Thursday, October 6, 2011

Breastfeeding? Not for me, thanks.

That's what I thought. Breastfeeding, not for me thank you.

When I had Marie, I was a young 24 year old woman. The thought of breastfeeding hadn't even entered my mind. I don't even think that it was presented as an option in the hospital. I wasn't really aware of it. For me, a baby was fed with a bottle, end of.

By the time I had Noelie, breastfeeding revival was well on its way. A bit too much if you ask me. I felt like breastfeeding was pushed down my throat. It felt as if every midwife, nurse and doctor I met wanted me to breastfeed. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who will do exactly the opposite of what people try to get me to do if they push too hard. Telling me that I must read such a book, will only result in creating a very strong aversion of said book in me and ensure that I will never, I repeat never, pick up that book, ever. Same goes for breastfeeding, talk to me too much about it, try and push me too much in that direction and I will not even consider it.

I think that I saw breastfeeding as a bit of a hippy, new age thing to do and something that didn't really fit in with my corporate, busy working mother image. The whole feeding on demand thing didn't seem to make for a great routine that fit in with the lifestyle I had at the time (poor excuse I know since being on maternity leave the whole corporate, working mum image didn't exist anymore).

This time around, when I was asked during my first visit in hospital if I intended to breastfeed and I answered no, nothing else was said about it. No disapproving look, no lecture, nothing. I didn't think anymore about it until during the last couple of months of my pregnancy. My breasts started leaking, quite profusely at night and I joked with Mr Foodie on a few occasions that maybe I could breastfeed this baby. It was never really serious and I never read up on it or anything (apart from what I read in the blogosphere). We bought our bottles etc (we still had the steriliser from Noelie) and were all set for another round of bottle feeding.

Until after the birth that is. When the nurse came around, a few hours after the birth and said it was time to feed this little man, she asked me how I wanted to feed him. Automatically, I answered bottle. Mr Foodie looked at me and mentioned the fact that I'd said I might give breastfeeding a try. I looked at him and at the nurse and said OK, I'm going to try it. Mr Foodie and I had never really discussed it, well, not very seriously anyway so I have to admit that I was a bit surprised. The nurse helped Little Man to latch on and off we were on our breastfeeding journey. I had no idea what to expect having never really given it serious thought and never researched it. It just felt like the natural thing to do at the time.

It surprised everybody around us, I think. Having bottle-fed Noelie, people expected us to do the same with Little Man. We don't come from backgrounds where breastfeeding is common and we had never mentioned it before. My only experience with breastfeeding was that of  my aunt who was advised by her pediatrician to switch to bottle feeding as she managed to overfeed her baby while breastfeeding. That being said, she also managed to over feed him on the bottle and the poor child was wearing 2 year old clothes at the age of 8 months. Despite being surprised, nobody had anything negative to say about it. I know that some of them felt rather uncomfortable at the idea of me taking my boobs out to feed Little Man. I think others felt a tad disappointed too (and still are) at the exclusivity of the whole breastfeeding experience as they wouldn't get to feed Little Man for a little while. But if they do think anything negative about it, they certainly never mentioned it to me or to Mr Foodie. The nurse later said to us that she had never met a couple that made the decision between breast or bottle in such a natural, easy going, spur of the moment kind of way.

Maybe it is because we made a natural decision, with no expectations or pressure (self inflicted or otherwise) that breastfeeding has worked out so well for us. Maybe it was because I knew I could give up whenever I wanted if it didn't feel right, or if it wasn't working out without feeling guilty but rather proud that I gave it a go. Maybe it is because we did approach the whole thing with no knowledge whatsoever. We have since spent hours reading up on it but I think that if I had read about it too much beforehand, I probably would never have given it a go. If I had been told of cracked and sore nipples, of toe curling pain (and, yes, you literally do curl your toes), of no feeding schedule as such, of times of cluster feeds, I wouldn't have given it a go. And I am so glad that I never did read about all that, because, despite the hard times and the pain, despite the tiredness, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I have experienced with a baby. It is not easy and there were times where I was close to tears with the pain and the tiredness. Little Man didn't latch on properly until a couple of weeks ago and I had terribly cracked nipples (it looked like a quarter of my nipple had been peeled off at some stage) and the pain was near unbearable  for a few seconds but once it stopped, it was fine.

Mr Foodie has been extremely supportive through the whole thing and has become very knowledgeable on the subject. I know he is proud of me for giving it a go and for sticking to it. And I am very grateful that he has been so supportive. He will tell anybody who will listen (people like the other blokes at work) how great breastfeeding is. He, too, is a convert. We love the fact that there are no bottles to wash and sterilise, that there is no paraphernalia to carry around when out and about. You don't need to worry about heating up bottles or having enough formula. You don't need to remember to buy it in the supermarket. It is there, at the right temperature, in the right amount and free.

I can understand why some people do not want to try, or are not interested. I was one of them once. Some of the literature you can read feels a bit like german propaganda in the 1940s. Some people are way to pushy or judgemental if you say that you have no interest in breastfeeding. I think it takes a certain maturity and a certain confidence to attempt breastfeeding. It is demanding from a physical and mental point of view but it is also strangely extremely rewarding. I had never thought I would be a convert to breastfeeding but I am. I won't be joining the so-called breastapo soon as I believe that everybody is free to choose which way to feed their baby (and some people sadly have no choice in the matter). I didn't join any breastfeeding groups etc and I will not be criticizing or judge anybody who decides to bottle feed their baby. I bottle fed my 2 girls and don't regret doing it. It was what was right for me at the time. And at the end of the day, it's all about what's right for you and your baby at the time.

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