My experience with breastfeeding

[ 0 ] 28/02/2014 |

shutterstock_138225647I breastfeed because I have milk. And since I have breast milk, I prefer spending my nights awake next to a hungry baby rather than next to a sick baby.

There is tons of info explaining the benefits of breastfeeding. But why is it that we need to read such facts to be persuaded this is the right thing to do? This is how humanity survived through out these years, this is the natural way. The breasts exist in order to produce milk and provide with food the future generations. How on earth could artificial, man made food, be compared with the natural one? Why do we keep on questioning it?

Thankfully, we do have formula for mums who cannot breastfeed, and their babies will survive and be just fine, like I did, but this, in my opinion, should not be an option for mums who have no problems with milk flow. It might be more challenging to breastfeed, and it does mean that you are the only one who can provide your baby with food and stay up at night, every night, for months on end, and quite often every 2 hours since breast milk is digested within 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It also means that you need to be with your baby, and available for the baby, all the time. But mum’s milk is so good for our babies that I feel it is worth the sacrifice.

This is my story.

I was bottle-fed cause my mum had complications and didn’t have milk. I was prepared that I might have the same problem, but determined that If I did have milk, I would consider it as the only option, and would do it no matter how difficult or challenging it might prove to be.

In the beginning it proved to be challenging. I was in pain every time I sat down for 2-3 weeks after birth (episiotomy – vacuum extraction – lots of stitches) and Erik wanted to be on the breast all the time. Most probably I did mistakes when I put him on the breast, cause within 3-4 days after birth I ended up with sore and then cracked, bleeding nipples.

I used a cream bought from the pharmacy as I found it difficult to self extract milk and apply it on the nipples, and tried to use a little bit more often the breast that hurt less (a 2 to 1 ratio to make sure that this wouldn’t affect the establishment of the milk supply). I didn’t think about using artificial nipple shields, but this is something I am going to consider to use next time if the same thing happens. You can find them in baby stores, pharmacies and online.

These complications lasted around 3 weeks in total, and after that I only had minor issues such as overflow and leaking breasts and not enough milk and a fuzzy baby in the evenings. That also didn’t last for too long, cause as we were told during the parent craft course, the milk supply was perfectly tuned and in order after the first 3 months. I still kept on having a low supply sometimes in the evenings, but that is normal. One just needs to let the baby stay on the breast as long as it wants.

To be honest, I do not particularly enjoy breast feeding, especially not at night when I would love to get a descent sleep. Erik used to be a good sleeper from 1 till 3 months old, waking up only 2-3 times per night to nurse, but that changed once he turned 4 months. Since then, he wakes up almost every 2 hours, every night, to nurse. The good thing is that the long nursing marathons we had in the beginning, where he would stay on the breast for at least 40 minutes and up to 2 hours, through out the day, are gone. He will now empty both breasts within 10 minutes max.

I breastfeed because I know it’s best for him, and especially because of the known benefits on the baby’s immune system. Since Erik got born, I’ve been sick 6 times, almost once a month, and he had been none! After he reached the 6 months threshold, where they’re supposed to stop being fully protected by the antibodies in the breast milk, I got very sick with this bad flu that has been going around Malta and sent others to hospital (including infants) and others in their bed with bad coughing, high fever and pharyngitis for up to 2 weeks. I was sick for 10 days. Erik got the virus, and he only coughed for 3-4 days (usually at nights) and had a little bit of a stuffed nose. Nothing else. We did go to the hospital to check on him and be on the safe side, but do the maths. A 6 1/2 months baby was stronger against the virus than his mamma.

Breast feeding is definitely challenging, and I hear from friends of mine that the sleepless nights might and could quite possibly go on till much after the 1st year of the baby’s life, but we can find support in each other. Plus, one can get lots of support here in Malta about breast feeding (click here) and it is legal to breastfeed in public. I have been breastfeeding in public and not even once did I receive a weird glance or bad comments.

Another thing that in my eyes proves the importance of breast feeding beyond the 1st year of life, when that is possible, is that the World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years: ‘Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.’ Countries like Canada and Australia follow these guidelines, whereas others, like United Arab Emirates took it to the extreme, and force women by law to breastfeed for 2 years. Some extra info on the benefits of breast feeding beyond the 1st year here.

I do not know if I will manage to breastfeed for 2 years, but I promise to my family I am going to try.

Category: Erik and me

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