Tuesday 19 May 2020

One year of breastfeeding

Eden's birthday, also marked another milestone: one year of breastfeeding. I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now but have struggled to find the words, namely because I am still taken aback at how emotional the whole topic of breastfeeding can be for a parent. It still feels like there's a lot of stigma when talking about it.

Breastfeeding was important to me - of course because it's bonding, and for the antibodies, but also as we are vegan and the only thing I know about soya based formula is that I was told it's not recommended for infants under a year? If we'd have reached a stage where we were seriously considering formula I'd have researched this more. Luckily we didn't have to but we nearly did - breastfeeding is portrayed as an easy, natural thing but it can be so hard. In the early days if you said I'd still be feeding her past a year I'd have laughed because every single one of her constant feeds in those first few weeks was excruciating. I remember thinking it hurt more than my Caesarean scar. I dreaded every feed and every time I wondered how much longer I could continue. But it got better. After a few weeks we had some miraculous help with the latch (which I'd been told by multiple other midwives was fine.) After that we were told she had a tongue tie. I'd been bleeding, bruised, in agony, but it got better and I'm so glad now that I was so stubborn about carrying on.

Breastfeeding is on my mind a lot right now because I was meant to return to work from maternity leave this week, but instead am now furloughed. I'm relieved about this to be honest as Eden still feeds during the day. I haven't cut her feeds down as intended because we knew my workplace would be closed for some time so she's still feeding intuitively (though she's naturally created a routine we're both comfortable with) and it gives me comfort to know she's still getting lots of antibodies from me. She's more of a milk monster than I'd expected her to be at this age, I know many lose interest much earlier, but I try to remember that all babies are different.

For us breastfeeding has been hugely bonding time. The boob still seems to cure everything which is lovely. It's got it's sacrifices too: I am in effect a human dummy. I feed her to sleep and if she wakes in the night (but that's not so often now.) But this works for us and makes her feel secure. I feel really lucky that we've been able to carry on this far, but I also know that it's not for everyone. One thing I'd ask is please don't ask a mother if she's "still" breastfeeding. It's an emotionally loaded question: it can make you feel bad if you aren't, or make you feel weird that you are, or bring up emotions for those who weren't able to continue breastfeeding before either mum or baby felt ready to stop. Everybody's journey is different.

Something else I think about a lot is how often she feeds. Eden breastfeeds around 5 times from early morning to before she falls asleep, but she tends to sleep through which makes me feel confident that this works for her. But I have no idea what is "normal" or if that even exists! I often feel like I'm strange for still breastfeeding because it doesn't seem to be very common in our society, particularly for bigger babies, but at the end of the day she's still a baby and babies have milk. As far as I'm concerned she will tell me when she's ready to stop. At the end of the day, fed is best and that looks different for everybody. Something I was recently advised when having a very sore, bitten phase was "don't quit on a bad day". This greatly resonated with me as sometimes we have a phase where it gets painful and I think it's all too much and maybe I'm done. I try and remember the snuggly, sleepy dream feeds and that this phase will pass... and that before I know it our breastfeeding journey will be over as time goes so fast with a little one. I'd love to hear about your feeding journey and routine if you feel like sharing?

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