This guest post was written about birth and breastfeeding by Laura Kidd:
I had always hoped that being a mother would be part of my future. I considered it to be the most important role I could fulfill and I still believe this to be true. I have always been very interested in child development and studied elements of child psychology and the attachment theory as part of my teaching degree. When I was pregnant, I read a lot about different parenting styles and attachment parenting really suited my husband and my ideals and values. We both understood that parenting was going to be the most challenging journey we would ever face and wanted to make sure we were armed with as much information as possible so we could then tailor that knowledge to suit our family and our child. I knew I wanted to breastfeed from the start, I also wanted to co-sleep and babywear. Oh, and I wanted a natural labor.
After having a very difficult and painful pregnancy, which led to a scheduled induction, I remembered reading that induced labors can lead to more intervention that could increase the chance of having an assisted birth. I remained as positive as I could, however thirty three hours after the first contraction I was wheeled into the operating theatre defeated and my beautiful daughter was delivered via an emergency caesarean section. During the whole thing, my husband sat with his face inches from mine telling me our daughter was beautiful and that it would all be fine as he watched three litres of my blood pour onto the hospital floor and our motionless blue baby girl on the resuscitator – doctors busily worked on the two most important people in his life behind the curtain across my middle, and thankfully I didn’t have a clue what was happening. Finally, she cried (and we cried) and a bundled up 10lb 1oz ‘S’ was placed heavily on my chest. I looked at my new baby and knew I should feel something wonderful and electric but instead I felt completely numb, I felt nothing at all for her. I worried I would never bond with her – it was a complete anti-climax. Before she was even born ‘S’ had been subjected to my morphine shots, gas and air and an epidural. I had been told that C-section babies struggle to develop a good breastfeeding relationship so I prepared myself for a difficult first few hours. When we were eventually left alone in the recovery room, I stripped her down and laid her naked on my bare chest. I was completely exhausted and worried that ‘S’ would be too sleepy to feed. To my surprise, I watched in total awe as she found her own way and latched on perfectly. As she fed, I fell hopelessly and completely in love with her. I was so filled up with pride and warmth at this amazing, beautiful creature who knew exactly what to do. Every time I have fed her since that first feed, I have felt that overwhelming rush of love, gratitude and wonder.
I am so thankful that breastfeeding has worked out for us. I was prepared for it to hurt, I was ready for a struggle, but ‘S’ makes it look so simple. Apart from two bouts of mastitis early on, the only challenge was that she fed constantly. For her first 5 months, she fed up to 20 times a day – long feeds. I wondered if I should encourage her to keep to a feeding schedule like I was advised by midwives and the health visitor, I coaxed her to space her feeds out a bit (just so I could have the luxury of a shower every few days) but she was born on the 98th percentile and remains there to this day – she needed a lot of calories to sustain all that wonderful cherub like chubbiness.
Twenty one months on and I am still enjoying breastfeeding ‘S’. She feeds in the morning and in the evening and very rarely after I come home from work or if she is feeling poorly. It has been a great way to maintain a bond after I returned to work. A few people have made observations about our parenting choices. We were told that wearing our baby in a sling would make her clingy and delay her walking development, ‘extended’ breastfeed would make her too attached to me so she would be shy around others and I was selfishly stopping her from bonding with her daddy. We were told that feeding her at night and co-sleeping and picking her up every time she cried would make her think she could manipulate us and would discourage her from sleeping through the night… I could go on. I am proud to say that all of those judgments have been disproved. ‘S’ sleeps 12 hours through the night, although I personally don’t believe this has anything to do with where she sleeps, some babies just do sleep through and some don’t. She was walking before her first birthday and is a confident and secure little girl who loves nothing more than to explore her world and interact with other children and adults. I honestly don’t believe a baby can manipulate and I’ve never felt in any way controlled by my daughter. Anytime she has woken in the night or asked for an out of the blue additional feed, I presume she needs it for comfort or to maintain a growth spurt or new cognitive development or perhaps she woke up startled by a noise or a bad dream and wanted to be close to mumma. I obviously get days when I am ill or exhausted or busy or all ‘touched out’ and I just want to sleep or be by myself, but ultimately I’m so happy to provide what she needs – it won’t be long before I look back at these days with misty eyes wondering how time flew by so fast.
Additionally, thanks to her daddy’s constant hands-on approach to fatherhood (especially him wearing her every day from day one), ‘S’ is just as bonded to him as she is to me. Any tiny elements of doubt that I had when I started to let other peoples’ questions seep into my consciousness have been dispelled and replaced with utter pride and contentment as I enjoy watching my daughter grow and develop. I feel honored that this strong, sociable, loving and compassionate human being is in my life. She is an absolute joy to be around – watching the world through her eyes is so exciting.
I believe breastfeeding is something all mothers should try, without it I am certain I would have really struggled to bond with my baby and potentially could have been more susceptible to something like postpartum depression. I have a deep respect for all mothers who try to breastfeed (including adoptive breastfeeding, which is such a unique and special gift for the developing bond between mother and child). However, I also believe it is important to do what is truly right for mother and baby. Sometimes that means moving on from breastfeeding earlier than hoped, which I know can be an agonizing decision. My dreams of a natural labor did not materialize and therefore I can begin to understand the frustration and disappointment of some mothers if their breastfeeding journey is not a positive experience. I do think it’s a shame when I hear women say they would never try breastfeeding or when people criticize breastfeeding before knowing all the facts or if they have no personal experience. However, it’s always confused me how quick some mothers are to judge other mothers. I am very reluctant to tackle an opposing view for the simple reason that you never know what events have led to that view being held. The facts remain – evidence states that breastmilk is absolutely the most nutritious thing you can feed your baby and that breastfeeding is beneficial on so many levels for mother and child. Sadly, in western society something so natural and instinctual has been warped and distorted and this can influence new mothers’ choices considerably. I plan on letting ‘S’ self-wean as not only does research show this is the most natural and beneficial thing to do but also my instincts tell me this is right for my family.