As part of World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to write about my reasons for doing it. This post isn’t intended to be one of those highly emotionally charged pleas to formula feeding mums to drop the bottle and go back to nature. I’m not particularly evangelical about it at all. In fact, I am more relieved that it’s working for me than anything else. I’ve been a formula feeder myself and I am evangelical about the fact that mums should be able to choose the method of feeding that suits their family best. All the information and statistics in the world means nothing if mother and baby aren’t happy.
But it is World Breastfeeding Week and I am proud to be a breastfeeding mother. I can’t say how long this will last for; I have no real plans beyond today. If we are still going strong in six months or even a year, then so be it. If we stop tomorrow, I will know that she has had the best start in life. And yes, I know that I said I wouldn’t be evangelical about this and I don’t think I am. I also don’t think I can write a post about the reasons why I love breastfeeding without mentioning the health benefits either. So there. You know it already. It’s one of the reasons why I love it but its not the most important reason to me.
I need to go back to a day that has shaped me and my world. When my son was dragged into being by stranger’s hands. When he was held by another and willed to breathe. When he was alone, frightened. Alone. When he was away from his mother during the most crucial time for bonding and for recovering. When his mother slept on as he screamed and screamed and screamed.
I’ve already written about how I struggle to forgive myself for not being there when he was born. The fact that I was put under so that he could be born still haunts me to this day. I missed his first moments and NOTHING can take me back there to change that. I also missed much of his first days because I was stuck on some kind of replay, unable to digest what had happened and unable to accept this baby. But I digress; this is about breastfeeding.
When they gave me my son and put him to my breast I felt nothing. He fed almost manically for days. In between feeding he screamed. Some feeds were almost two hours in length and there was never much time in-between. He fed and he fed and he fed. And nothing. I felt nothing. I wanted to stop. I wanted the physical and emotional pain to end. I wanted my body back. I wanted to start again.
I suppose something stopped me. I suppose it was the fact that he needed me. I felt breastfeeding was more important this time because he was so unwell. I felt that it might save me… I think it did.
We carried on breastfeeding and although he still fed erratically,often and for long periods, we slowly began to realise what it was all about. Breastfeeding isn’t just a means to provide nutrition to a small person who is unable to feel thankful, let alone show he is grateful. Breastfeeding is much more precious than that. Breastfeeding helped me to love my son.
As we fed, we bonded. And that is the reason why I love breastfeeding. When I nursed my son, I was forced to stop and to hold him close and to watch him. I was forced to hold him. I was forced to stop everything else in my world and focus on him. I was given another chance to nurture the bond that was almost destroyed with his delivery. It took a while but eventually, he became that baby who had kicked me from within for nine months. He became my son.
Today, my youngest is almost six months old and we are still breastfeeding. There has never been a doubt in my mind as to the power of it all. Breastfeeding is more than nutrition. Breastfeeding is nourishment for the soul.
For some more inspiring stories about breastfeeding, Plus2.4 has some excellent resources, posts and guest posts to choose from; Circus Queen has blogged extensively about breastfeeding and has a wonderful posts highlighting breastfeeding bloggers and their reasons for doing so;Kylie has written about her breastfeeding journey on her blog, Not even a bag of Sugar and Me, the man and the Baby has lots of breastfeeding posts too.