Between August 1 and 7 is International Breastfeeding Week, organized by the World Breastfeeding Alliance. The purpose of the event is to promote and support breastfeeding globally. With a search on Google and Facebook you will find multiple actions built around this event in Romania.
I’m going to jump straight to the subject of this article, spawned and spurred by International Breastfeeding Week: the fact that I still breastfeed, even though there was a time early in my motherhood when it seemed unattainable.
And now, raise your hand with me to all the girls online and everywhere who have gone through the following stages or at least some of them:
1. You give birth and the smooth start of breastfeeding is long overdue. You discover that breastfeeding is a bit more complicated than you thought, not just that natural thing that comes and settles by itself. You’re not very knowledgeable but you really want to breastfeed – if you’re unlucky enough to give birth by caesarean section, the milk arrives late, while you struggle to manage the pain caused by the operation as best you can. You are tired and a bit confused, and your baby is also receiving bottles of powdered milk in the maternity ward.
2. You leave the maternity hospital and arrive straight home with the baby – you obviously don’t know what to do with him, you look for a long time and panicily think about how you could approach the new situation. You practice breastfeeding and the baby does not attach to the breast very well. Fatigue and confusion deepen. The first sores begin to form on the breasts. You have the impression that the baby is not feeding well, so you fill him with a few more bottles of powdered milk. The wounds start to hurt more and more. The first thoughts appear that whisper to you to give up breastfeeding and switch to only powdered milk.
3. The show continues at a high level: fatigue accumulates, injuries multiply, pains increase in proportion, sleepless nights accumulate, breastfeeding seems to stagnate. Panic sets in. Postnatal depression is knocking at your door. You call a lactation consultant, she finds that the baby is not latching on correctly, and even has a brake. It shows you how to attach it correctly, tells you about the probes you can use to trick your baby into giving up the bottle. While she is there, things seem to be starting to work. After he leaves, it’s not quite like that anymore. Your wounds hurt constantly, you feel like running away from the whole movie of life you just entered. When you decide to use those tubes, you find that the baby hates them to death.
4. Desperate for the cause, you start milking with the pump and give the baby the milk expressed with the bottle. In turn, you hate to do it, it’s inconvenient, but it seems like the only viable solution to getting breast milk to the baby properly. In parallel, the sleepless nights and the pain caused by the wounds on the breasts (sores, for the uninitiated) continued. You know that it is recommended to breastfeed for at least 6 months, that is, these 6 months are almost mandatory. You think to yourself that maybe it’s ok with 2-3, just to get out of this ordeal as quickly as possible. You begin to be convinced that there is something wrong with you, that you are not cut out to breastfeed, or even worse, that you cannot take care of the baby. The pump is straining to pump out precious milliliters of breast milk – the white gold stored in the fridge. You’re scared though – maybe the baby isn’t getting enough, so you supplement with formula. Here, in some cases, the film breaks badly: the baby refuses to stay at the breast, he only wants the bottle (fortunately, this did not happen to us).
5. Somehow, the first weeks of motherhood pass and the chaos begins to take shape. You’re on autopilot, surviving on very few hours of sleep, the wounds have started to heal, you’re loving the baby, you’re getting used to the new position. The pump is continuously working at full capacity. Mothers who have already passed this stage warn you that you should give it up as soon as possible, because it interferes with the natural regulation of lactation. And give up the bottle of powdered milk that you give as a supplement. You don’t have the courage to do that yet, you’re afraid your milk isn’t enough. Other hops to pass: the grow pods. The fear that the milk is not good increases in direct proportion to the size of the litter :)).
6. The first breastfeeding outside: you’re shy, you’re crazy, you hide all over the park, lest someone see a bare nipple. You try to find the best “technical” solutions.
7. Go with the baby to the hospital to have the frenulum cut from under the tongue. He starts sucking much better. You also start to understand exactly what and how, to gain more confidence in yourself. The pump goes out of the scheme. The first days without a bottle of powdered milk appear. Hooray! You got rid of both!
8. After the first few months you are a breastfeeding expert. You begin to extend, mentally, the period in which you want to breastfeed: from 6 months to a year. You don’t get out of bed at night so often, you start breastfeeding lying next to the baby. After another few months, you don’t change his diaper at all at night, so you don’t get off at all, you move from side to side to nurse him. Somehow, the sleep pattern also adjusted. Often, the next day, you don’t remember how many times you woke up the night before. You gained a lot of confidence in yourself and created a unique bond with your baby.
9. You begin to extend, mentally, the period of breastfeeding, from 1 to 2 years. Various people from the family and entourage start commenting: “yes, how long are you going to breastfeed her?”. Or: “after x months the milk thins out, it’s not that good anymore, you could wean her.”
10. You sometimes think that you would like the baby to stop being so attached to you, so that you can take care of yourself more or pass it on to others, but it passes quickly.
11. Breastfeeding in public continues: you don’t care so much anymore, you see the whole thing as a fundamental right of the child, not as something you have to try to hide from prying eyes. You run through all kinds of scenarios in your mind where someone comes to pick you up and observe you – you think that’s all they need. Muahahah! You don*t give a shit anymore!
12. You manage to go out to your first party in a long time – a time that seemed eternal. Go out strategically, not too early, as close to midnight as possible. You dance until you feel like breaking in two. After 3am you start for home, where baby and partner sleep peacefully. There is life after breastfeeding! The next day you rejoice on Facebook with this discovery, which revived all your lost hopes.
13. Breastfeeding becomes a habitual gesture, just like brushing your teeth. Time flies by. The child has meanwhile turned 2 and a half years old. You start to extend, mentally, the breastfeeding period, you don’t even know until when. The show must go on!
Let’s not forget an extremely important aspect: a hand up to the partners who offered unconditional support and understanding in everything that the breastfeeding process meant. Without them, things might not look the same ;).
How was it for you?