96% of Australian mothers initiate breastfeeding. What an awesome percentage! It's excellent to see that the vast majority of us know the value of breastmilk, a.k.a liquid gold.
Wait a minute. How come more than half of 4 month olds are either partially or fully formula fed then? And how come only 15% of our babies are still breastfeeding at 6 months of age?
I'll cut to the chase.
Because it's HARD sometimes. It's hard to establish, and sometimes even harder to keep going. I was lucky enough to have no problems this time. Still, I'm not here to tell you how rainbows will shoot from your nipples and glitter will gracefully float around you like an aura of complete zen happiness.
No, forget the glitter. I hate that stuff. It's hard enough to feed your squirming child sometimes without worrying about snorting glitter, too.
So if it's so hard, why are some of us able to breastfeed for extended periods of time? Tandem nursing more than one child, natural term breastfeeding... it's all very un-heard of in the mainstream, but I assure you, it's happening.
Milk and cookies, turbo toddler style. Own image
I'll be blunt. (As usual). Support and good advice are badly lacking. After choosing formula for my first, and then breastfeeding my second, I've learned a few things.
Formula isn't the easier choice, either It occurred to me at 3am. I was up breastfeeding my second baby, when I suddenly realized that this was easy now. I wasn't fumbling around in the dark for bottles. I wasn't falling down any stairs in my sleep-haze. I wasn't stressing about the temperature or worrying I'd make a mistake. Swapping cracked nipples for midnight scrambling and expensive powders was a raw deal.
Safe bedsharing is a lifesaver And it's even better when you have milk on tap, at the right temperature, all night long. Hello all-night milkbar. Goodbye extreme sleep deprivation. Hopefully.
The sleepless nights you hate are awesome for your supply Night-time feeding is really important for maintaining a good supply. It might sound simple, but every time I found myself groaning about being woken again by a certain small person every hour, I reminded myself how much more annoying it is to get out of my warm bed 6 or 7 times a night.
Or 11 times, like the night we shall never speak of again.....
Never underestimate the power of oxytocin (and prolactin!) Oxytocin is the love hormone, and it's inextricably linked with breastfeeding. Imagine if every time you fed your baby you felt like you might finally see some rainbows shoot out of those nipples. Everyone loves rainbows, and I don't know anyone adverse to nipples, so you do the maths.
Seriously though, it's good stuff.
If you do opt for formula, you're not the devil You're probably just out of real options. Or you don't even know there are other options recommended to try before formula. Donor milk is out there. Research it. Decide if you're okay with it, or not. If not, figure out why. It's kinda weird that we drink milk from another species on a daily basis, too ya know.
Know what you're choosing and why Are you reaching for that bottle because you think your boobs are broken?
Don't make that face.
Are you? I know I did. I was convinced I didn't make enough milk. That my son was rejecting me. Many of us are ill-advised when it comes to establishing a breastfeeding relationship.
Seek solid advice. The ABA. The Badass Breastfeeder also comes to mind. (shout out to her, she's awesome, and way too famous to ever see this!) Pinky McKay.
trust yourself I can't stress this one enough. Do your own research, people.
Make informed choices, because nobody likes to look back with regret. If you choose donor milk, awesome. If you choose formula, awesome. Breastfeeding au naturale? Yep. Awesome.
Only you can decide what works for you. That's true. But how can you make a decision with half of the options obscured by a dangerous combination of ignorance and savvy marketing?
One word. Similac. You know what I'm talking about. You saw the ad.
Don't even get me started...
I don't know how they sleep at night.... Image source- Wikimedia commons.
It's sad that I even have to write this stuff. It's sad that so many of us miss out on the chance to experience the beauty of a long and unhindered breastfeeding relationship. Does anybody else wonder why the powers that be don't seem overly concerned about the impact that such low breastfeeding rates could have on us as a community in the long term?
Once upon a time you would have just known this stuff, because rumour has it, women like to talk. And share.
I am a great supporter of long-term breastfeeding. Unfortunately I did not experience this until my third child. In the long term, I found it much easier, and dear son fed until about 4 years. Mind you the later years were only night feeds or when he needed a comfort feed when hurt. He weaned completely naturally, and I have to admit to missing the cuddle time for a while.
I found we could travel anywhere, including India and Asia, without any worries regarding tummy bugs or dehydration on long journeys. And to this day, he has only had antibiotics once and he is nearly ten (I don't know if breastmilk is anything to do with this though). Another bonus was the time baby had 'red eye',
breastmilk cleared it up perfectly well.
We have been living in England for the last couple of years, and I feel that Australia's breastfeeding record is most likely much better.
I only had opposition from one lady (a neighbour), but got many complements in shopping centres, especially from mature ladies. And it does become easy to feed discretely, it all becomes second nature really. In the end, the hardest part was getting too hot. And toddlers soon learn not to bite, they might think it is funny, but they soon want their 'nommie back'!
In the early days, when I had difficulties, I had help from the local nursing mother
s association. Don't be afraid to ask for help and enjoy the bonding time together!