Breastfeeding has never been more in the news (it seems anyway). Sadly, however, it is mostly negative at the moment. More and more reports of women being denied their legal right to feed in public alongside internet hate campaigns and trolling of women speaking out about full term breastfeeding.
It’s got me thinking about why I breastfeed.
I always assumed I would for a start. I don’t actually know why I had that assumption, I knew my Mum had breastfed me and bottle fed my sister (due to double mastitis, double ouch!) but apart from that I had little experience or exposure to breastfeeding. In fact the first time I witnessed someone feeding was when I was newly pregnant with Bella, we were at my cousin’s birthday party and a friend of theirs was feeding her newborn daughter. I remember thinking how peaceful and beautiful it looked.
I did not find breastfeeding easy to start with and it was only my stubbornness that got me through (that and the cost of formula, that stuff is very expensive!) and it became something I am very glad I have experienced with both my daughters.
I have had to examine my feelings about breastfeeding very recently. This maternity leave with Rosie is going to be a lot shorter than with Bella, in fact I am returning to work in a month’s time and I am having to come to some decisions about milk for Rosie whilst she is at nursery. My first idea was to pump and freeze a stash so she could continue to have my milk when I’m at work but sadly pumping is just not working for me and I am struggling to get enough to see her though.
My second option was to go to the nursery during my lunch break in order to feed her, but that is looking less likely an option as meetings take up a lot of lunchtime as a teacher.
Which leaves me with one option. Formula.
Now I’m not getting into a formula vs breastfeeding debate here. I find it fantastic we live in a world where there is a safe alternative to breastmilk to ensure the survival of those babies who would have otherwise perished without milk available to them. I always thought I would have no problems switching to formula if needed, indeed with Bella I always said I would breastfeed her for 6 months then switch (as it was I continued to 13 months when she self weaned) so it was a surprise when I found myself very upset at the thought of Rosie having to have bottles of formula at nursery. It seemed completely illogical but it was such a strong emotional response.
So I tried to unpick why I was feeling the way I did (this is very much based on me and my personal experience and is not a reflection on how anyone else feeds their baby):
- It was my guilt. I think mainly I was feeling very guilty that I was not spending the same amount of time as I did on maternity leave with Bella. I had a year with her and yet I was not with Rosie, this is due to finances mainly. I was receiving maternity pay based on my full time salary with Bella but with Rosie it was based on my part-time salary.
- I’m worried it’ll be the end of our breastfeeding journey. Logically I know this is unlikely to happen, she’ll be with me 4 full days a week and only at nursery for 5-6 hours for 3 days a week with me feeding her morning and evening but in the back of my mind I worry that she’ll prefer the ease of bottle feeding over breastfeeding.
- I never saw this happening. As I said above I thought I would move onto formula with Bella but didn’t so I naturally assumed that Rosie would be the same. Assumption is the mother of all… yeah precisely. I had initially thought I would have a years maternity leave this time as I did the first. However, life gets in the way and it made more sense for us as a family for me to return earlier than originally thought. It’s not a nice decision but a necessary one.
- It’s not just about the milk. This is the crux of the matter. For us breastfeeding is so much more than the mere nourishment of the milk. It’s my special time with Rosie (as it was with Bella), knowing I am helping her grow, it’s something I can do and do well despite pregnancies fraught with problems and in Bella’s case a labour that was far from ideal. I love the quiet closeness, the way Rosie grips my hand as she feeds and her little sighs of satisfaction. I spend hours examining her beautiful features, marveling that I grew her, spotting my husband’s features and traits within her, charting how she is changing each and every day. The warmth I feel when I hold her to feed is both external and internal, I love the feel of her warm little body curled against mine and my love for her grows everyday. Of course this would happen regardless but in our busy lives it’s our quiet alone time feeding that makes me appreciate it most. I, quite simply, love the fact that I am her source of food and it’s something I am struggling to hand over, albeit for a fraction of her time.
I hope to natural term feed Rosie as I did with Bella, although in Bella’s case she self weaned a lot earlier than many children do, and let Rosie decide when she no longer wants my milk. Whenever that happens I know I will look back at breastfeeding with great affection and I will always be an advocate for those who wish to breastfeed and need support.
How did you feel about feeding your babies? Was it an easy decision or did you have hurdles to overcome too?