Our Breastfeeding Journey

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

When I started my parenthood journey the thought of breastfeeding was terribly hideous to me.  I'd never seen breastfeeding, I'd grown up thinking babies were fed from bottles and that it was the done thing.  I was rather adamant that it wasn't for me and thought breastfeeding past the first 6 weeks or so was terribly peculiar.  Throughout pregnancy there was a gargantuan amount of pro-breastfeeding paraphernalia shoved down my throat by health professionals. Thing One was born and showed absolutely no interest in my gargantuan breasts despite the random members of staff tugging, twisting and pulling them towards him at all hours.  I felt like  a piece of manhandled meat and Thing One? He felt mostly tired.  Upon hearing the news I had to stay in hospital until he was feeding I made the decision to formula feed, he gulped it down and grew like a weed.  I never met with any anti-formula stigma at all, apart from online where I was once accused of playing Russian Roulette with Thing One's life and told that formula feeding was as dangerous and irresponsible as not using a car seat.  Seriously.  Poor Thing One was our prototype, torn between instinct and taking so-called advice we stumbled along.

Throughout Thing Two's babyhood, my eyes were opened to breastfeeding through several very good online friends, and one in particular, and it was no longer alien it was beautiful.

 By the time Thing Two was born I was adamant she would bloody well breastfeed, and breastfeed she did, eventually.  Constantly. Day and Night.  Like some pretty leach.  A beautiful limpet.  She was the stereotypical velcro baby.  She was born pissed off and screaming and continued to scream for many months afterwards. Here began our love affair with babywearing.  It was simply essential seeing as she howled at the near sight of the buggy and took it as an absolute tragedy if I dared to put her down somewhere.  I was far too lazy to  express and was paranoid that if she met a bottle it would be the end of breastfeeding.  My goal was six weeks.  Then 6 months.  Then a year.  It kept moving. I remember being so paranoid for the first six months that I couldn't possibly be all she needed that I compulsively got her weighed near enough weekly.  It was a hard step from being ruled by numbers (numbers of scoops, number of ounces, number of feeds) to simply trusting my body and my baby. Eventually she night weaned at two years and six months of age and day weaned at two years and nine months.  One thing I noticed throughout our journey is that despite the immense pressure health professionals put you under to breastfeed, if you do infact do it once you get past six weeks, then six months they actually have no idea what to do or say to you.  Very few of them are versed in either extended breastfeeding or natural term breastfeeding.  Not only do they possess a lack of information they seem to at times spout a ludicrous amount of misinformation with professionalism going out of the window and opinion creeping in.  Opinions from health professionals are a dangerous thing to a vulnerable parent.  You trust them, they're trained professionals thus what they say must be true it's only when you research yourself that you realise it's only opinion they're basing their consultation on and that itself can be a load of old tosh.  The obsession to get you to breastfeed turns into a mission to get you to stop.  You can't win.

That brings us to The Toddler.  There was no question as to how he would be fed.  Despite the initial toe curling adjustment period, we were off.  At the hospital they left me alone figuring that due to Thing Two, I knew what I was doing.  This works for me.  I like to figure things out alone.  The Toddler is, for want of a better word, a boob-junkie.  Totally.  He is now 3.5years old and still feeding day and night.  Although we have cut down considerably in the amount of feeds, he shows no readiness to stop at all and that's okay.  It really is.

Many of us are aware of the benefits that breastfeeding a baby has for both baby and Mother yet there is an assumption that past six months these benefits magically cease to exist despite the WHO's recommendations for breastfeeding to at least two years of age.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine affirms breastfeeding beyond infancy as the biological norm. “The average age at weaning ranges anywhere from six months to five years… Claims that breastfeeding beyond infancy is harmful to mother or infant have absolutely no medical or scientific basis,” says Arthur Eidelman, MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.  “Indeed, the more salient issue is the damage caused by modern practices of premature weaning.”  The global organization of physicians further notes that“Human milk contains nutrients, antibodies, and immune-modulating substances that are not present in infant formula or cow’s milk. Longer breastfeeding duration is further associated with reduced maternal risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart attack.” (ABM 2012) 

Obviously I'm incredibly pro-breastfeeding however that doesn't make me anti-formula, I've been a formula feeder too and guess what?  It's not powdered poison or the devils piss and I have a beautiful nine year old Thing One who drank it for two years.  Yet even when formula feeding it is important to accept the fact, without getting offended or defensive that in the majority of cases, there is nothing wrong with formula feeding but it isn't the optimal and biologically appropriate feeding method for your infant, it is a substitute.  However you choose to feed your baby, make sure it's an informed choice.


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