I have always felt like an alien when women talk about missing breastfeeding or feeling emotional about a baby’s last feed. I’ve even heard some women say that it’s magical, or that they feel a special connection to their baby because of breastfeeding. I can honestly say that after exclusively breastfeeding four babies (something I don’t feel smug about) – I can probably count on one hand the times I have felt like that. I remember joking (except not joking) to Jared the day that Jasper was born: “Only a maximum of 12 months breastfeeding to go!”…but I’m (not so secretly) hoping that Jasper shows signs of moving on before then. My others have all been fully weaned at around 11 months, and the transition each time has been an easy one.
To me, breastfeeding is just something that the baby and I do – it’s necessary, and it keeps them alive. Bonding occurs over things like tickling, cuddling, holding, laughing, playing, talking, reading and smiling – not breastfeeding. Jared says that he has never felt left out, or useless because I choose to breastfeed. He has always been better at getting our babies to sleep, so I suppose that we make a good team.
So I guess the big question is – why do I breastfeed?
This is something I have to remind myself of often – especially in the difficult first few weeks. My main motivation comes because I have a really good immune system, whereas Jared gets ill easily, has lots of allergies plus a few other health complaints – so I want to pass anything good along from me to our baby. Another huge motivating factor for me is that it reduces the risk of hormone related ovarian and breast cancers significantly. I don’t have a history of breast cancer, but it scares me and I want to try my best to prevent it.
I have always found that after 6 weeks breastfeeding feels a lot easier and then my motivation changes – it’s free, it’s convenient, waste free and keeps periods away for longer. I also like the idea that the flavour of the milk changes for the baby, which must be nice for them.
I was surprised to see on the NHS website that breastfeeding should not hurt. I have never had a pain-free breastfeeding experience, and I feel like this could be misleading, or make women feel like breastfeeding won’t work for them. Not to mention the dreadful after pains following my third and fourth babies. I have always found breastfeeding painful for about 2 weeks (which is where a breast pump comes in handy), and then everything seems to settle down.
Jasper is approaching the 4 month mark and he is still our most unsettled baby – he’s (mostly) brilliant in the day, but in the evening he cries, is unsettled, hard to get to sleep, doesn’t sleep for long and is sick a lot. Both Jared and I feel like breastfeeding isn’t working as well for our family this time around. I’ve taken Jasper to see a doctor and they’re happy (and I feel happy) that he’s getting enough milk, but we have talked about introducing some formula to top up if things don’t improve within the next few weeks. We’re hoping that it would encourage him to sleep a little better, and we’ll get some much needed rest.
I’m forever surprised at how parenting is so different for each child, and my breastfeeding experience has been so different with each of mine too. We’ve never used a dummy past the first couple of weeks, but Jasper likes one and it seems to help settle his tummy, plus it helps me if I need him to hold on a little longer between feeds. It’s funny how we’ve managed without a dummy or formula up until now, but here I am with our fourth baby talking about both.
I don’t enjoy breastfeeding, and yes – I did say it out loud.