Before my daughter was born, in that time when my brain worked at almost full capacity, I read a book about being a first time parent and decided that it would be nice if I breastfed her for six months. No biggie if that didn’t happen though because there were TV ads telling me that there was formula and follow on milk which would help my child achieve her dreams. Bonus!
Here’s what actually happened. Kid arrives and I stay in hospital for two days. I have a nurse oversee our latch and I’ve seemingly got the technique down so they let me go home. That’s when it all went to hell. I’m not sure when the bleeding and the cracking started but it was kind of alarming that a tiny creature with no teeth could almost split a nipple down the middle. I called my midwife for help and she said I needed to see Jane. Jane was a saviour, a lactation consultant that ran weekly clinics in the area, with a band of volunteers. I went to see her and showed me how to hold the baby so feeding would hurt less for me and be easier for the baby, (the evolutionary baby feeding position). She told me to feed from one side at a time to allow the other side to heal (nipple skin heals quickly). She told me to allow as much air as possible to my boobs to assist in the healing (my mother who was staying with me at the time was somewhat disturbed at my refusal to wear a top).
It wasn’t a quick fix, I was in agony and I would cry whenever my baby cried for a feed because I knew the pain that was about to come. And then I cried some more out of guilt. So why didn’t I just give up and give her formula? Three reasons:
- I’m stubborn.
- I read the (very confusing) instructions for the bottle steriliser (six times) and decided that I’d rather endure the pain of breastfeeding than the guilt if I were to give my kid an improperly sterilised bottle.
- Also, I’m lazy.
Two days later my midwife sees I’m still in pain and she schedules me a visit with Sonya, another midwife that runs an advisory clinic on a SUNDAY at the hospital. I spent two hours with Sonya. She gave me plastic shells to keep my clothes away from my skin (it was January, I couldn’t not wear a top really) and confidence. I can’t remember exactly what she said but I remember leaving the hospital feeling like an Amazonian Warrior Goddess (that’d be the oxytocin at work, hormones are great eh?)
I can’t remember when it stopped hurting. It felt like months but it must have been less than two weeks as that’s when my sister visited and by then I was feeding baby without wincing.
So what’s this got to do with anything? Well I decided to tell this story now in celebration of the 25th annual World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), a global network whose members include the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and La Leche League.
I found this on the UNICEF website :
“The targets, set by the World Health Assembly, call for at least a 50% rate of exclusive breastfeeding by 2025. The Collective’s mission is to rally political, legal, financial and public support for breastfeeding.”
Without wanting to go full on lactivist,* the key word is SUPPORT. New mums need support from their families, healthcare professionals and employers (among others) if they choose to breastfeed their babies. I chose to breastfeed because I’m inherently lazy. I continued to breastfeed beyond 6 months because by then I had come to realise the following:
- Breastmilk is 80% water and 20% magic. Seriously, it cleared up my baby’s weird gunky eye thing within an hour.
- Breastmilk sends my daughter to sleep faster than any lullaby or any amount of shushing or rocking.
- Breastfeeding gives me a legitimate excuse to sit down several times a day and cuddle my kid.
I was one of the lucky ones, I had heaps of support and that’s why 20 months later we’re still going strong.
*Lactation + Activist = Lactivist
I have been reliably informed that, despite my soft nature, I am by default a lactivist for having gone against the majority and continued to breastfeed my daughter beyond a year. Right on!