It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week! I breastfed for the first time 6 years and 5 months ago and have always been breastfeeding since! It’s become such a normal, routine part of my life that it’s no longer something I give thought to. I don’t consciously promote breastfeeding or extol the benefits – I don’t, for the most part, think about it having benefits. It’s just something I do, part of the overall parenting effort, everyday and ordinary. Breastfeeding gets a bad rep sometimes, and there seems to be a general view that it’s difficult, time-consuming and nigh on impossible to do if you have more than one child. So for the week that’s in it, I decided I’d have a think about how breastfeeding makes my life easier (it must do or I wouldn’t be 6 years 5 months into it!). Here are five things I love about breastfeeding.
1. Any time, any place, anywhere..
There was a Martini advert back in the 80s with this tagline and it’s perfect for breastfeeding (ok, any place and anywhere are the same thing so it’s a crap slogan!). My first baby needed feeding every 2 hours until she was about 4 months old and I tried to time going places around that, so I’d have somewhere to sit if she needed to be fed. Whereas now, I’ll feed anywhere – I’m not too proud to plonk myself on a kerb if necessary and get on with it. Luckily, thanks to my discovery of slings, feeding on the go is easy. I didn’t discover mobile sling nursing till baby no 2 – I remember the feeling of freedom and just general smug as I fed my then 2 week old walking down a main city centre street, with no one having a clue what I was up to. I don’t care now if they do know, though. Sling feeds on-the-go are magic when you have older children to care for and don’t have time to sit and nurse. Slingaboobing is where it’s at.
When babies hurt themselves, or are sick or sad, my go-to tool is the breast. I have no idea how I would manage without it. I got a phonecall recently to say my littlest had had a fall and was bleeding and I ran to where she was, leading the whole way with my breasts. All I could think of was getting her latched on, to soothe the pain and fear. There have been times with distraught toddlers, who’ve whipped themselves up into an epic tantrum, where nursing them has instantly calmed and released it all where everything else has failed. Nursing is a comfort to mothers, too – there is nothing sweeter and more soothing to my own frazzled nerves than knowing I’ve medicine for a sick child or a cure for an emotional ill – all on my chest.
3. You don’t need to know what your baby is crying for
You’ll learn soon, say the books, to distinguish between a cry for hunger, pain or tiredness. I definitely didn’t for quite a while on my first baby. I learned quicker on the others, but only, I think because they all have made very similar sounds! The good news, if you don’t have a clue what ‘that’ cry means, is that breastfeeding is often a panacea for whatever ails them. Hungry? Boob. Tired? Boob. In pain? Boob. When in doubt, boob is always the answer. Your baby will soon let you know if they need something else instead or in addition.
I love this term (coined by anthropologists) and I love how it works! On my first, I did night feeds in the newborn days, meaning that when she woke, I turned on the lamp, sat up in bed, fed her, changed her, fed her again, changed her again….I’d be awake for 3 hours per session, easily. When she got bigger, I’d sit out in a chair beside the bed to stop myself falling asleep during feeds (dumb, as I often did nod off, making this far more dangerous than feeding her in bed). But by the time I had my second, I’d wised up out of necessity. There’s no way I could have been awake for hours every night and managed a small toddler the next day. So I had my next two in the bed beside me from the day they were born. I loved it, they loved it. They were both overwhelmed by too much of a good thing in the early days, as a forceful let down meant that when they latched on, it was as though someone was hosing milk down their throats. As a result, I had to feed in the laidback position until they got bigger and my milk supply calmed a little. At night, for me this meant completely laid back, as in horizontal. I’d latch them on across my chest, then lie back and fall asleep, pretty much instantly. When I woke up, they’d have finished feeding and be asleep themselves, with their downy cheek on my boob. I’d put them in the bed beside me and repeat the next time they woke. Maximum sleep, minimum disturbance.
I still have my 9 month old in the bed with me and have no idea how she sleeps because I only half-wake up and pretty much sleep through any feeding during the night.
You can read more about breastsleeping and Professor James McKenna’s work here: http://cosleeping.nd.edu/
5. You can’t forget your boobs
This is probably the number one pro of breastfeeding for me. My memory is shot. I think my kids ate it. I rarely leave home with everything I need to keep myself and three kids going for however long we’re going for – but once I’ve boobs and a nappy, I know the smallest among us will be ok. I dread to think how many times I’d have had to go back home for formula bottles or other food if I didn’t have a food source attached to me. I also lock myself out of the house at least twice per year – thankfully, it’s only happened a couple of times when I’ve had children with me and thankfully I’d something to keep the baby or toddler fed and distracted until I managed to get in! Breastfeeding for the win for the absent-minded mama.
Those are the top five things I love about breastfeeding. What about you? What would make your list?
Planning to breastfeed? Find out how to prepare: http://birthtobaby.ie/preparing-for-breastfeeding/
Learn more about breastfeeding and the 4th trimester in BirthToBaby.ie’s GentleBirth workshops: http://birthtobaby.ie/gentlebirth-workshops-dublin/