I’ve wanted to write about our breastfeeding journey since I started this blog but it’s taken me until now to put pen to paper as they say. This is my personal journey and by no means am I suggesting that this is the right choice for everyone. A breastfeeding relationship is just that. A relationship. Both parties in a relationship have to be consenting and happy. I am happy with my choices and they work for us. Breastfeeding for any length of time is a wonderful achievement and something to be very proud of. So here goes!
Just over year ago, I fed L alone for the last time and left for the hospital. Less than 24 hours later we returned home with our little bundle of joy, Baby I, and we began one of the most amazing, challenging and blissful journeys ever! If you had asked me before I had children would I ever breastfeed a toddler, let alone tandem feed, I would have laughed. However breastfeeding has become such an important and defining part of my journey in motherhood and as a woman. It has become my secret tool to ease the pain of grazed knees, to settle and soothe my babies, to feed and nourish and to bond. It is empowering to know that I alone, can exclusively nourish my babies.
Before I gave birth to L, I had planned to breastfeed and see how I got on. No pressure if it didn’t work out, I would do my best. But once I held my tiny baby in my arms for the first time, my maternal instincts kicked in and I was determined to do everything in my power to feed him myself. The weight of my responsibility to my little infant was a good deal heavier than his mere 7lbs 5 ounces. I wanted the best for him and I was going to do everything conceivable to make that happen. Breastfeeding came naturally to L and with the right support around us we shook off our initial difficulties and started our journey together.
I had always assumed I would wean at 6 months like the vast majority of mothers in Ireland, but when we reached 6 months he still felt so tiny in my arms and it didn’t feel right to stop. I could see no good reason to switch him to formula when I made perfectly good milk for him myself. During those first few months I began to see clearly the hold that formula companies had over their irish market. The clever marketing strategies, the aggressive promotion and the subtle advertising. I read a lot about their unethical practices and blatant violations of the WHO milk code. I began to see how they pitted mothers against one another and how they created and fuelled the very clever “mummy wars”. This was in stark contrast to the wonderful, supportive women I had found in my local breastfeeding groups. And so the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months and when I fell pregnant with baby I, it was easier to continue feeding L. I know that seems crazy but being able to sit and feed him, even just for a few minutes, was a huge relief for me. Suffering from hyperemesis left me feeling very low and breastfeeding was the one thing that gave me a rush of oxytocin and made me feel happy and content.
When Baby I arrived we transitioned very easily into tandem feeding. In fact it was a complete relief to have a breastfeeding toddler in those early postpartum days. L was able to relieve any engorgement and it helped so much in aiding me to reconnect with him. I believe that the transition with our new arrival was so smooth because of breastfeeding. There was no jealousy or big emotions. Frankly it was really easy. I had night weaned L about 3 months before Baby I was born. This was an important step for us. I needed more sleep and I needed to ensure I wouldn’t be feeding both a toddler and a newborn all through the night. We used Dr Jay Gordon’s night weaning method. I prolonged each stage of the night weaning by two or three nights to make it as gentle as possible. Once Baby I was with us I never worried too much about the logistics. It all just seemed to fall into place. I am a desperate over thinker, but with breastfeeding I don’t think. I just follow my instincts. The second thing that has made our breastfeeding journey, in general so successful, is cosleeping. We made our own DIY cosleeper and have bed shared with Baby I from day one. When she wakes for a feed she simply finds me and latches on without either of us fully waking up. What could be easier or more natural? Surely it is the biological norm for us to keep our babies close.
My final tip would be to find your tribe. Women who will offer real support and information without the usual rhetoric of “just give that baby a bottle”. Find your nearest LLL meeting, Cuidiu and FoBF groups. Breastfeeding specific facebook groups can also offer a great wealth of knowledge and experience from other mothers.
Is it always easy? No. Lots of days over the past 2 years have been trying. Especially during growth spurts and cluster feeding where I have literally felt like my boobs were constantly out but it is worth it! L and baby I have an amazing bond with one another. I know I am giving my children an amazing gift. A gift that will hopefully benefit them for their entire lifetime. A gift no one can ever take from them. My greatest achievement as a mother and as a woman.
Bye for now!