I have four children and have nursed all of them. I spent eight years either pregnant or breastfeeding (and sometimes both). It was generally easy for me. My body worked as it was meant to most of the time, allowing me generous supply and minimal infections or interruptions.
Each child nursed very differently. The eldest was a 20 minutes per side kind of girl and I’d almost always wake up in the middle of the night with an almighty crick on my neck from falling asleep siting up. Fighting for access to a private space (that wasn’t a bathroom) in my all glass office building was a rite of passage perhaps. Suffice to say my battle to pump milk at work paved the way for others who came after me.
My next two were highly efficient. With my second daughter, we could have gone on forever but we found a time to wean that worked for us both when she was 16 months old. My son shocked me with a three week nursing strike at 10 months old, and we were suddenly done.
The youngest was a breeze, until he wasn’t. Towards the end I was in a great deal of pain but resisted weaning him. With this being my fourth child, breastfeeding really was one of the few times of day and night that I could be exclusively with him.
When he made it clear he was ready to stop, I was overcome with emotion: Grief because there would be no more babies lives being sustained from my body. Joy because I could finally leave him with a babysitter and not be traumatized that he wouldn’t drink anything or cry himself to sleep without comfort. I felt a deep loss at the sudden removal of this bond between my child and myself; our intimate physical connection gone. And also relief that I was no longer in pain, that my body was my own again, and that others could share more in his care.
I am grateful for good teachers (lactation consultants are amazing!), a supportive husband and family and friends, and the conviction to stand up for myself and my baby at work. It takes a community to support a breastfeeding mother.
Take Action Challenge
World Breastfeeding Week, is being celebrated in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
The World Health Organization says: “Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.” This year’s focus has been on how fathers, extended family/friends, workplaces and public policy-makers must all come together to encourage and support breastfeeding mothers.
Photo credit: Kristen Cannegieter
Infographic: Courtesy WHO (and available in six languages along with others for fathers, family and friends, and the workplace.)