Thanks for hopping over from My Thoughts on Things and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt – Day 6: The People Behind The Breastfeeder.
Successful breastfeeding is all about support. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again no doubt, but it’s the most true of all true things so I will keep on saying it. It’s not just about any old support though. It has to be the right support, doing the right things, giving the right advice, listening at the right moments.
Being mum to a new baby is probably one of the hardest and most lonely things you can go through as a woman. I never truly imagined it. I enjoyed the fuss made of me during pregnancy and imagined that having a new, squishy baby would be similar. I’m not sure if I could have been more disillusioned, I suspect not. I had been warned by oh so many people about the sleep deprivation, the guilt, the emotional fall-out – almost every negative aspect of parenting there is (not that I believed any of it, but fair play, I was warned) but not a single person told me how horribly, utterly, fucking lonely it was.
Suddenly the midwives don’t really want to know about you. The six/eight-week check is more for Baby’s benefit than yours (except for advice about birth control – hah! The baby is doing that quite effectively thank you) and even your partner and mum can’t help that much. Your mum totally gets it, of course, but she’s probably not that close by and she isn’t there in the cold, silent 3ams of the night.
Your husband or partner, whilst they’re around for quite a bit of it, especially that witching hour after they get home from work, don’t really understand how all-consuming it is to be somebody’s everything like that. To be their source of comfort, warmth, food, transport, entertainment: their life support in every way.
For me it was amplified by the fact that we lived in the middle of nowhere when we had The Boy. The C-section meant I couldn’t drive and even going for a walk was a solitary pursuit, with no friendly neighbours to bump into, no baby groups to walk to. As soon as I could conceivably do it I got myself out to groups in the nearby town and drank up the company like a wilted flower sucks up water. But nobody understood the all-consuming-ness of feeding a high needs baby unless they’d done it themselves, and, unlike in times gone by when we would have been surrounded by women we’d known all our lives who could share their experiences, modern life keeps us very much isolated.
If only a group had existed back then like the one I help to run now, but there was no such thing, so I was endlessly grateful when a burgeoning friendship began to flower with a mum who had fed her eldest daughter for several years and was then feeding her 18-month old. Now one of my bestest of best good friends, she was then just a random woman I had met upon whose mercy I flung myself, but she gave me support and understanding, reassured me about problems I was having, sympathised, offered chocolate biscuits and, most of all, she listened.
I don’t think I truly realised it until I came to writing this post, but it is probably thanks to her that I stuck it out, not just because of her support and advice, but because of the living, breathing example that she provided of a ‘normal’ breastfeeding relationship. It gave me something to strive for, a reassurance that feeding an older baby was nothing extraordinary.
Through her I met other mothers feeding babies and toddlers and, through them, was invited to join a training course to become a peer supporter. That training was one of the most special and bonding experiences I have been through. The women on it were completely open and honest with each other. Completely warm and supportive to each other and, as peer supporters, they had all fed a baby at some point, most of them still were and the majority of our training sessions were conducted with at least one lot of slurping noises and happy humming from a small child at all times.
Connected by emails, a facebook group, our admin meetings and socials, we’re nearly all still in touch and, despite being trained counsellors ourselves, turn to each other for help and support when we’re struggling. Much like The Virtual Tribe a friend of mine has written about, this kind of unstinting, knowledgeable support is absolutely invaluable. From weaning overly-dependent toddlers, to recurring mastitis, tongue-tie, subsequent babies, traumatic births and subjects utterly unrelated to breastfeeding I have offered and received the support and advice I needed from these women.
If you hope to breastfeed then I advise you to seek out your support, whether it be an online group like Mumsnet or Facebook, or a real life one, like La Leche League or Baby Cafe, find it now so that it’s there, ready and waiting for you when you need it. Husbands are all well and good, but when the chips are down (and the lazy bastard is snoring beside you at 3am) you need to talk to women who have walked your path…and can commiserate as you fantasise about how exactly to smother the useless lump who’s stealing the duvet.
For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over to Run Jump Scrap where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.