I will breastfeed…if I can!
As a soon to be first-time mum, this was my view on breastfeeding. When I look back I see just how damaging such a simple statement could have been. Most of what I saw and read was of mother’s formula feeding and breastfeeding had become somewhat of a taboo. I probably could have counted on one hand how many people I knew that breastfed their babies beyond the first couple of weeks. Because of this I really had no expectation of how long I might breastfeed for, at the time I thought I would be happy to make it through the first 6 weeks and was completely prepared that I would most likely end up using formula.
As the days grew closer to meeting my tiny little human that I had so carefully protected and nourished on the inside I decided to do some research and a lot of it. I spent hours upon hours online researching everything I needed to know how to raise a baby and prepared for the biggest and most exciting challenge I would likely face. Even with all the reading, I still never expected that breastfeeding beyond 3 months would even be a possibility. A lot of the reading I had done was on forums where mums shared their experiences and advice, much of it uneducated to no fault of their own and at that time I also knew no better.
It is easy to see how a new mum like me and many others can quickly become discouraged and feel as though they simply “cannot” breastfeed their baby, usually because they feel they do not have enough milk. When your baby is fussy, crying and wants to be on your breast constantly we worry that our supply is lacking, that we are starving our little human so the new mum quickly reaches for the formula because no one wants to starve their baby. Unfortunately, this quickly becomes a vicious cycle. Breastfeeding sends important signals to our amazing bodies to build our supply. When this does not occur, our breasts signal that milk is no longer needed at that feed as baby has had his formula and not been at the breast and thus we really do start to have an issue with supply.
It is important to note that new babies feed often at times throughout the day, this is known as cluster feeding. Cluster feeding plays an important role in regulating our supply to suit our babies needs perfectly and although it can be frustrating and exhausting to be constantly feeding our babies it is only temporary. Our bodies are in fact extremely efficient and effective at ensuring our babies are nourished and get exactly what they need. Until I had my precious new baby in my arms and started my own breastfeeding journey, I really could never have imagined just how much more I still had to learn. I was that mum up at a ridiculous hour of the night feeding my week-old baby who was crying and fussy. I couldn’t get him to latch and started to become distressed, I did not want my baby to starve. I had an emergency formula sachet in the pantry and I headed to the kitchen to prepare a bottle of formula. I told my partner my plan, half-awake he told me to keep trying and persuaded me not to use the formula so I decided to persist. I got comfortable, phone in hand, water by my side and sought advice from my mum’s group on Facebook. After some reading I had realised that I was engorged, my breasts were very full and hard as my milk has recently come in, I expressed some to soften up my breast and Viola my tiny little bundle latched on and fed happily before drifting off to sleep. Had my partner not encouraged me that night to keep trying I fear my breastfeeding journey would have soon after came to an end.
Breastfeeding has not always come easy however when I am in doubt I always remind myself that my breasts were made for feeding my baby. While there are cases where mums are unable to breastfeed, it is quite rare. Most mothers can breastfeed and if they encounter breastfeeding issues it is more likely to do with lack of information and support. The benefits of breastfeeding to both mum and baby are huge. It’s sad to think that we live in a time where it is more socially acceptable to feed your baby formula than from your breast as the way nature had intended it. For further information and support, I highly recommend visiting the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website (https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/) or calling their breastfeeding helpline on 1800 686 268 for qualified advice. I am now into my 7th month of exclusively breastfeeding my little human, I am so proud that I stuck with it and am grateful every day for the support of my partner on our breastfeeding journey. I encourage any new mum to thoroughly research and seek advice from sources who are educated in breastfeeding. If a health professional tells you that you should consider formula, Question it. Seek a second opinion or even a third. Trust in yourself and your body’s ability to feed your human, you can do it!