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Breast IS best (we’ve found…)

May 7, 2013

I’ve often referred to the joy that breast-feeding has given me but I’ve never really dedicated a whole post to it … now is the time.

I woke up this morning being kissed by a small person. She had come into bed with me in the night when she woke up about 5, she’d had a small snack and drifted back off to sleep holding onto my arm. I didn’t want to disturb her by lifting her back into bed so I worked myself free and wriggled to the bottom of the bed and slept sideways, clearing all loose bedding and pillows away from her. We sleep well like that and I love being woken by her kisses, her pokey little fingers heading up my nostril or the clasping small hands pulling my hair. Some days I get patted and then the sweet voice says, “Maarrrrmmmi” (that”s the phonetic spelling!). I kiss her and then close my eyes tight as she climbs all over me, hiding my eyes from her sharp little fingers,  until she flops forward delightedly onto my breast and starts very cheerfully and noisily slurping her morning milky. Often she’ll look up at me and grin while she’s feasting, other times if she hits a rich milky vein she just closes her eyes and works her little jaw so hard while she enjoys her breakfast snack. It never hurts, the only time I really feel her teeth is right at the end of her banquet when she occasionally may give me a little bite with her tiny but piranha like sharp teeth … that hurts! Other than that it has never hurt to breastfeed, well actually that’s not true, I did have mastitis once very early on and it cured itself quickly (after 36 hours) with the aid of hot flannels and coconut oil massages.

I love breastfeeding, I know how very lucky I am to have been able to start and to carry on … and having got to 16 months I don’t ever want to stop. Clearly it would be mortifying for an 18 year old to have to nip home from a nightclub if she felt peckish so at some point between now and then we shall have to stop, but right now I have (and nor, it seems, does she) absolutely no intention of stopping.

“Oh, you’re going to be one of ‘those’ mothers” a friend (and still is) said to me a few weeks back, another friend posted me a note on facebook surprised that we’d carried on after a year … but other than those two observations I’ve had nothing other than positive comments … and ultimately, nice as it is to get a pat on the back for something I love doing, it really makes no difference to me, this is where we are and where we’re planning on staying.

A very close friend with a little girl exactly 9 months older than Hope called me a month or two back, she was very upset as her daughter had suddenly decided (out of the blue) that she wanted “Fridge milk” rather than “Mummy milk” … her daughter went cold turkey and stopped there and then. I utterly dread that happening although I’m sure it will in due course. Hope has started little games with feeding … if I’m wearing a baggy top she will pull it down so my breast is covered and look up and grin and say, “Where is?” and then gleefully lift it up and say, “eeere is” or “eeere it is” and giggle and start slurping and look up with milky running down her chin. If she is tired or on rare occasions fed up, the first thing she does is snuggle in and look up at me and then start hunting for her feeding station. She alternates from one to the other, she clambers all over me in her quest to get the right angle and she delights in her achievements.

midnight feast

midnight feast

For me, breastfeeding has been one of the absolute highlights of motherhood; I adore the peaceful precious intimate time together and I love the idea that I am nurturing my girl, that she loves it and it is doing us both so much good.

I know I was determined to ‘do’ breastfeeding when she was born, to be honest it’s one of the only things I really knew for sure, and the whole nose feeding tube thing was very difficult, she had to alternate between formula and expressed breast milk … perhaps it is my age but I never had leaky or spurty breasts and I never manage to express huge quantities so I really had to work hard to keep the level up for her, but we did it … with the help and support of a wonderful lactation consultant (yes I know) in hospital and one of the assistant midwives who had endless patience and good sense in showing me what to do when I couldn’t get it right and my frustration ended up with Hope and I both in tears. Slowly but surely and we kept on persevering, all the time worrying my milk supply would run out or that it was bad I wasn’t all leaky or that I couldn’t feel it “come in”,  and after 9 days in hospital when we were out again I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to provide enough to support Hope … we did alternate between bottle and breast and nose tube which I know doesn’t work for everyone but did for us. I’d been to an antenatal breastfeeding class and was amazed to find out about the structure of the breast, to see how milk comes from all over the areola not just out of the end of the nipple and how the suck was so different to what I had thought it would be… but when I left hospital, I still didn’t fee 100% confident and went to a breastfeeding class (terrified and nervous) … that was a transformational moment for us. The help that we received, the marvellous ‘one two three shove’ technique and the confidence I left there with kept us going … then when she started refusing bottles totally at just over 4 months and it was just down to me to feed her I had the confidence that we could do it … and so we did.

I have various friends who were for whatever reason unable to feed and I know it caused them real pain and anguish to start with … I think I would have been one of them if it hadn’t been for the wonderful ladies from the La Leche League who were helping in the hospital and advising at the breastfeeding lesson … I still go to their coffee mornings and they are still there to give advice on weaning and positioning and so on. They are my heroines and their experience, love and gentleness have allowed me to continue with the absolute joy of breastfeeding. I recently visited friends in Norway and was delighted to hear that there only 1% of babies never receive breastmilk and that women are entitled to paid for breastfeeding breaks at work (and a year’s maternity leave at 80% pay) and that breastfeeding is universally recognised as beneficial. In America when I was there with Hope, people delighted in her looks and her smile and wave, in Norway the first question I was asked on several occasions wasn’t “how does she sleep?” it was “are you still feeding her yourself?” … it would be wonderful if that level of recognition of the benefits of breastfeeding could be woven into the public psyche here in the UK. Hurrah for the Norwegian approach.

So … in response to my friend, YES I absolutely am going to be one of THOSE mothers and I am proud and delighted to be, and every time we share a milky moment together I cherish it. I never thought I’d be able to have a baby let alone breastfeed, especially for so long.

Hope isn’t suffering from lack of other food intake, we’ve been doing baby lead weaning for months now and she eats (with the exception of hummus) everything I eat and particularly enjoys fish, tomatoes, spirally pasta, broccoli, blue berries, raspberries, cheese, yoghurt and Carrs water biscuits at the moment and apparently wolfed down miso soup when she was in Oslo being looked after by a friend.

I plan to increasingly play my part in trying to support other women, to encourage friends and to shout about not just the benefits but the absolute pleasure of breastfeeding and to support the La Leche League in their wonderful work. If I could do it as a 47 1/2 year old mother having had a Cesarean and then having to juggle nose feeding, formula bottles and breastfeeding then I think that many more people can than they imagine.

Hope is having a wonderful time at a playgroup today so I can feel the build up of milk which is making my bra (oh how I love my new feeding bra!!!) feel tighter and I can’t wait to sit down with her later when I pick her up and enjoy some milky time together.

If you are reading this feeling anything like the worry or despair I did when I thought I couldn’t manage it and my milk wasn’t good enough for my girl then my advice is persist and hunt out your local La Leche League … and relax as much as you can … if you are thinking breastfeeding just isn’t for you (and several of my friends felt that) then I would say why not just give it a little go, you never know you might surprise yourself and enjoy it.

hurrah for breastfeeding and hurrah for me being able to do it and for all the love and support we received along the way …

: )

Hope having a quick snack while her mother works

A very little baby Hope enjoying a quick snack while her mother works

 

 

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2013 4:17 pm

    I love that last picture! Multitasking at it’s finest!

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