It’s World Breastfeeding Week & I’ve also just hit a milestone of boobing the gremlin for 18 months; so, it felt like an appropriate time to get my thoughts out about my relationship with the wonderful and complicated world of breastfeeding.
I’m very lucky in that I didn’t have a difficult start; we didn’t have a tongue tie, she didn’t really have difficulty latching and she was putting weight on like a trooper, but that doesn’t mean to say it wasn’t difficult. I was constantly doubting myself, because it hurt like hell. All you hear if you try to breastfeed is that it shouldn’t hurt if you’re doing it right, so why was it hurting me?! I asked Health Visitors, I asked the midwife and neither could see anything wrong, so my doubt only increased in my ability. Why does it hurt then? Something must be wrong. Then I asked my friends, real life mums, if it hurt them in the early days and they all said a resounding “fuck yes”. Then I had a different midwife and she spoke actual sense “of course it’ll hurt, your nipples have never been used before and now they’re in constant use. It’ll hurt but it will get better”. And do you know what, it did.
For the first 6 months of E’s life, I really didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I felt trapped. However, I was also too stubborn to give her formula. Not that I’m against it, I just had it in my head that I needed to exclusively breastfeed. Don’t ask why, because I don’t know.
Then all of a sudden, it became easy. It was second nature. It was glorious. It was full of love. And that’s what I had in my head all along when I started breastfeeding. The pure happiness you see in stock photos.
However, that also doesn’t mean that it’s been plain sailing since then. Christ, no. It’s still hard bloody work; yes, the feeding gets easier, but when the demand can still be constant, it’s very draining. There are days where I wish I had never breastfed, because I might have more of a non-mum-related life. There are days when I wish she would just leave me alone and not pull at my top every time I sit on the sofa. However, when I do feed her and she looks at me and smiles, my heart melts and I wonder how I could have ever not done this for her.
Being this far into my breastfeeding journey means that you now get a lot of questions such as “ooh are you still feeding?”, “when do you think you will stop?”, “do you think stopping feeding would help her sleep better?”, “do you still feed her to sleep?” and so on, and so forth. It know how to answer questions like this, but it does knock your confidence. Once again, I doubt whether I’m doing the right thing, even though the World Health Organisation recommends feeding to at least age 2 and beyond if you can (unless your child self-weans prior to that of course). I like the idea of feeding her until she’s two, but I’m not sure beyond that. Just so I can get some more of myself back again. Selfish? Possibly. But, sometimes, as a mum, you need to be selfish to be the best mum you possibly can.
I have had, and still have, a very complex relationship with breastfeeding. Each journey is different. And I know I would definitely have done things differently if I had known at the beginning, what I know now, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
If you’re still breastfeeding, did it for a year, 6 months, 6 weeks, 6 days, 6 hours or 6 minutes – you’re doing amazing. It’s fucking hard and we all deserve a pat on the back. If your journey stopped before you wanted, you haven’t failed you did the absolute best you could. No one could ask more than that.
Breastfeeding is an amazing thing, but it comes with a lot of baggage!