Shame on me: I didn’t even know that there was a World Breastfeeding Week. I knew there were loads of campaigns, I saw several on TV whilst living in Brazil, but I had never known it had a name (and even if it was the same thing).
I consider myself very lucky, because, although it seems natural and instinctive, breastfeeding can be really hard. I remember like it was yesterday that Laura didn’t latched straight away, she simply wouldn’t grab my breast and feed. At the hospital, on the night she was born, a nurse told me I should give her formula because she was going to be hungry. I did; as, because I was a first time mum and one of the worst nightmares of a mother is to let their children feel hungry. The other nurse who helped me feed her said I shouldn’t worry – we gave her a tiny little bit of formula on a cup and that was it. Some babies simply don’t feel hungry at birth and even if they are hungry, they only take a few drops of milk because their stomach is just too small. Laura was born on a Saturday and it was only on Monday that the midwife who came to my house for the check up showed me I had plenty of milk. All I needed was to be patient and keep trying – it is a learning process for both mother and baby; it seems obvious (mouth + nipples + suck milk = feed) but it requires practice. Another thing to consider: babies do lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first week of life. It doesn’t mean that they are hungry and not eating. Again, I consider myself lucky because I had good assistance in the very beginning and didn’t go with formula straight away.
The “problems” weren’t only at birth. Breastfeed can hurt like hell. The nipples get very sore and it requires a supernatural strength not to give up, especially during the growth spurts. With Laura, I felt an awful pain through the milk ducts as well, like someone was cutting them open with a sharp knife every time she had a feed. But after the three first months, it was gone. Everything. Sore nipples, sharp pain.
Beatrice was a much easier baby at birth – she had a feed as soon as she was born, the umbilical cord wasn’t even cut and she sucked like she was starving. The nipples were sore in the beginning, but it is all memory now. And I didn’t have the sharp pain I had with Laura – thankgoodness. I don’t have loads of milk, but I think I have enough. I also ensure I drink enough liquid all day long and take my vitamins on a daily basis. Bea is a bit clumsy when drinking and she gets easily distracted when there are people around or we are in a different environment. Our favourite position is lying on a bed (preferably mine), facing each other. We are both relaxed and she seems less distracted (although she still seems to “play” during her meal time).
I understand that some women find it difficult and give up breastfeeding, but in most cases it’s lack of support. Breastfeeding is so important for the baby and it is such a practical way to feed the baby (anywhere, no bottles needed) that every woman should look for support even before the baby is born. All mothers should try to breastfeed their babies but don’t feel guilty if you cannot. The most important thing to your child is your love and to be looked after. Being stressed will only make things worse.
Personally it is one of my favourite parts of motherhood so far. I’m happy I was able to carry on breastfeeding Laura until she was 20 months old (she decided she had enough), even working full time and long hours. I’m happy I can provide Beatrice with all the nutrients she needs, as well as give her some of my warmth and comfort.
For more information on the World Breastfeeding Week, click here.