A version of this article was originally published as a Guest Article on Kaboutjie on 26 February 2017.
I didn’t take the decision to breastfeed lightly. I researched for months and read some brilliant books on the subject and found reason upon to reason to breastfeed. I subscribed to ALL of them. Here’s just a small sampling:
Benefits of Breastfeeding for a Baby
- What WHO & UNICEF recommends – breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond
- Perfect nutrition in the most digestible form
- Breast milk that changes composition according to their needs
- Potentially higher IQ & academic performance ( Brazil Study, New Zealand Study, Australian Study)
- Antibodies to assist their immune system to prevent and fight off disease
- A baby’s best chance to avoid hospitalisation in their first few years of life
- A natural antibiotic
- Natural pain relief
- A natural tranquillizer
- Quick reaction time when he woke for feeds allowing for peaceful night’s sleep
- Strong healthy jaws and teeth (Malocclusion Study)
- The Love Hormone (oxytocin) on tap at each feed, serving to strengthen our bond
- Emotional security of our closeness (co-sleeping and breastfeeding)
Aah, the bonding, the closeness… it’s been special. Really special.
It’s been a time to get to know my little boy’s heart. A time to gaze at his sweet face with that overwhelming sense of peace and love for all humankind. A time to hold him close while we snuggle up in mutual adoration.
We’ve been through the wondrous phase where he would pull away from a feed to look into my eyes to say, “I love you Mommy”. We’ve been through the phase where he would bring his cars or motorbikes with him to each feed, one for him and one for me so we could play. We’re still in the stage where I read him to sleep while he’s happily nursing. We’re still in the phase where he reaches for my hair as soon as he starts to nurse and plays with it, twirling it around his cute little fingers… aah, bless.
Which could explain why we’ve been nursing for over 3 years.
I believe in the power of extended breastfeeding. I read somewhere that if you allow your child to wean in their own time it becomes another milestone for them that they are proud to achieve. And I like that idea, so I’m going with it.
Also because I can. I’ve been very fortunate. Thanks to my awesome hubby, I have not had to go back to work after a few months maternity leave. I haven’t had to go back to my real job at all. Lucky me! Lucky us!
I’m not saying it was all plain sailing because it wasn’t.
I’ve had my share of ouch moments and dead boring moments and moments when I was desperate to nip out for a bathroom break or grab a bite to eat and he just wouldn’t let go. In the beginning, my nipples felt so raw and sensitive that even the touch of the softest fabric brushing over them felt like sandpaper. There were days and nights that he seemed to nurse non-stop and it felt like it would go on forever and I would always feel that exhausted.
But these are not regrets. They are just bumps along the road to the many beautiful, precious moments we have shared as a nursing duo.
My one regret as a nursing Mom is this: not donating any breast milk.
But, because I never intended to go back to work, I never bought a pump and I never learned to express milk.
My son was a voracious feeder at the beginning. I fed him on demand, which meant I was always producing more and more milk. Breast milk works on supply and demand, or would you call it demand and supply? Because the more of baby’s breast milk demands you fulfil, the more you are able to supply.
My son nursed often (every 60-90 minutes) and long (45-60 minutes per feed) so I was producing oodles of milk in the first year. Or was it two? For the first 6 months at least it was almost gushing out. I can prove it. I went through a huge box of disposable breast pads and then went on to buy cotton re-washable pads because I knew I’d need them for a good while longer, and I did.
But that’s not the proof I would have liked to have offered. Now, looking back (hindsight is 20-20 vision), I wish I had made a concerted effort to learn how to pump so I could prove my breast milk worthiness by capturing pictures of packets of milk piled up ready to go to a Milk Bank. Or, wouldn’t it be lovely to sport one of those gorgeous certificates the Milk Banks send Moms once they tally up how much they’ve donated in total?
Mostly I regret not producing any real proof: a premature baby’s life may have been saved by my breast milk. I could have given a baby life. Sustenance. Protection. Nourishment.
Oh, I did. My baby. And I am deeply grateful I was in a position to do that. I am thankful to have given my baby the freshest, creamiest, most delicious life-giving milk he will ever receive.
I am happy to have been his Human Pacifier.
This post is dedicated to those inspiring, generous, loving Moms who express, donate, give or share their precious breast milk.
Don’t miss our interview with Breast Milk Donor, Ashley Clifford.
If you have given or received breast milk, I’d love to hear your story. Please leave a comment below or join the discussion at Kaboutjie.