Anyone who has seen me breastfeeding either of my children would probably think, ‘yep, she’s got this’. They would be right… to an extent… Between feeding my firstborn for 25 months and still going strong with feeding my 15 month old, it is approaching the 3 1/2 year mark of getting my boobs out multiple times on a daily basis to breastfeed! While I am pleased to say that things are comfortable and easy for me in the breastfeeding department now, it hasn’t always been the case…
Prior to becoming a mother, I was blissfully unaware of the difficulties faced by many new mothers when it came to breastfeeding. I naively assumed that because a mother feeding her own child was such a natural and normal thing to do, that the adjustment would be just as natural and normal. From the very first feed after my firstborn son was born, I began to experience excruciating pain. Not the initial ‘let-down’ discomfort many mothers describe, but intense, stabbing pains that radiated from my nipple all the way to my back. This continued for the entirety of the feed, sometimes lasting up to an hour long. And this happened EVERY. SINGLE. FEED. I would be lying in bed or sitting on the couch, toes curled and cramped in pain with every suck. Night feeds seemed to be the hardest. I suppose this was because there wasn’t much else to focus on whilst sitting there in the dark, tears streaming down my face.
I was extremely determined that I wanted to breastfeed my children. I had heard the standard information that there is usually about a 6 week ‘adjustment’ period when it came to breastfeeding. The six weeks came and went but the pain was still there. Doctor visits, community health centre visits, lactation consultant visits; no one could provide any information about why I was experiencing such constant, intense pain. In the end, I mentally accepted that this was the way it was going to be and if I wanted to breastfeed I would have to put up with it, so I did.
About 4 months after my son was born, during a feeding session I suddenly realised that there was no pain. It was the beginning of a new bonding experience for my son and I, because I was no longer riddled with the anxiety of the ticking clock indicating that he was soon due for a feed. I was no longer putting him an arms length away, thinking that if I held him too often he’ll want another feed (and my boobs hadn’t yet recovered from the last session). It was now an enjoyable moment we were experiencing together as I was able to both nourish and nurture him at the same time.
Fast forward a few years and my second child was born. Rather than being worried about the actual birth, I was more anxious about the breastfeeding afterwards… Sure enough, the pain came back. It was just as excruciating as the first time around. There were many moments that I questioned whether it was even worth it, but I made a mental decision that it was. I think the difference for me in dealing with the pain better the second time around was my frame of mind. The first time was so unexpected, it completely hit me like a ton of bricks. However, second time round I knew that previously, after the four month mark the pain did go away. So, that’s what I was betting on. But I totally got lucky second time around and it only lasted two months!
Looking back over my breastfeeding journey with my two children, I am pretty proud that I kept going. I have shared many beautiful bonding moments with the both of them, through this not-always ‘simple’ mothering act. I share this story with you not as a ‘smug’ breastfeeding mother disapproving of other mothers’ feeding choices, but rather, to promote compassion for new mothers and their vastly different range of experiences of motherhood. It’s such a hard gig that I don’t believe you can be fully prepared for, no matter how many people you talk to beforehand or how much reading you do on the topic. You should always hold you head up high with your choices, if they are made with your family’s best interest at heart.