Without a doubt, I knew I was going to breastfeed Georgia. My mother breastfed all three of us girls, to various lengths and levels of exclusivity: Katie had nothing but breastmilk for her first year, Allison was supplemented at an early age due to her low weight, and I think I had six months exclusive, and another six partial. Jason and his brother Justin were also breastfed. For children of the eighties this is somewhat remarkable, as formula-feeding was the norm. Being raised in a home daycare also helped-I was quite used to mothers coming in on their lunch breaks to nurse their babies. I grew up knowing that boobs had a purpose, and a damn important one at that.
Breastfeeding is hard work. It may be natural, but it’s not exactly easy. I remember I had a cousin “warn” me at a shower that it was going to hurt like hell, and that there was no shame in switching to formula…but her warning was more like “I tried and failed and you’re probably going to fail too so you might as well quit while you’re ahead and not even try.” I don’t think there should be a sense of shame for trying and switching to formula-some boobs just don’t work right, some milk never comes in-but I think a positive attitude is important. As is preparation, and a strong support network.
I learned as much about breastfeeding as I could, mostly by reading books like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, and by finding resources like Kellymom and La Leche League. My midwives also dedicated an appointment to breastfeeding, and there was a whole session on it as part of our prenatal classes. Youtube videos were another goldmine, and if I saw a woman nursing in public I would talk to her about it. Most breastfeeding mamas are very happy to talk about their experience, and to share their wisdom and advice.
Support for breastfeeding is HUGE. I had it lucky, as my family is extremely pro-breastfeeding. Health resources such as our midwives, family doctor, and public lactation consultants were key during those early days when I didn’t know what I was doing, and went things didn’t go so well with Georgia’s latch. Living in a province where nursing in public is a protected human right was reassuring-I could nurse anywhere, any time.
Everything else went on hold in those early days. I didn’t cook, I didn’t clean, all I did was hang out in bed and nurse my baby. Other people took care of everything else: my sisters, my mother, my husband. I didn’t have to worry about food-Jason would make me a plate of goodies I could eat with one hand. Everyone was great about helping me organize pillows, checking Georgia’s latch, making sure I was drinking plenty of water. If you have help, use if, if you don’t have help, ask for it.
Having a tool-box of breastfeeding supplies was also important: a nursing pillow (or flat bolster when the baby was a wee little thing), a hand pump to relieve excess milk, good bras and tanks, clothing that lets me nurse in public without much fuss, lanolin for sore nipples, an easy-to-use cover that allows for eye contact, these are the lifesavers.
Now…we nurse. We worked through other issues (poor latch, foremilk imbalance, clogged ducts, excessive gas) and we’ll work through whatever life throws at us. Georgia is five months old-one more month and I can start her on solids, although we might delay those for a while yet. She’ll take a bottle when she needs to, or will also drink milk from a cup. My breasts are her favourite thing in the universe, it seems. I nurse in public with no problems. I want to nurse her until she is a toddler.
It’s an ongoing conversation, and a beautiful relationship.