For month’s after Alex was born when speaking about our feeding relationship I would refer to myself as ‘lucky’ to be able to breastfeed because that’s what you say isn’t it? All those women who ‘can’t’ breastfeed so you think you’re the lucky one.
One day it clicked though, i’m not ‘lucky’, lucky is winning the lottery or catching your bus even though you were running late. Being able to breastfeed is not lucky, its natural and normal and it takes a lot of hard work, research and determination. It takes strength and support, it often literally takes blood (not for us thankfully), sweat and tears. It is the hardest but most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my entire life! Yet by so many its chalked up to good luck. I recently started to find this infuriating, I don’t want people to sing my praises for putting my child’s health, well-being, comfort and nourishment alongside and even before my own, this should be the normal thing but I would like the acknowledgement for what I have done and what we have achieved rather than just being ‘lucky’.
Breastfeeding takes a lot, physically and mentally. We need better support for breastfeeding mothers and Health Visitors and Midwives should at least be trained in breastfeeding to a peer support level. Had it not been for the peer support team when I was in hospital with Alex I doubt i’d be breastfeeding her now at 25 months. They helped with latch advice and positions, they checked up on us and gave me the confidence to keep trying.
In the middle of the night laid on a bed the most sleep deprived you have ever been after an emergency caesarean when you’ve planned a natural homebirth the last thing you want is for a midwife to continually offer to give your child formula or when you ask for latching help to huff into the room and grab your babies head and your breast and shove them together. That taught me nothing, nothing but hatred and frustration. When you finally get released days later you come home and your health visitor continues to chime on about how pale you look (natural red head here) and how if i’m ill or need sleep then I should give my 5 day old formula! Thank goodness she went on holiday and her replacement was still breastfeeding her 4 year old!
I was lucky enough to meet a brilliant group of like-minded women who have supported me and helped me realise whats normal throughout our breastfeeding journey, turns out it all has been! So many women don’t have this support though and they end up formula feeding through mis-information when something as simple as someone saying you’re doing a great job could of spurred that woman on.
“as many as 5% of women may have primary insufficient lactation because of anatomic breast variations or medical illness that make them unable to produce a full milk supply despite heroic efforts.” The rest who don’t breastfeed either choose not to for some reason or don’t have the right guidance and support. Often they don’t understand the benefits of breastfeeding or the normal behaviour of a breastfed baby, mothers worry about how they’ll breastfeed in public when the time comes and so was I but its not as bad as you think (that’s a whole other post).
Can we stop using the phrase ‘You’re so lucky to be able to breastfeed’ and instead change it for ‘Well done! You’re doing an amazing job!’ And can we stop referring to ourselves as ‘lucky’ to breastfeed and give ourselves the recognition we deserve!
A great link for what is normal during your breastfeeding journey… http://kellymom.com/category/bf/normal/
La Leche League UK… https://www.laleche.org.uk/content/get-support