The Complexities of a Mother’s Breastfeeding Journey

The Complexities of a Mother's Breastfeeding Journey

A mother’s breastfeeding journey can be complex. Breastfeeding experience is different for each woman. When I was expecting, my sister’s words often echoed in my ears. She said, ‘The first month is hell but if you get through it, it’s worth it.’ So, I knew what was ahead of me but motherhood in theory and in reality is different.

I had opted for a C-section delivery because my baby was a breech baby and the fluid levels were low. I did not go into labour naturally and my body took its time to catch up with releasing colostrum. When my baby girl was born, I was terrified that she would not latch, but after a few seconds of trying, she latched on and I breastfed her for the first time. I was elated – my heart was full with pure joy and pride! I could not believe how easy it was and I thought that it wasn’t so hard! But as the numbing medication wore away, so did my optimism.

My hungry baby girl could latch but on her very first night, she refused to settle in her crib. So, the nurse suggested that I should make her sleep with me on my bed as I was unable to get out of the bed to lift her. My determined daughter latched on all night and anytime I moved away an inch she burrowed her way back to my nipple. This tiny ferocious feeder was determined that I keep feeding her and her natural instincts were strong.

I understand this now but at that time, I was sore and exhausted. As a first time mom, I felt totally out of control. This pattern continued for the next few nights but she finally got a decent amount of milk at 4 in the morning. Three days later, she slept for two to three hours; her face nuzzled up to my breast. I was relieved. I dozed off and slept for a couple of hours in 3 days.

As the weeks went by and I breastfed my baby, my breasts were in pain. I felt weak because of surgery and because of the pain. There were times when I felt I won’t be able to continue with this, but I did. My desire to breastfeed was strong and I replayed my sister’s words in my head when times got hard.

After a month, the pain began to subside (just as my sister had said) and my daughter and I settled into a routine. I started to see all the positives of feeding my baby girl. I didn’t have to sterilise bottles; I didn’t have to scurry around in the kitchen at 3 am. All I needed to do was change her nappies and clothes. I could comfort her at a moment’s notice. Our bond was strong and when she breastfed, I felt amazing.

There were many challenges in the months that followed, but I was delighted that I had decided to exclusively breastfeed her. I was so grateful my milk supply was adequate. When I returned to work postpartum and worked part-time after 8 months, I continued to exclusively breastfeed her and pumped milk. It was another achievement for me as I wanted to continue breastfeeding her until she turned 12 months of age. It was not easy but it was all worth it.

Now, my daughter is 13 months old, and the end of our breastfeeding journey is nearing. Although I am proud of myself, I wonder if I should keep going and continue breastfeeding her or not.

As the months went by at work, my milk supply has decreased dramatically and pumping has never worked well for me. She has taken to cow’s milk very well. My milk supply is decreasing continuously and I know it will dry up very soon. I wonder how my baby girl will survive without her pre-bedtime breastfeed! What if she becomes upset with me?

‘Mom guilt’ is real. But I am so grateful that I was able to breastfeed my daughter for a year and will always cherish those times – even the hard times. I just wish I had been kinder to myself and could be proud of what I did for my baby, instead of worrying about what more could I have done. My daughter is totally cherished and loved by me and her whole family. I hope I can continue to give her the love and care she deserves for the rest of my life.

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