I am a new mom. My babe is now 14 months old. She is a happy, healthy little bundle of fun. Just walking and starting to explore the world around her.
I’ve breastfed my daughter since day 1. Entering pregnancy I honestly didn’t have much of an opinion about breastfeeding. I’ve seen family and friends do breastfeeding and others who have done formula. Both seemed to work well. It just depended on the mother and the circumstances around her baby.
Like many mothers, I attended a “baby prep” course. There was some instruction on what to have at home before baby arrives, the stages of labour and what to expect, but the majority of the course focused on breastfeeding; latching techniques, benefits, who to contact if you’re having a hard time, the causes of pain during and what to do if your nipples are cracking. As much as I hated giving up one of my last weekends of freedom to sit in an uncomfortable chair in the basement of an old hospital, I was very happy I went. A lot of questions got answered. And once my little girl arrived, I knew what to do.
I was happy when she latched very well. My journey of breastfeeding my child had begun.
But my relationship with breastfeeding hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows.
This is my tribute to breastfeeding: A love and hate relationship.
Love #1: Knowing that you are providing the best and healthiest nutrition for your baby.
There is plenty of evidence out there that breast milk is the “gold standard” for infant nourishment – especially for the first six months. There is a certain level of confidence and pride that comes with being able to breastfeed. Watching your little one grow and reach milestones while being 100% fed by a substance your own body is creating is very rewarding (not to mention impressive).
Hate #1: Beyond 6 months, and especially beyond a year, people start to think breastfeeding is weird.
It’s as if people think all those benefits suddenly disappear. The fact that I am still breastfeeding beyond a year has some looking at me like I am a circus freak. There have been comments, mostly from family members but others as well, that “enough is enough”. “You gotta get that baby drinking from a bottle” or “you’re spoiling her” or “wow, you’re STILL breastfeeding??”
I know most of their intentions are good – they want me to get some level of independence back in my life. To get control of my body back. As though my 14 month old is abusing me. Or they think I am doing her some sort of disservice, and that me breastfeeding her beyond the recommended time frame will somehow make her socially awkward and too dependent on me later in life. People’s beliefs on this subject are very firm. It can be worse than discussing politics or religion. Everyone knows better than me. Everyone else is an expert. I literally have to give myself pep talks – “you’re doing a good job. She’s happy and healthy. They just did things differently.”
Love #2: The endless baby cuddles.
As exhausted as you are as a new mom, there is no better feeling than feeding your baby to sleep and having them lay comfortably against your chest. The bonding is unparalleled. For me, it was psychologically therapeutic – it would help balance my otherwise overactive hormones. It also served as an excuse to relax, watch that Netflix series, cruise the internet, or any other form of mindless entertainment. And in the first few months, this would happen every couple of hours! Only trick is remembering to stock up on water, snacks and going pee before the next cuddle session.
Hate #2: Endless baby cuddles – sleepless nights.
When you are the sole food source for your child, you are the one who needs to wake up with the baby every night. Now this is when everyone says to themselves “oh hell no! Just pump bottles and then your husband can take a turn!”
Unfortunately for me, my child would not drink from a bottle for the first few months. So pumping became pointless. I also hated pumping. It would take multiple pumping sessions for me to get a small bottle of milk. It was slow and painful and I eventually just gave up trying.
My child has never been a good sleeper, especially at night. I have tried almost everything, but I have yet to cut out the midnight breastfeed. I have heard that formula keeps baby full longer and therefore they may be more likely to sleep through the night. I had hoped that solid food would do the same, but no.
I have discovered that she actually isn’t hungry in the middle of the night at all, and that she is mostly just using me as her own human soother (as she never took a real soother). So at 14 months, I have yet to experience the bliss of two consecutive full nights sleep, and she has only slept through the night twice.
Love #3: Breastfeeding requires no prep.
Even if you are getting up multiple times in the night, it is a relief that you do not need to trek to the kitchen and heat up bottles. Or if you are leaving the house, you do not need to worry about prepping and packing enough bottles – you always have food with you. Obviously when they are bigger, you need to pack snacks and meals, but in those first 6 months, all the milk you need is right there with you.
Hate #3: Slave to the feed.
When you’re the only food source, and your babe doesn’t like bottles, you literally can’t be away from them for more than a couple hours in those first few months. Before having a baby, I had thought “oh I’ll just get a babysitter or have the grandparents watch her while I go out for the afternoon or evening.” Not possible. I was lucky to get a short nap and a shower while she slept on someone. The loss of freedom was shocking. It slowly returns as baby starts taking solid foods, but it came way later than I expected. Every couple hours, that baby needs nourishment. And you are the only one who can provide that. It limits your social life and ability to go to appointments, to say the least.
Love #4: No constant cleaning and sterilization of bottles.
This one is self explanatory – no bottle prep means no bottle cleaning. Bliss. It’s hard enough to keep on top of house work and laundry.
Hate #4: Body issues.
Ever hear the old saying “you’ll lose the weight once you’re breastfeeding”? It’s a lie. A myth. At least for someone like me. Breastfeeding keeps my breasts large, and for someone with my body type, large breasts make me look even larger than I already am. And then there is the hunger – the insatiable hunger. Producing milk takes a lot of energy, and unfortunately I’ve never been one to reach for a bag of kale when I need a snack. I reach for the carbs. Bread. Pasta. Pizza. Desserts. All the things that promise to keep me obese and eventually kill me. I will admit, this is the one thing that has had me inches from quitting breastfeeding every day since she reached 6 months. Being a new mom is hard enough, but feeling extremely ugly on top of it can really mess with your psyche.
Ultimately, would I recommend breastfeeding? Absolutely.
Would I promise that it’s a 100% amazing experience all the time? No.
Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and this post will hopefully help other moms realise that whichever way you choose to feed your child, there will be ups and downs to either method. We as mothers need to pick the path that works best for us. For now, I will trudge on as I can see the comfort and benefits it has provided for my baby girl.
GUEST BLOGGER: Missie Lamont