This World Breastfeeding Week has prompted me to update you about our breastfeeding journey. Crucially, it’s made me realise that, by some magic, breastfeeding has become a normal part of our lives. It’s been such a gradual, subtle shift, that it’s taken this scheduled period of focus for me to notice that I no longer spend my every waking moment obsessing about how it’s going. *WIN- there’s more to life than breastfeeding*
Both feel like a lifetime ago- reading the words takes me right back to the emotions of the experience, all consuming and intense. I’m not sure I ever really believed that this would become our normal- that we would just be doing it, after so many obstacles.
But here we are. My big, fat exclusively breastfed baby on the 98th per centile, and me feeling like it’s no longer likely to be the death of me…
I mean, I’m shattered. And a bit touched out. In comparison to my experience with my beautiful first born, who moved to formula after 2 weeks, this is certainly physically demanding.
The fact that he is such a strong weight means it’s a bit of a work out holding him in place so much, day and night- my back does not appreciate it. He feeds FREQUENTLY. Sometimes every 90 minutes through the night. Occasionally there are incredible 3 hour stretches that feel like a huge treat.
Although 99% of the time I’m glad to be feeding him, there are moments I would LOVE to hand him over for someone else to take a shift. He will take a bottle, but pumping is work- finding the time, at the right time is rare, especially with a 3 yr old around too. Plus I’m back at work one day a week, so I have to keep my little stash for those days.
It would be nice not to spend my working day fretting about milk patches appearing (when I watch a birth and that baby cries, I’d better use the old power of the mind to keep things under control- occupational hazard right there). I take breaks around when I need to pump the boulders, and Rory comes in for a lunchtime feed. I know I’m extremely lucky to have a job that affords me this flexibility, but it’s still hard.
After work this week, Rory fed constantly (literally) from 4.30 til 10pm. He’d drank ok from a bottle, but he’d wanted it from the source- he’s teething (aaaaggghhh!) and vulnerable at the minute. Again, this kind of episode is extremely demanding, but I enjoyed reconnecting in this way too.
And whilst we are on the positives… It’s SO MUCH EASIER than planning and sterilising and buying and preparing formula. When my work days are approaching and I’m faffing about cleaning everything to get his bottles ready, I’m reminded of the ease of just whipping a boob out.
Despite the frequent wakings, it’s amazing not having to get out of bed to feed him. Whilst some feeds are longer, often we are done and back to sleep within 15 minutes. It would take me that long to boil the kettle and cool the formula the first time, before the feed even began.
But the biggest positive impact is on my mental wellbeing. I was, as many women are, nudged into the realms of PND by not meeting my feeding goals, and not understanding why I couldn’t make it work. This time, 14 weeks in, I feel on top of the world (most of the time). I’m benefitting from the feelings of triumph, and the hormonal cocktail that’s designed to reward us for our efforts.
Because it is still a challenge for us- it’s not totally pain free (especially now that first tooth is looking to make a name for itself), and I’m still struggling with the dairy free lifestyle I’ve had to adopt. But I’ve just stopped focussing on the obstacles, I’ve used the tools I know through hypnobirthing and done a reframing exercise and it’s worked a treat.
Every time I talk about this topic, I feel obliged to say, this is just my journey. We are all on our own path, doing the best we can, and however we feed or parent our babies, it’s fricking hard work. This is intended neither to suggest I’m doing better, or trying harder than anyone else. I’m just delighted to be doing better than in my introduction to motherhood 3 yrs ago. And by that, I mean finding a way that works better for me and my family.
All of this is down to having the right support in place beforehand- education, and the compassionate guidance and empathy of experienced women. Look for your cheerleaders now.