Firstly, can we all agree that when it comes to babies – a fed baby is best. End of. We are not into mom shaming. Whatever works for you and your baby is the best!
And while we all know the nutritional value of breastmilk at this stage, the reality is that breastfeeding is not all plain sailing and one mum’s experience can differ wildly from another mum’s.
Whether you breastfeed for a day or a month or a year, you are doing the best you can for your baby, and that is amazing.
I was lucky enough to have been able to breastfeed my children, but I will also be the first to tell you it was not complication free, it was a struggle at times, but it was also this truly lovely experience I will always cherish.
However, having come out the other end of the whole breastfeeding era, here are 10 things I wish someone had told me before I set out:
- Breastfeeding is not as easy as they make it look – especially in the beginning
I kind of thought that once my baby was born, I would just hold her up to my boob, and she would know what to do, and voila – this would just be what happened for the next 6-12 months, and my only concern would be to decide on which cute nursing top to buy.
I really struggled to begin with. It was painful (if my towel happened to brush upon my nipple when drying myself after a shower, I would actually cry with pain). It was time-consuming. My little girl seemed to prefer one of my boobs over the other, and she was loosing weight before starting to gain weight, which in itself was stressful.
But it got better. And I’m grateful it did. But that didn’t happen on its own. Which leads me to the next point:
- Ask for help
Seriously; I would not have been able to breastfeed for as long as I did had it not been for all the amazing help and support I had, in the shape of my local health station, the local breastfeeding group, my mum, my mum-friends, the list goes on. All of these people helped me, supported me and played a huge part in my breastfeeding journey.
- How much I would hate my breast pump
The look of it, the sound of it, the whole experience of using it, I hated it so much, and was so, so happy when I got to a point where I didn’t need to pump anymore.
- How my boobs were my children’s most favourite thing
My boobs, even if it was just the smell or touch of them, could instantly calm my crying or upset babies. Heck, even just the proximity to me and my boobs made them calmer and happier. How's that for power?!
- How excited I would be to buy new bras once I was done breastfeeding
I am not going to lie. Being able to wear sexy lace and underwires and flimsy, unpractical bras again after a year in sturdy cotton did feel AMAZING.
- How my boobs would leak when my babies cried
It was as if they understood that this was the quickest way to calm crying babies.
- How my boobs would leak when other people’s babies cried
Yes, really. This happened. Again, I think it was my boobs just going: “I heard a baby crying, let’s get this milk party going!”
- How much I would enjoy having my body back once we were done breastfeeding
Yes, I did enjoy the feeling of my body yet again being mine and not – to that extent – being at someone else's beg and (booby) call, of course, but then again; once you have children, do you ever really get full body autonomy back?
I mean; I now shower with an audience most morning, answer some rather intrusive questions about my body every time they see me undressed and can't really remember the last time I slept without someone sleeping so close to me I constantly have to move little toes away from my face and untangle sticky little fingers from my hair.
- The way they looked at me when they were feeding
Much as I was ready in many ways to give up breastfeeding when I did, it was also one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just the thought of not having these quiet moments with my babies was enough to send me into floods of tears, and I still get a lump in my throat every time I look at pictures where I am feeding them.
- That breastfeeding is great – but it is not the be all and end all
It can be easy to feel like you are failing at something you should be able to do when breastfeeding doesn’t work. And this is something I think we need to get so much better at talking about and reassuring moms about. A fed baby is best. A baby that grows and thrives and develops is best. And do you know what is equally important? A happy, healthy mum who feels like she is being supported in her choices and who is being told she is a great mum, regardless of how she is feeding her baby.