It’s National Breastfeeding Week, and we’ll be celebrating 11 months of breastfeeding with our daughter shortly. I’ve written before about how I struggled with breastfeeding initially, and have subsequently had mastitis several more times. However, overall, I am really pleased and proud to have stuck with it.
I’m aware of how lucky I am to have breastfed for 11 months, with this not being an option for everyone. Things that have helped me with breastfeeding include access to an NCT breastfeeding counsellor; the NCT breastfeeding helpline; a year off for maternity leave, and an incredibly supportive husband. I lay much of the credit for our breastfeeding success at his feet: chief-snack-bringer, cup of-tea-maker, contact-nap-facilitator, cheerleader, mastitis-looker-after. It’s been me feeding our daughter, but has been a very definite team effort.
Looking back over the last 11 months, here are 10 reasons I love breastfeeding.
1. New respect for my body
I found new respect for my body from breastfeeding. One of the most affirming moments of my life was taking my daughter to her 6 month weighing appointment. She had been exclusively breastfed for six months, and her weight was perfect on the graph. I looked at her chubby legs and chins, and my heart swelled with pride, fit to burst.
2. COVID-19 antibodies
I began breastfeeding our daughter in July 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic was still at at its height. I had the vaccinations for COVID-19 after giving birth. Babies in the UK could not be vaccinated against COVID-19, but breastfeeding may offer antibodies against COVID-19. This was nerve-wracking at the time, but looking back on it, I am pleased.
3. Breastmilk cost and availability
My experience of breastfeeding has been that breastfeeding is largely cost-free. The only product I have bought was two pots of nipple cream (I used Naturally Wicked). The US formula shortage also happened whilst I was breastfeeding. This made me reflect on how heavily society relies on such products, and how easily access can become a challenge. In addition to this, the current cost of living increase in the UK has made me grateful that we do not have factor formula costs into our weekly or monthly shopping.
4. No washing up, sterilising, or preparation time
Many, many times, during 2am and 3am and 5am wake ups, I have thanked my body for the instant nature of breastfeeding. No setting up, washing, or sterilising, and I can feed anywhere, at any hour, with no notice.
5. Feeding our baby human milk
I’m a vegan. It makes limited sense to me to feed my daughter another animal’s milk as a primary food source, particularly if I don’t have to. However, babies drinking and needing cow’s milk is so socially ingrained that this is an awkward conversation.
Breastfeeding saved us a lot of awkward conversations with friends and family members, by bypassing this discussion entirely.
6. Feeling part of a countercultural movement
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organisation until 6 months of age. However, only 1% of UK mothers breastfeed for this long, for a range of reasons. Breastfeeding can be difficult and physical. Because it is not the norm, it feels countercultural, and like being part of a countercultural movement. I have enjoyed feeling a part of this.
7. Bonding, attachment, and being my daughter’s safe space
I’ve written before about how I struggled to bond and think concretely abut my daughter when I was pregnant. I therefore found breastfeeding a great opportunity to build attachment when she was born. I was overwhelmed at the strength of the feelings I had.
8. A good reason to take time and eat / focus on my own nutrition
Taking time to look after my own physical health can be low down on my list of priorities. Knowing that my daughter relies on my body to nourish her body, has often meant that I take the time to eat and prepare myself good and nutritious foods, when I might have prioritised other things.
9. Comfort for my daughter
My daughter is reaching an age where she is walking and standing, and she falls over and hurts herself – a lot. Breastfeeding allows me to comfort and support her when this happens, and supports her to regulate her own breathing. This helps her to calm down.
10. Good use of my maternity leave time
I was lucky enough to take a year off for my maternity leave. Breastfeeding has felt like a great use of a good proportion of this time.
Did you breastfeed? What did you like / dislike about it?