So, my breastfeeding journey with the little one has finally ended after 28 months. Frankly speaking, I can't really believe that it has been so long since the first day I tried to latch her on because this journey has been such a precious and enjoyable one for me.
Sure, there were times when I felt weary because she would demand for the boobs every hourly and it could get sore and aching on some days. There were also times when she drained me of my energy, and time, when I wanted to attend to the big sister and ended up feeling guilty. Then there were also the times when she would scream as though the world was tumbling down and nothing else, be it a relief or agony for me, could calm her down except for the boobs. There's just some unexplainable magic there, right?
Nonetheless, being able to spend my time with my baby 24/7 since the day she was born is something that I cherish very much and that was why I told myself to breastfeed her for as long as possible. When she turned two, I already knew my milk supply was dwindling and she was using the boobs more for comfort than anything else, suckling away for sometimes just a few seconds in order to feel good. I knew at that time that our breastfeeding journey would come to an end soon and indeed, four months down the road, it drew to a close. Ironically, instead of a sigh of relief, I bade farewell with a heavy heart.
I've shared a fair bit about breastfeeding on the blog, including facts, tips and my journey with Angel. Still, I have to, just have to, write a post to mark the end of this remarkable journey I had with Ariel and at the same time, share with you some things that I've learnt, some of which you will never read in books or online articles.
1) Bigger doesn't mean better
Never assume that you can't produce enough milk to feed a baby just because you have A cup. Size has got nothing to do with it at all. In fact, mums with smaller breasts have less to worry when it comes to positioning, engorgement and proper latching.
2) Perseverance pays off
Just like many things in life, we should never give up. Even if you get off to a bad start, for instance delayed or low milk supply, poor latching or sore nipples, don't succumb to switching or even complementing with formula. That is because once you realise how easy and convenient that is, especially since you can get someone else to help you ease the burden, you may never come back to breastfeeding again.
3) Demand vs supply
Breastfeeding works on a supply-and-demand system. Empty breasts mean faster milk production. If we are lucky, our bodies will be able to produce enough milk to satisfy our babies even during a growth spurt. If you think you need to increase milk production, try best to empty the breasts frequently and thoroughly during each nursing session, and pump if you have to.
4) Nursing can be a 24/7 job
For the first few months, you will be on standby every minute so be prepared to wake up in the wee hours to comfort a hungry baby. Some mums get it every 3-4 hourly but some need to do it every hourly or less. It all depends on what kind of eater your baby is. The good news is it should get better as time passes and as your baby learns to sleep for longer periods of time.
5) It's okay to feel like a cow
Or a milk dispensing machine. Well, even husbands may make jokes out of it when they pass a crying baby to you, right? After all, you are the one that your baby needs most in this stage of life and there is no one else who can soothe him/her the way you do. Remember, no one else but you. See it as a privilege, not as a chore.
6) Sometimes, it hurts.
Some people get it worse than the rest but most of us would have to deal with engorgement, sore nipples, or even cracked and bleeding ones, at one point or another. Remind yourself that it is nothing compared to childbirth and becoming a mum just makes us stronger than we ever thought we could be. Think more of the joy, and care less of the pain. Yes, it does go away after a while!
7) Don't be obsessed about numbers
I've heard people saying that they don't like not knowing how much the baby drinks at every session and thus detests the idea of latching on. That is totally opposite of me because I can't even tell you how much I love letting my baby latch on because of the closeness and the fact that you don't need to wash, clean, sterilise and store any bottles. Of course, it helped that we lived alone in a foreign land with our first child so I didn't have to listen to any unsolicited advice from anyone. All I did was to let my baby initiate the feedings and take the cue from her on when to stop. To me, a sleeping or smiling baby after a feed was enough proof that she was contented.
8) Ironically, it allows you to rest at times
I mean it. Sometimes, it can get a little rowdy at home when friends or relatives are around, or simply when you have more than one kid. Being able to breastfeed and and taking time out, without anyone protesting because everyone understands the baby's needs, in the privacy of my bedroom helps me to recharge at the same time.
9) Suddenly, it gets easy
After some time, you do get the hang of it. You understand your baby's needs, you know what is the first or last thing you need to do, you learn to multitask, you can even nurse without using your hands or opening your eyes at times.
10) When in public, just do it
Likewise, this is also a case of practice makes perfect. It can get a little daunting or intimidating to nurse in public the first time but once you become accustomed to it, you realise that the stares or weird looks from passers-by don't matter. All you need is a good nursing shawl and all you should focus on is keeping your baby happy.
11) Unparalleled way to bond
Breastfeeding, to me, is one of the best gifts of motherhood. Right, I have to first admit that I think I'm one of the lucky ones who got to enjoy most of the journey. I love the feeling of let-down, I love looking into my baby's eyes, I love holding her in the crook of my arm, I love feeling her soft, warm skin against mine, I love being the one there right beside her. I find it one of the best ways to born with a baby and that is why it is so priceless.
12) It's hard to say goodbye
As much as we sometimes wish we could have a good night's sleep once we stop breastfeeding, the fact is deep down, we can be the ones who are reluctant to let go. This can be especially true if you know that it might be your last breastfeeding journey and you might never be able to experience the wonders again. Awww. Goodbye can be a painful word, right?
For me, I'll always remember and be thankful that I had a chance to go through the journery not once, but twice. I'm glad to have had all the helpful midwives and nurses in Sweden who were so pro-breastfeeding and never encouraged any new mum to use formula. I'm relieved that having the experience and wisdom from the first child made me more confident the second time round when I returned to Singapore. I'm happy, more happy than anything, to see my kids growing up well and knowing that we will always have a special mother-and-child bond.
Breastfeeding, yes, it's definitely one of my fondest parts of motherhood and I hope I will always be able to remember that magical feeling.
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