My breastfeeding journey.

My breastfeeding journey.

I’ve been inspired by #worldbreastfeedingweek to write this blog. I’m feeling reflective probably because I’m soon to come to the end of my breastfeeding journey forever. My attitude towards breastfeeding has completely changed over the past 8 years.

Rewind 8 years … I attended a breastfeeding class around 7months pregnant and remember giggling when the teacher discussed massaging your breasts. I literally thought the whole idea of putting a baby’s mouth to your boob was a bit freaky and couldn’t really imagine doing it with my baby, (this was despite being breastfed myself and seeing my younger siblings breastfeed). However, when my first son was actually born two months later, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to try and get him to latch on. I can remember plenty of hormonal nights with engorged breasts trying different positions to try to avoid sore bits. I remember going through tons of breast pads and feeling as if I could feed a village! I was also concerned that this leaking supply of milk would stay that way and not settle down. I remember the night sweats! I used to time the gaps between feeds and always feed him before I left the house because I didn’t really like to feed him when out and about. I would be mindful of where it was that I was going so that I was aware of the nearest changing room or quiet area with not too many onlookers. I remember walking into a café and scanning the room of faces to see if anyone looked like that might disapprove of me breastfeeding (as if I could read minds!) I always had a breastfeeding cape in my bag and plenty of muslin cloths. I wish now that I could travel back in time and give the 25 year old me a good talking to! I fed my first son exclusively for about 7 months and then introduced a formula, I felt as if I wanted to get a sense of my body back as being my own. I look back and regret stopping so soon, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Feeding my second son was far more comfortable and I really started to see the benefits of breastfeeding in reality a lot more. I was less bothered about feeding in public and I would feed on demand (although still always very covered up). I fed him for 9 months and again stopped because I wanted to have a night away. I cringe at this a bit now but this is how I felt at the time. I have never been good at expressing and storing milk. The effort and organisation required has always put me off. Plus my children (like most) seek comfort when breastfeeding at night time not just the milk. I knew I had to drop the breastfeeding if I wanted to leave him with Daddy for the night.

As soon as I stopped feeding son number 2, I fell pregnant again. This breastfeeding journey was completely different. With such a short time between babies, it felt like I had never really stopped and my body knew exactly what it was doing. I think because this son was baby number 3, I had learnt how quickly the baby phase passes and I wanted to really enjoy this new baby. Feeding was a breeze and I was determined not to let anything get in the way of feeding for as long as this baby wanted. Even on my wedding day, I went back to the hotel room to slip off the white dress and feed my third son at 9 months old. Baby came with my husband and I for our wedding night away and it really wasn’t a big deal. I enjoyed feeding him, knowing that it was providing him with comfort, nutrients, boosting his immunity and so much more. I trained to become a Breastfeeding Peer supporter and loved learning about how magical breastfeeding really is. I fed my third son until he was well over a year and can’t recall a specific moment where I consciously decided to stop. It was a natural transition, he had never had a bottle and I think as a thumb sucker he was able to self soothe once breastfeeding stopped. With this third son, I remember feeding him anywhere and everywhere. With the other two children being so small, you simply do not have the luxury of caring what other people think. Neither do you have the time. No one has ever commented on me breastfeeding my babies in public places. I think once I ditched the breastfeeding cape and fed according to when my baby wanted instead of trying to fit him into my own invented schedule, it was a lot smoother.

Some of the things I did with my first son are actually quite laughable looking back. I remember waking him up before I left the house to feed him before I left and then couldn’t understand why he would scream in the car seat. If someone woke me up from a deep sleep, tried to give me a drink and then put me in a car seat – I would be fuming too! With time and parenting experience, I learnt to just be baby led and feed them when they wanted it. After all, boobs aren’t going anywhere and nothing needs to be prepped. I remember knowing that he wanted a feed and desperately trying to get home as quickly as possible where I felt unobserved to do it. Meanwhile he would get more and more upset and distressed and I would feel awful. I would love to be able to shout at my former self, ‘Just sit down and feed the baby.’

Fast forward to the present day and I’m still feeding my fourth baby who is now 16 months. This is mainly at night now because she’s eating all the same foods as I am and drinks water during the day like her brothers. However, having said that on a baking hot day during the week whilst stuck in the car awaiting to board a ferry I fed her to cool her down and distract her. I have no idea when I will stop feeding my daughter but she will dictate it. Time flies and they are only a baby for such a brief period. In my opinion now (maybe it’s old age), breastfeeding is worth sacrificing a night out for. Those that know me personally and have been with me at dinners out or evening drinks when I have received a phone call from my husband to come and feed the baby because he/she won't settle without it know that it’s not always been easy but it is certainly worth it. Breastfeeding has helped through teething, illness, soothing and settling. It sets a good solid foundation for years to come.

I feel very grateful that I have been able to breastfeed all of my children. I know I certainly enjoyed it more when I let go of what I deemed to be societal prejudices. By ceasing to care what other people think there’s a great freedom. At the end of the day, the only person that really matters in the moment of feeding is the baby you are trying to feed. I am also grateful that Babies in Waiting has provided me with employment that fits flexibly around family life so I haven't had to stop feeding because of work. In fact my work with Babies in Waiting has nurtured my breastfeeding journeys.

If more Mothers breastfed their babies in public places and spoke openly about their experiences then perhaps first time Mums wouldn’t feel as if they had to hide away to feed. They might feed for longer. If anyone out there is struggling to get their head around breastfeeding or is contemplating giving up, get in touch I would love to support you.