Sahra: Ahhh, the beauty of breastfeeding your baby. Giving him nature's perfect milk.
When I was pregnant with my first child, this is what I knew about breastfeeding:
Nora: It was fun. It was easy. I enjoyed it. I really did.
Sahra: If my mother could do it, surely I could too. Right? But still, I had a lot of questions. Like, where does the milk come from? Was there just a big hole that opens in your nipples from the day of the birth? Or was it more of, like, a baby-activated sprinkler system?
It turned out that I knew almost nothing about breastfeeding. Even now that I'm breastfeeding my second child, I'm still learning.
I've asked other mothers what they've learned from their breastfeeding experiences and together we came up with a few hard-fought lessons.
Claire: I was feeling all proud of myself for, you know, yay, I have a baby and now I can sleep… ha ha! And then they rushed me back up to the ward because Jack was hungry! And I'd forgotten that I'd have to be instantly be a mum. And I'd never done that before.
Marie: Getting her to latch on was incredibly hard. I just thought you just kind of held them there, and that was it, they were trucking …
Siobhan: It felt like a kind of production and like, this really dramatic, stressful like set-up, and needing to kind of position yourself.
Sarah: For some reason the milk came in in ridiculous amounts and I came home from the hospital with garbage bags full.
Rebecca: I had mastitis pretty much constantly for three months and I was on six courses of antibiotics.
Marie: I just hadn't thought about how much they would feed at nighttime.
Sahra: Were you nervous about breastfeeding in public?
Akiko: Yeah, definitely, because I didn't necessarily have the right bra then.
Siobhan: I have really delicate skin, which nobody talks about in “breastfeeding wonderland.”
Maddie: It was really sore.
Sahra: What was sore?
Maddie: Well, the actually physical feeding, him latching on.
Sahra: Did it really hurt?
Maddie: It really hurt.
Sahra: Like screaming pain? Or just like “ow” pain.
Maddie: No, toe-curling, crying pain.
Sahra: Along the way, I also discovered something else. Fortunately it's not all bad news.
Siobhan: The first six to eight weeks were really intense.
Sahra: And then what happened?
Siobhan: It just got better.
Maddie: It was really hard to begin with, but it did get better and I got lots of help.
Lisa: With both, after I think about a couple of weeks each, they both kind of fell into place and successfully managed to breastfeed.
Akiko: It is actually really convenient. You know, you don't have to carry all the stuff around with you. And then when I started working, but they were still needing the milk, I did the thing with the bottles and the formula and the water and the different caps and the powder, and it just seemed like a total faff. And actually, at the end of the day, it is really, really easy to just lift your top.
Sahra: Breastfeeding is a skill. Like a lot of the women I've spoken with, I've turned to books, experts, and the Internet to help me perfect my breastfeeding skills.
Linda McDonald, midwife: Babies are programmed to breastfeed. But every baby that comes out, they're not, you know, they've not read the books. They know, the majority of them know what to do, but there are going to be ones that have their problems.
Claire: I remember getting dropped off at breastfeeding school, and thinking, this is not going to work because I've tried everything. This is too painful. I'm just going to give up. She took us one at a time, and said, “Okay, your baby's mouth is this shape, your nipple is this shape, you're holding, the baby's pulling it down, and it's got cracked because of this. Now, I'm going to latch you on and I'm going to latch you on so baby's mouth is over the crack so it won't hurt. Do you trust me?” basically, like that. And, she did it! And I came out bouncing out and from that moment on everything was fine.
Sahra: Compared with pregnancy, I thought breastfeeding would be relatively simple. Turned out, breastfeeding is complex. I've learned about lactation consultants, forceful letdown, foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, and, unfortunately, mastitis, to name just a few issues. To my earlier question about where does the milk come from, it turns out that yes, it is a baby-activated sprinkler system … that occasionally leaks.
It took me a long time to get to the point where I can happily and easily breastfeed my baby. But now that I'm here, I'm pretty sure that breastfeeding is wonderful!
Maddie: I look back and I feel really proud actually of what I did and how I got through that pain barrier.
Marie: Looking down, and just seeing them there, so satisfied, and the fact that I was doing it … they were just, just amazing.
Claire: It felt like maybe not everybody could do this and I was so lucky to have the chance.
Sarah: I didn't have the births that I wanted, but I was able to breastfeed them and that was really a positive thing for me.
Siobhan: I learned to love it. Like, I think, it was so wonderful once it clicked. Really, I can't imagine a better experience.