Breastfeeding Isn’t As Simple As They Make It Sound
I write a lot about the challenges of breastfeeding because I know that they are painful and real. I have a mother, a sister, many friends and relatives that have shared their stories with me, and most of these stories end up with a steriliser and a box of Formula.
It doesn’t mean they have not been trying, it doesn’t mean they have given up at the first obstacles; it simply means that breastfeeding can be difficult, and the fears, doubts, and pain a mother go through doesn’t have to go underestimated.
Breastfeeding is taxing on a mother’s body on so many levels; not only is imperative to keep up with the caloric and fluid intake, but breastfeeding also means giving up on precious hours of sleep, being on call 24/7, and not be allowed to go out without the baby, or to simply have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee whenever it feels like the right time for a cappuccino.
I did breastfeed for 14 months, and although it had its moments, I found it easy, and I count my blessings every single day.
We stopped because I had to, and my baby was becoming much more interested in the outside environment than staring at my boobs for more than 5 seconds; it was time to let go, and although I was afraid of losing the beautiful bond I had created with my daughter, I quickly realised I was free again. I didn’t have to be home by a certain time, I didn’t have to deal with bursting breast, and I could eat and drink whatever I wanted to because my daughter was going to survive without me.
She was going to survive without me… that was the most painful and joyful revelation I have ever had.
But how did I manage to solely breastfeed for such a long time?
I didn’t keep Formula in the house
Being able to breastfeed my daughter was so important to me, I purposely told everyone to avoid giving me formula; I also asked my husband to stop me from buying it. I sure was stubborn, but it was my thing. I found myself a couple of time, in the middle of another long night, staring at the ocean while breastfeeding my little love with tears covering my cheeks; they weren’t tears of happiness, as I was dead tired and my nipples were hurting so badly I felt that someone was stabbing me from the inside. That’s when I asked my husband to go out and buy Formula, as I couldn’t take it any longer.
And as soon as he said, “Are you sure?” I already knew the answer.
Because the temptation wasn’t at my reach, I have never given into it.
I said no to a lot of things
Breastfeeding is time-consuming, and it needs to be done every 2–3–4 hours (depending on the age of your baby). It meant skipping dinners with my girlfriend, not being able to go out for a walk longer than an hour, and dealing with sore breasts and rising anxiety every time I got stuck in traffic on my way home; I knew that my daughter was a ticking bomb with a fast metabolism and a never-ending appetite, and failing her schedule was translated with hours of crying. I was aware of what I was missing out on, but it meant the world to me to give her my nutrition and to see her grow from a little bony frame to a chubby and smiley angel.
I drank tons of water and breastfeeding teas
Breastfeeding is hard work for the system, which is why I tell mothers to treat their bodies as if they were athletes; eating balanced meals on a regular basis and drinking plenty of water is fundamental to keep up the milk production; the more you sweat, the more you exercise, and the less you sleep, the more you have to drink. I was also I huge fan of breastfeeding teas and “Boobies” cookies, as they gave me a great dose of galactagogues that boosted my milk production without fail.
I took care of my nipples
From day 1, it was all about decreasing my nipple’s pain. That extra care and the recurrent massages while in the showers prevented me from getting mastitis and blocked ducts. I know how painful and frequent hose conditions are, and I feel extremely grateful that I didn’t have to deal with them. Still, I got candida in my nipples, which lasted for more than 5 weeks. That meant frequent showers, creams, frozen nappies and bra protectors.
Anything to make my life easier. It did work, and it allowed me to keep up the job I was invested in continuing.
I breastfed on demands
It didn’t matter what the textbooks said. For the first 3 months, I breastfed on demands, and only later on I introduced a schedule that gave us some flexibility and predictability (growth spur aside). I had to uncover myself in public, under a scorching sun, on a bench under the rain, in a busy restaurant, on the floor of my bedroom and while sitting in the bathroom.
I was proud of doing it. For the very first time in my life, I didn’t give a damn about what the other people were thinking and, if they had a problem, it meant they were staring too hard.
I’m a huge believer in the freedom of public breastfeeding, and I will never change my thoughts on this.
My daughter helped
My baby was hungry and she put me through hell in the very first few weeks, but she had a great latch, and she didn’t like to skip a meal. She made it clear from the very beginning that I had to stick around for the long haul, as she didn’t want to deal with bottles (she instinctively cried every time I, or someone else, held one close to her face), but she was also ok when I had to cut down the frequencies of our sessions and when I had to stop entirely. She has been a trooper and I have to give her that. Last time I fed her it felt bittersweet, I couldn’t believe she was so ok to let go of something we had done day and night for 14 months, but she knew I had to move on, and she gave me her approval.
Also, my husband was on my side
He had to put up with the sleep-deprived version of his once lovely wife; he held my hand while in pain, and he supported every decision I made. Without his help, I don’t think I could have done it.
I would like to underline that I wanted to breastfeed. Badly. No one has to make a choice based on someone’s else life, as there is no comparison; in some cases, I feel that Formula feeding is more than appropriate and even advisable. Make the choice that feels good for you and is right for the health of your own little family. You are going to be bombarded with opportunities, information, options, and doubts daily; trust your gut instinct.
A mother always knows.