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Posts Tagged ‘breastfeeding’

On Monday, my little girl walked into her new classroom without so much as a backward glance. And why not? In front of her was a new world of little people to meet, books to read, pictures to paint. Behind, a mother feeling a little sad, a little envious and a lot of hope.

We all parent in our own ways. When I was pregnant with Little Pearl, it was the attachment parenting literature that resonated the most with me. So when she arrived, she spent most of her daytime hours in a sling and her night time hours in a three sided cot by our bed. If she cried, she was comforted, and she continued breastfeeding well past the one year mark.

Well meaning people (at least, I hope they were well-meaning) assured me that my daughter would grow to be clingy and insecure using such methods; that she would be unable to manage her own emotions, or learn to fall asleep on her own. She would be a late walker from all that time spent in the sling, and she would be having a ‘breastfeed at the school gate’. And yes, under the age of six months, all those things were probably true.

But she’s more or less slept through the night from six months onwards, and she puts herself in ‘time out’ when her emotions get the better of her. She walked on time. She goes to sleep herself, after a little play with her dolls. And if she still has the occasional breastfeed, it’s never been at the school gate.

I write this not to suggest that attachment parenting is for every parent, or that it is the only way to parent, and certainly not to ascribe the miracle that is my daughter to a set of techniques. I write it to dispel the myth that a child raised using attachment parenting philosophies will be insecure and clingy, with a mama complex.

This week, my daughter took her first steps in to a world without a family member. She did it confidently and with great anticipation, without any thought of fear or anxiety. The only fear and anxiety was mine, that we had hit another milestone on the great journey of ‘letting go’ that is parenting. Now she will make friends without my encouraging smile, fall without my ready hand to steady her, and learn new words and skills without my teaching.

Just how it should be.

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This is my third attempt at composing a post about breastfeeding. For me, it’s been a really important part of becoming a mum; but it’s such a sensitive subject that I want to take a lot of care in telling my story.

When I first fell pregnant, I wasn’t sure about breastfeeding. (I also wasn’t sure about the whole natural birthing thing either, but that’s another story). I had a couple of friends whose breastfeeding stories were the stuff of nightmares: low milk supply, giant abscesses, and a situation where the mum’s relationship with the baby was beginning to suffer. So breastfeeding sounded painful and difficult, and I thought maybe it might be a bit too hard.

Nonetheless, I began to educate myself about why I might breastfeed. I read research reports and literature, my husband and I attended a breastfeeding education class run by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, numerous antenatal classes and we also went to a Calmbirth workshop (also known as hypnobirthing in other countries). By the time Little Pearl was  induced, we agreed that I would try to breastfeed her unless I was physically unable, or if breastfeeding was interfering with how I felt about our daughter. One of the main driving factors behind this was that I had Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and breastfeeding would reduce the risk of both Little Pearl and I developed Type II Diabetes in the future.

I won’t go in to the breastfeeding experience in detail. Suffice to say Little Pearl was born with a tongue tie (which made it difficult for her to attach to the breast properly) and twelve weeks passed before we had a breastfeed where I didn’t experience any pain. But every time I thought about giving up, I wondered if I were passing a health sentence on my daughter to become diabetic in her adult life. I know now there are few forces more powerful than the one of maternal guilt – and it makes my heart ache for mums who couldn’t establish breastfeeding and feel guilty as a result. As mums, we are so much harder on ourselves than we need, and it’s so difficult to stop being hard on ourselves.

I’ve never breastfed in public – I just can’t bring myself to do it. Boobs are private! Instead, I make sure Little Pearl and I are somewhere private when a feed is due. I feel a little bit bad about this, because where I live (in Australia) it’s not unusual for a woman breastfeeding in public to be asked to move somewhere private, even though Australian law gives every woman the right to breastfeed in public. I feel like I should support a woman’s rights to feed in public by exercising that right… but I’m too shy.

It did surprise me when a friend said that she couldn’t decide whether she was going to breast feed or bottle feed her baby. As our discussion continued, it became clear that she didn’t know there were some benefits to breast milk, such as the transfer of immunity from mother to child in the early weeks. I feel awkward having these conversations because of a perception that some women have built as the ‘breastfeeding mafia’; but on the other hand I want to make sure that my friend is making an informed choice.

At nine months old, Little Pearl is still breastfeeding. She has been exploring other foods since five and a half months, and we occasionally supplement with formula as I have difficulty expressing enough milk for a full feed. I’m glad I was able to breastfeed and I strongly support initiatives that educate women about the benefits of breastfeeding and support women – in a positive way – to establish breastfeeding.

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