It’s a known fact. Women who are brought up around breastfeeding and see it happening around them, are much more likely to succeed in breastfeeding their own babies. As a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, I often ask pregnant mums-to-be, ‘Were you breastfed? or ‘Have you seen a baby breastfed before?’ (too often the answer is ‘no’) and find that the daughters of breastfeeding mums have more of an inbuilt knowledge of the mechanics of the learned art of breastfeeding.
Today, I was counselling the mum of a 6-month-old whose baby decided to chomp down on her nipple with a brand new pair of bottom incisors. Ouch! As many of us would, this mum let out a yelp, which her darling daughter found extremely hilarious, and grinned impishly up at her.
In my role as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor, I was talking to a group of new mothers this week and was inundated with questions about timing feeds. One mum said she’d heard that she should wait at least three hours between feeds and that she should put her son on the breast for exactly 15 minutes per side. Firstly, babies don’t know what a clock is. But for us mums, well, depending on what we did before we became parents, clocks kind of ruled our life, so I get that it’s hard to let go of that.
Your newborn feeds up to 20 times a day? The only sleep you’re getting is in one-hour increments overnight? Your baby fusses and cries in the evenings even after she’s been on and off the boob for hours? The only way your baby will fall asleep is on the breast or in your arms? Normal, normal, normal and yep, normal.
I was so rapt to read Miranda Kerr’s thoughts on encouraging women not to give up breastfeeding because of the ‘stigma’ of feeding in public. Her observation that ‘there are more breasts being shown on a daily basis around the world in low-cut dresses than there are from breastfeeding’ is spot-on. Breasts aresexualised in our society, which is why many non-breastfeeders can’t separate their feelings about seeing boobs on display for the reason they were made, to feed babies.
Often breastfeeding mums (myself included) are asked Doesn’t breastfeeding tire you out? Well, yes, mothering a newborn is exhausting, but the actual act of breastfeeding can be quite restful depending on how you approach it.
This post isn’t about people who turn their nose up at a mum breastfeeding her baby in a café, or staunch bottle-feeders with a hang-up against breastfeeding. This week, I wanted to explore some of the reasons why mothers persevere through breastfeeding, even when it brings up negative feelings for them. I find this fascinating. Where do those feelings come from and why do they happen?
Since the dawn of time, babies have breastfed in bed with their mamas. Sleep researchers have discovered that breastfeeding women lie in a protective C-shape around their babies, their knees up and their arm around them. There isn’t really an exception to this position. It’s the way mothers are biologically programmed. We mummy lionesses automatically feed and protect our cubs — and our sleep at the same time. Mums I speak to tell me when their babies lie close to them, they sleep longer, more soundly, and feed times aren’t as exhausting when there’s no need to get up.