There are so many things about parenting that I’ve found really surprising, but my experience of breastfeeding is one of the most unexpected. We’re coming up to Eliza’s sixth month; as one of my friends recently pointed out, that’s an awful lot of time spent with my boobs out. As it’s such a huge part of our lives I’ve always meant to write something about it, but was really reluctant to add anything more to the already crowded baby feeding debate (I do think though there’s so much unnecessary judgement around the personal choices parents make, and it’s ridiculous that people should be made to feel guilty for doing whatever is in the best interests of them and their children).
However, inspired by all the positive National Breastfeeding Week posts I’ve read this week, I wanted to write something purely from my own perspective – so here’s what we’ve experienced that surprised me the most:
- I was prepared for breastfeeding to be a bumpy ride but it really wasn’t easy for us at the start. Eliza fed brilliantly in hospital but then quickly lost interest at home. In the face of jaundice and weight loss, the midwife prescribed feeding her a minimum of every three hours – day and night – which meant I didn’t sleep for longer than about two hours at a time for a long time. It worked a treat though, and we sailed more smoothly into on-demand feeding. Then a few weeks down the line she developed a shallow latch which resulted in eye-watering, toe-curling, agonising pain for me…
- …However, I was incredibly lucky to have a lot of support. We had great community midwife contact post-birth and due to our initial feeding issues someone came round every day for a week, then every other day for a week, with a pager number to call if we needed help. Later on I also used the NCT breastfeeding helpline, emailed with our NCT breastfeeding councillor and attended local breastfeeding support groups. Not everyone does have access to these facilities, but it’s so vital, and was essential to us continuing on a happier, pain-free breastfeeding path
- I was anticipating negativity from people when we’ve been feeding when out and about, but I’ve had nothing but positive comments so far. Apart from the initial weirdness of getting my boobs out for the first public feed, we’ve happily breastfed anywhere and everywhere. Generally I’ll do the vest down / top up trick meaning I don’t expose much, but even if I end up accidentally flashing then I’m not too bothered. I’m feeding my hungry baby, not making a risqué political statement
- It’s so convenient – I can just put her on the boob at any time – and it does soothe a whole host of baby-related problems. And when I’ve wanted to go out or have a few drinks I’ve been able to strategically express so Alex can do a feed. I don’t think people who bottle feed get enough credit for all the sterilising, preparing and planning, which is surely a lot more to deal with
- The health benefits to the baby are well known, but I have to say that the body benefits for me have been a brilliant side-effect. Everything pinged back pretty soon post-birth (although most of my old wardrobe was completely unsuitable for feeding access). I probably eat far more now than I did when I was pregnant, and it’s mainly cake. And it was quite a novelty for my formerly normal chested self when my milk came in and I was left with a pair that even Dolly Parton would be proud of
- And finally, the most surprising thing is how much I love it. Even in the face of feeds every hour and a half each day for months, cluster feeds, growth spurts, nipples that feel like they will drop off, and being pinned to the sofa for hours at a time when Loose Women comes on the TV and the remote is on the other side of the room (nightmare) I love it in a way I didn’t think was possible – for the closeness, the bonding, knowing I’m responsible for her growth and also all of the reasons above. I’m lucky that breastfeeding for us became a joy and I can’t see us stopping anytime soon