Breastfeeding needs time, loving care and support

Posted by: on Aug 17, 2013 | No Comments

Breasfeeding is an activity which seems to be harder for some women to do these days.

I have been one such mama. After experiencing no problems breastfeeding my older three children, at the time I was having my fourth, I felt really stressed. I didn’t have the right kind of support to help me to breastfeed every day and every night, I was full-time home educating my other kids who needed me, and my husband was working crazy hours. I struggled to get a good latch with my son, and felt a failure for suddenly becoming so faffy and awkward and cack-handed at feeding.  I couldn’t believe that I was in this predicament fourth time round and it really rocked my confidence in myself to be in this position. Exhausted, I counted down the weeks and days till my son was three months old so I could say that at least I lasted three months. Looking back, I pressured myself to much to be a perfect mother, and could have relaxed a little. You live and learn.

The thing with breastfeeding is that you need to slow your life down to be able to do it – something which has hidden gifts and rewards for those who do it, but many women are unwilling or unable to slow down quite so much. Breastfeeding is a peaceful, not frenetic action. Sitting still is required. You can’t be multi-tasking very easily whilst you’re feeding, and if you’re used to go-go-go living, it’s hard for a woman to just.stop. The reason I gave up was because I could never sit still long enough – it felt like I was constantly having to tend to some minor emergency with my other children – the toddler who was hysterical because they spilt juice on the floor – or because the phone rang and I felt I must answer it, or the doorbell went. It’s only now that I realize how unimportant the phone or doorbell were. That they, not my baby, should have to wait, and come second. Had I just slowed down and planned my other children’s activities during feedtimes, I would have been more relaxed – I would have flowed more easily in every sense of the word. It’s easy to be wise after the event though.

In any case, in order to have a good flow – a mother needs rest. She needs nurture. Her milk just won’t flow nicely when she’s feeling rushed, or stressed. She needs to drink plenty of fluids. She needs good wholesome food that truly nurtures her and boosts her milk supply and energy levels, not junky crap. (Incidentally I received this book by La Leche League for review from Pinter and Martin last year and it was awesome – I will be using it a lot.)

She needs time to love and heal her post-birth body and be gentle with it. A feeding mother needs to be mothered herself in some respects – this is perhaps why women in communal or tribal groups simply don’t experience the issues of milk ‘drying up’ – a myth that seems to perpetuate whererever powdered milk is heavily advertised and promoted. Women in extended family/community groups help one another out with cleaning and caring for children and feeding one another’s families. They take things in turns. They nurture and value nursing mothers and venerate them.

With love, they help keep things lighter and more carefree. Western women are generally expected to do it all themselves, to ‘get on with it’ – often struggling alone, and isolated from that kind of daily help. It’s no wonder the milky powder that offers them a route out of exhaustion seems so alluring.

And now I find myself pregnant again, I am in a different place altogether – my hubby is sharing the care and education of our children with me, since he quit his business to do so – seeing how important those first few years are and that they cannot be reclaimed later. I’m enjoying a gentler paced pregnancy. The other children are all older – my youngest will be five and a half by the time this little one arrives – a whole two years older than my third child had been when I gave birth to my fourth. This time, I will feed my baby slowly. I will take the time to look lovingly at them whilst I’m feeding rather than at the clock, or nervously wondering what a curious and accident-prone toddler might be up to. I will have time to eat good food. To drink. To go for a pee in peace. It sounds silly but these things matter.

I’m a different mama this time round.

I really sympathize with mamas who turn to the bottle – but this time, it’s boobies all the way for me. I’m looking forward so much to nurturing my little one, holding him or her close to my skin….. and saying fuck it to the doorbell!!!