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This doesn’t mean it was easy. I mean, for the first week my nipples felt like they were on fire; just for that first second she latched on, each feed. They’d never experienced so much wear and tear! But it was only those first few seconds and it passed within a week.
There were other barriers to my breastfeeding; for example, she was a breech baby and I had to have a caesarean, which rendered me pretty immobile to start with. We had been preparing for a pain-relief free hypno birth and I managed to go through the whole thing honouring those wishes, but in the final stages of delivery my contractions weren’t budging that soft little bottom, so after hours of pushing we decided to go for the c-section. All that pushing, all those hormones had successfully told her she was about to be born, though, and she started breathing all by herself; meaning we could also have our wish to delay clamping and cutting the umbilical cord. Great! But now I couldn’t move and I had our precious baby to look after.
This is where my second breastfeeding friend came in. We don’t live with any family nearby so for the first few weeks my husband was my go-to saviour. He’d leap out of bed at all hours of the night to give me our baby for a feed. He’d pass me her during the day when I couldn’t easily mobilise myself to get to the Moses basket. He cooked meals and kept the cycle of washing going. It wasn’t easy or glamorous and you can feel like you’re a passenger on a tour of CrazyTown, but those cuddles, those hours of time forced upon you to stare at this little thing, to fill your senses and feel her flesh on yours; yum.
After a while it all settled into a routine. The days turned into weeks and those, in turn, became months. My husband returned to his usual work duties and I found myself more alone dealing with things. I didn’t know about wonder weeks, cluster feeding, teething, the first colds. Each brought its own breastfeeding challenges which mainly boiled down to my bubba requiring as much time as possible snuggled up on the boob. In these moments I was grateful for my third breastfeeding friend; new Facebook friends. The virtual mummies I’d met fleetingly at antenatal and postpartum groups. We’d exchanged details over our swollen bellies and car seat carriers and tucked them away with NO IDEA how handy they’d become! At all hours of the day and night we’d send out or receive our distress calls, knowing only us other newborn mummies were likely awake, as the rest of the country slept.
It’s been 16 months now and I’ve no intention of giving up yet. If the World Health Organisation recommends a MINIMUM of two years then who am I to argue? As long as my baby feels she can get comfort and nutrition from it, for as long as I feel at ease doing it, then this is us. We love it.
Would I have been able to do this without the support of my breastfeeding friends? Who knows. Would I have enjoyed it even half as much without them? Never.
Find a friend, be a friend x
It is wonderful to see this beautiful painting of a breastfeeding mother and baby win a major portrait prize. The painting both celebrates and normalises a mother’s everyday experience of breastfeeding. Such images are sorely needed in a society such as ours, where breastfeeding is so contentious that it can be difficult to convey how precious it is for a new mother to be enabled to nurture her child.