8 Reasons Why I Spent 6 Weeks Establishing Breastfeeding.
Juniper has been here for 11 weeks, and we spent the first 5-6 struggling to breastfeed. It’s not unusual for breastfeeding to take several weeks to establish, but not many people talk about their struggles. It may be that at the time you have no time to talk about it, and in hindsight it didn’t seem that bad, or it may be that it is perceived as a failure and something to be ashamed of. Whatever the reason, when it seems like everyone else has a wonderful and easy time with it, it’s natural to wonder what is wrong with you. Chances are there’s nothing wrong with you, it just might take some time!
I will write out our breastfeeding journey in full, but for now, here is what got me through those weeks.
1. The magic of milk.
We all know ‘breast is best,’ but it pays to remember why. I’m not too sure about the idea that we were ‘designed’ for anything, but if God really got down to it he would have definitely been very busy in the kitchen, designing a recipe for the perfect nourishment for babies, because this stuff is magic! Easily digested, everything they need (except Vitamin D, oops), and what really sets it apart from its formula counterpart, antibodies! Magic and wonderful antibodies! They protect Juniper from illnesses that I’m exposed to, and that’s a pretty darn good reason to get it into her, any way I can!
The magic of milk was only a motivation to keep pumping though, at one point I had resigned myself to a few years of pumping and bottle feeding, but there were other factors which pushed me to keep trying her on the breast.
At the moment Juniper either sleeps next to my bed or in it, so night feeds only require me to point my nipple at her and wait for her to finish, then we both fall straight back to sleep. After the weeks of struggling, the ease of this still amazes me. Wherever I go, I’ve got her dinner on tap. There’s no waiting for formula to heat up, or breast milk to defrost, you just unclip the bra and you’re off!
Oh my goodness, I am lazy. Any shortcut I can make, I’ll be there. Spending weeks finger feeding with a tube, then feeding with a bottle, showed me that neither Matt nor I are cut out for bottle feeding, either with formula or expressed milk. Expressed milk is a little easier, you can feed it at room temperature and you don’t have to sterilise anything. But with both you still have to wash things, really well too! Ain’t nobody got time for that!
My milk is free! The most complete and best food Juniper could ever hope for, and it’s free. Amazing.
I’m not ashamed to say that there was an element of pride in my determination to get her feeding properly. I’ve read several books about the history of breastfeeding, and about breast milk in our culture. I’ve written essays about it, dammit! I was not giving up!
I haven’t written about it yet, but the birth of Juniper was a very difficult experience for me. I struggled with feeling like my body had failed me, both during the pregnancy and the delivery via emergency caesarean section. I needed to keep trying, I needed to feel like my body could do something right. Through our breastfeeding journey I’m relearning that my body is strong and capable.
7. It Feels Good.
Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, the ‘love hormone.’ It’s the same chemical which is released when we hug and kiss and *ahem* do other things. Breastfeeding makes you and your baby feel damn good! It didn’t in those first week, but I knew that if we could get it right that it would give us both a lot of joy.
These days the easiest way to turn a cranky June into a happy June is to stick her on the boob. She feeds when she’s hungry, she feeds when she’s upset, she feeds when she’s tired. It’s a fool-proof way to get her to sleep, and I really don’t care if the ‘experts’ want to tell me that’s wrong, that she’ll get dependent, that she’ll never sleep by herself. She’s a baby, she doesn’t need to learn how to self-soothe just yet; she needs her Mumma. Providing her with comfort now will help her to be a confident toddler, child, and adult, because she will always feel safe. In the meantime, solving all of Juniper’s problems with the ‘magic boob’ is almost too easy! When we were struggling to latch, and she would scream at the sight of my nipple, I thought about how much I wanted her to find comfort in my breast, and that thought is what pushed me to keep trying, night after night.
It’s strange that this struggle was only 5 weeks ago, it feels like a lifetime. In the midst of those weeks it felt like forever, it felt like my entire life had become a constant cycle of desperately trying to feed a screaming infant, feeding her expressed milk, pumping more milk for the next feed, and sleeping when I could. To make things more difficult I had complications with my wound, so I was also in a lot of pain. I felt blank and exhausted and helpless and frustrated. But there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. We both fought so hard to reach this point, and I really cherish our breastfeeding relationship now. I hope it continues for many many more months to come.