yes, breastfeeding is hard work. Harder work than I had ever imagined.  My breastfeeding journey has not been an easy one, and it was most certainly not love at first sight. Throughout pregnancy, and even before this, I had imagined breastfeeding.  The scene I had created in my mind, clearly seen through rose tinted glasses, was one of blissful calm babies and smiling mothers, with perfect skin and perfect hair, feeding to the sounds of birds, with the background of lush trees and the odd butterfly floating past for good measure.

The reality was, believe it or not, completely different.  When I eventually got to feed my baby after the birth, I almost screamed in pain. As the midwife manhandled my boobs into position, telling me to make sure I pressed them back so as to not block baby’s nose and suffocate her, (I have massive boobs – this is a real possibility!), my baby knew exactly what she was doing.  She really went for it.  I was in agony.  Being conscientious parents to be, hubby and I had attended NCT classes and both sat through the breastfeeding class taking in everything we were told, we knew pain meant an incorrect latch.  So we tried again. And again. And again.  Midwives constantly reassured me that it “looked like a brilliant latch” and diligently pointed out why. “Puffed cheeks” “Nose to Nipple” “Tummy to Tummy” When my pain didn’t subside they suggested different positions. Baby became a rugby ball, she became a jockey, I lay down, I sat up. Short of hanging upside down we couldn’t have tried much more.  The pain continued.  Midwives seemed to loose patience, Recording in my notes, Latch good, but mother complaining of pain.

My husband and I had heard of tongue tie, in fact we have friends who have had babies with it.  I’m really not sure why we didn’t think to ask ourselves.  I guess it was the result of having just had a baby – it’s kind of a big deal and distracts you somewhat!  Eventually, a volunteer from The Breastfeeding Network, came by.  She asked if anyone had checked for tongue tie.  The penny dropped.  Eventually my daughter was assessed by someone from the hospital’s feeding clinic who agreed that yes, she did have a tongue tie, a significant one in fact, and arrangements were made to have it “snipped” immediately.  Immediately, it turns out, means in 10 days time.

So, we were discharged from hospital, in our haze of new baby excitement. Totally in love with the little bundle we had created, exhausted but too excited to sleep.  And every 2 hours, (sometimes more regularly) I had to endure what felt like razor blades scraping my nipples. A great start to family life.

The mountain was indeed a steep one.  I got help. As much help as I could. I had home visits from the amazing breastfeeding network, I went to the hospital feeding clinic, my fabulous husband sat up with me at each feed, helping me latch and re-latch until the pain was merely “oooooow, horrendous” rather than “dear god kill me now, excruciating”.  I will admit I didn’t quite manage it all.  We used formula 6 times in the first few days.  We have not used it since.  I wanted to give up breastfeeding, I was persuaded to wait until the tongue tie had been cut. If I still wanted to give up at this point, my decision would be respected.

On day 10, her tongue tie was cut.  Suddenly feeding didn’t hurt anymore.  Not only did it not hurt, I enjoyed it.  And I appreciated it so much more because of the battle.

Since then, she and I have become somewhat of a dream team when it comes to breastfeeding.  We experiment with different holds regularly, we feed anywhere and everywhere, I choose clothes based on their boob access, she smiles as soon as she sees them.  I love it so much that even my return to work will not make me stop.  I have made arrangements to pump at work.  I will continue to give my daughter the best I can, for as long as she needs it.  I want to continue with extended feeding for as long as possible, my goal is 2 years, but who knows, she may self wean much earlier than this, or she may still be asking for boob beyond this point. We will go with the milk flow.  Solids will start soon, but I am determined that breastfeeding will not stop.

It’s exhausting. Breast milk digests easier than formula, so breastfed babies need feeding more regularly, and as a result often wake more at night.  My daughter is not “difficult” nor is she “a madam”, she is simply a breastfed baby.  At nearly 6 months she still wakes every 3 hours at night time, (on average). I have not had a full nights sleep since being 7 months pregnant.  Cluster feeds are regular and I am currently satisfying a growth spurt that has caused feeding constantly between 3 am and 8am for the last 4 mornings.

I find myself having to justify my choice to others, to explain why I choose sleepless nights, why I choose a situation where I have to stop what I am doing to feed my baby, why I prefer it that I can’t hand her over, why I am happy to be needed so completely, why won’t I just switch to formula, why I insist on feeding in public. My answer, the same every time,

Because she’s worth it.