It makes me laugh the way people will ask me if I am STILL breastfeeding. It's as though I am partaking in something really unpleasant, or something I was supposed to have stopped a long time ago. It makes it sound like I must be counting down the days until I can stop this difficult thing.
A couple of people have asked me for breastfeeding advice lately and it's something I feel really passionate about. It is none of my business how people feed their babies. Breastfeeding or Formula - it's totally a personal decision. I do feel passionate about supporting mothers though. When it comes to breastfeeding I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for a woman to be supported. I don't claim to be a professional but if any of my readers need any advice or information about breastfeeding then please do not hesitate to ask. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on my blog. I would be delighted to help. I have received a couple of lovely messages recently and it's been an absolute pleasure to help another woman who is struggling with breastfeeding.
So back to the fact that I am STILL breastfeeding. I've never been pushy about the fact that I breastfeed. That's just not me. As I said above it is none of my business how another woman feeds her baby. I have nothing against formula whatsoever. What I do feel strongly about it ensuring that a woman has as much support and information about breastfeeding as she possibly can. Lack of support and information is, in my opinion, why a lot of hopeful breastfeeders have their journey cut short. I personally know people who beat themselves up for only breastfeeding in the hospital or for a couple of weeks. A woman should never feel that way. We all do what is best for both our child and ourselves. A happy mammy means a happy baby. If you chose to breastfeed for a day, a month, a year or beyond then that is your choice. If you chose to formula feed then that is your choice also. You make the rules. I have noticed lately that a lot of women were given incorrect information about breastfeeding though. Scarily enough it was sometimes from a GP or another healthcare professional. More often than not, however, it has actually come from a close member of their family. Someone like their mother, an aunt or a close friend. Someone who they feel very close to and whom they trust and do not want to offend.
Some of the misconceptions have ranged from :
- The baby couldn't be hungry. Only feed them every X amount of hours or they'll "expect" it all the time.
- Mastitis means the ends of your breastfeeding journey. You will have to quit now.
- Nipple shields don't work. The baby won't get enough milk. Time to stop and give them a bottle.
- Your baby will sleep much better if you bottle-feed.
- There is no need to feed in public. You should do it somewhere private and cover up so you don't make people feel uncomfortable.
- You need help. Let X give the baby a bottle. You need a rest. I'm only thinking of you.
And the absolute worst of all...
- YOUR BABY IS STARVING. They are feeding too much so they obviously are not getting enough milk. You need to measure the amount and you can do that with formula. The poor baby like.
I've mentioned comments like this in other blog posts but I just had to mention them again because I really believe they have a lot to answer for when it comes to breastfeeding rates. And I am talking about women who want to breastfeed but who feel it was cut short before they even realized it. We have to support each other.
The above comments, though often well-meaning, can be totally debilitating. They are negative, counter-productive, and an absolute pile of crap.
Your baby is not starving. Your baby IS feeding constantly and that is 100% NORMAL. Breastfeeding is not quantified by Oz the way formula is. It is supply and demand. Around the clock feeding is necessary, important and very very normal. Trust your baby. It is building your supply and doing what it was born to do. Nipple shields DO work and were the very reason why I ended up breastfeeding exclusively from day 5 of Billy's life. Breastfeeding was not going well. I had no idea what I was doing and I gave up on day 3. By day 5 I took my mothers advice and bought nipple shields. It was the very reason my son went from not latching at all, to latching like a pro. We used them exclusively for 16 weeks and I am so delighted that we did. It made a profound difference. "Feeding in public" is a ridiculous statement in itself. Would you listen to yourself like? Feeding a baby in public? We are talking about feeding a BABY. We are talking about milk here. MILK. How is this even a bloody question? It makes it sound as though we are discussing something illegal, derogatory or disturbing. Cop on. If a baby is hungry, you feed them. Anywhere. Mastitis is something a lot of women experience. It is a total pain in the bum but it passes and it is just a minor blip in your journey. It is in no way an obstacle that should cut your breastfeeding journey short. Again it is all about support. And finally, your baby's sleep is an arbitrary thing. There is no guarantee that bottle feeding will improve their sleep. My son is not a sleeper and I can tell you first hand that a bottle of milk has made zero difference to the way he sleeps. If I am away and he has a bottle of Soya Milk (he is almost 15 months and has an allergy to cow's milk) he still wakes the same number of times.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience but unfortunately it is such a touchy subject for people. Sometimes I feel as though I cannot mention the subject without feeling as though I am offending someone. That in itself is ridiculous. It's like saying I can't mention that I had a beautiful chicken curry for dinner without fear of offending a vegetarian. My meat eating is not a reflection of how I feel about a vegetarian or their choice to not eat meat. As I have said many many times, I was never 100% about breastfeeding. I changed my mind a million times while pregnant and thankfully I received a huge amount of support from my family and some of my friends. I am delighted it worked out for the best but I would never say that someone should breastfeed. I would be more inclined to say that if someone wants to breastfeed they should be supported and encouraged. We need to own our own decisions. If you decide to feed, wean or transport your baby a certain way then OWN it. Nobody should be afraid to speak positively about a choice they have made so as not to offend someone who made a different choice. We are all different.
I recently heard someone say the most ridiculous sentence I have ever heard. Something along the lines of "well, if they are old enough to ask for it then it's time to stop breastfeeding". Sorry, what now? Firstly "it" again implies we are discussing something that is inherently wrong. Secondly, what a ludicrous thing to say. So when a baby is old enough to ask for MILK they are too old to be given it? So does that mean that when a baby is old enough to ask for a bottle you will say no? Or how about snacks? If they ask for some cheese is it time to put an end to that nonsense too? Utterly bizarre thing to say. Let me remind you that we are talking about milk here. And a baby. A baby drinking milk. A toddler drinking milk. MILK.
And then there is the issue of STILL breastfeeding. I am just going to come out with a bit of honesty here and say that when Billy was born I said the following sentence -
"I'll breastfeed for the first three months. I'll stop then. Sure he'll have had a great start. I'd NEVER be one of THOSE women who breastfeed a toddler".
Well here I am. Proudly one of THOSE. I'm breastfeeding my son who is almost 15 months old. Proudly feeding him. Not because I am deadly or a better mother than anyone else. Proud because it's part of our story, our reality, and something that works for us. Proud that it doesn't bother me that other people might think I should have stopped sooner. Again, that very suggestion implies that we are talking about me doing something shameful.
Truth be told, I hadn't a clue. I looked at breastfeeding as just another thing that I would be doing for my baby. It was in the same category as bathing, changing his nappy, dressing him. What I didn't realise was how much I would come to relate to it on a deeper level. The significance of breastfeeding as a comfort to my son. The significance of breastfeeding as a connection for us when I had to return to work.
But most important, I had no idea how EASY it would be. I am now working three days a week, writing most evenings and at the weekend, and trying to keep my house somewhat alive. I am busy and sleep-deprived. Breastfeeding is one of the parts of my life that is easy. It is convenient, relaxing, and makes my son happy.
Turns out he doesn't feed during the day anymore, and more often than not he is having a bottle of soya milk in the morning time. I didn't force any of that to happen. It just happened naturally. I feed him before he goes to sleep at night, and in the early hours when he wakes.
As for when our breastfeeding journey will end? Well, you will have to ask him that.