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Why I’m glad I stuck at breastfeeding

August 5, 2009
Breastfeeding baby. Breast milk contains the ideal nutrients for a growing baby, as well as antibodies to protect against infection. Credit: BSIP, ASTIER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Breastfeeding baby. Breast milk contains the ideal nutrients for a growing baby, as well as antibodies to protect against infection. Credit: BSIP, ASTIER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

It’s been a while since I last breastfed my daughter (about three years), but I have been provoked into blogging on the subject by the article “Press twisted my words, says academic in breast-milk row” in The Independent. (That, and it is World Breastfeeding Week appropriately enough.)

It’s sad that so many mothers end up entrenched in pro and anti-formula trenches, and despite sticking with breastfeeding for nearly 18 months, I’d like to think I’m not blinkered on the issue.

I understand entirely why people use formula, and why so many who try to breastfeed give up so early. As the excellent Truth About Breastfeeding blog says, “Breastfeeding is natural, but not easy”.

I was in agony with breastfeeding for the first month – and the support of a friend who said she’d gone through the same thing, hung in there and was feeding without any discomfort by six weeks kept me going until I too was over the worst.

It’s not always easy after that either. At five months, my daughter spent a week refusing to feed unless we were both lying down – I must have been a sight on the floor of the Mothercare feeding room – but for the most part breastfeeding was a fabulous experience. I can’t say categorically that breastfeeding disposed of the leftover pregnancy fat, but I certainly regained my original weight without dieting (in fact, with added Green & Blacks chocolate for the sake of my sanity). I can say it was lovely not to have to make up formula, and carry around bottles and water and powder on top of all the other stuff you take with you everywhere.

I was never bothered about people staring at me in public – perhaps it’s a small-breasted woman’s priviledge. People have never looked at my boobs in the past, why would they bother now in this eroticism-free situation?

But, the memory of that vice-like grip on my boob and the shooting pain that had me literally gritting my teeth through every feed for four weeks stays with me and so I say this to anyone who is struggling with the first weeks of breastfeeding: Hang in there. It will get better! And when it does it’s the best feeling in the world.

Which is why I was still giving my daughter a bedtime feed at fifteen months. not because she needed the nutrition, or because I was swollen with milk that had to go, but because it was a wonderful end to the day with her. 

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