Breastfeeding is not easy but I believe it is for everyone who wants to do it. What made the whole journey easier and even enjoyable for me was mainly my focus on listening to my daughter and my body.
A few weeks ago, a lactation consultant came up to me while I was breastfeeding my daughter at a park. She asked if I had breastfeeding issues and told me that August was breastfeeding month.
I didn’t realise how much breastfeeding is celebrated and how some cultures consider it as a luxury because of the effort and sacrifice a mother needs to make to be able to continuously breastfeed her child.
It’s been 6 months since I started breastfeeding and everyday, I only get more motivated to breastfeed her for at least 2 years. This motivation barely falters even when my daughter accidentally bites my nipples, when our apartment is filled with my fallen hair, when some people even mothers look at me like I’m crazy to say that I will try to breastfeed her for at least 2 years, when I have to avoid drinking the wine and whisky I love, when I have to spend my lunch time pumping milk at the office, or when my husband accidentally throws (instead of using for her bath) the remaining of the defrosted milk we prepared for her because she would always prefer to feed directly from the breasts when I get back from work.
Carrying and delivering a child in this world made me understand the strength of my mind and body but it is breastfeeding that shows me my capacity to sustain and protect life. Breastfeeding made it clear to me why we say “Mother Nature”. From the moment my daughter came out of my belly, she directly fed and looked into my eyes. Somehow, I understood that breastfeeding was going to be our special moment. It isn’t always easy but seeing how my daughter would look forward to this moment when I get back from work, seeing how much she has developed, believing how this is protecting and keeping her healthy, and looking at her eyes that are looking into mine as if to focus on receiving all the love I am giving her through my milk, I am more empowered than I have been and will ever be about my body.
For everyone who is struggling with breastfeeding, planning to breastfeed, or simply curious about breastfeeding, here are my tips on how to make breastfeeding and pumping easier and more enjoyable.
- Bake yummy lactation treats. Because I am flat chested, I thought and worried that I may not be able to produce enough milk for my baby so I started making and consuming lactation cookies before giving birth. Since I gave birth at the beginning of the pandemic, I stocked up on the 3 key ingredients for lactation goods: flaxseeds, oatmeal, and brewer’s yeast. I really believed they work. Now, even if I don’t feel the need for them, since I have a lot of ingredients stocked, I make cookies and cakes with those ingredients and make sure I enjoy eating them whether for lactation or not. My husband and his family like eating them. I also find baking and the smell of freshly baked cookies and cake very relaxing, and low stress level is key to producing milk.
- Wear a nice nursing scarf for nursing in public. Yes, it helps. Knowing I have a nice, practical scarf that is comfortable for my baby makes the experience less awkward and more pleasurable–It’s like wearing a nice business suit for an important presentation.
- Wear good quality nursing bras. At first, i thought they were useless because I mostly stayed at home. But when you start going out with the baby and start pumping outside your home, you easily realise how getting good quality nursing bras are so worth it. They are not only very comfortable, there are some models that help you with hands-free pumping. I usually eat my lunch while I pump so it is very practical.
- Read and reread content on the benefits of breastfeeding both for moms and babies. This provides you the scientific part of why you want to persevere with breastfeeding.
- Focus on and get eye contact with your baby when nursing and pumping. While nursing, my baby – and I guess most babies – look at their mothers. I stare back at her and I can easily get lost in her eyes. It is simply a wonderful bonding moment. Also, I remember during my first few weeks of breastfeeding when my right nipple was very sore and everytime she drank from it, I would cringe. She would look at me before latching as if to check if I were okay. A few months later, even without teeth, she accidentally bites me and I just tell her that she’s hurting me and I feel she understands because she hasn’t bit me after 2 or 3 times. Outside breastfeeding, I feel like I’ve established a very good connection with her even without speaking. It’s simply amazing and I credit most of it from breastfeeding.
- Have an empowering lactation #tribe. One of my good friends who has been breastfeeding and pumping for more than a year motivated me to breastfeed. She gave me a lot of advice and so did some new moms who were very kind to offer me advice when I needed. My mother breastfed 4 of us for around 2 years each. All of us that she breastfed are in good health and I am very thankful my mother gave me the most nutritious meals of my life for as long as she could. I was also very lucky that the midwife who paid us visits at home after giving birth was also a lactation consultant. She was very impressed how I already had the haakaa that my friend recommended. She also motivated me to pump early but not too much. She gave me all the tips I needed from curing nipple sores with breastmilk, relieving breast engorgement with chilled cabbage, having the best nursing position, storing breastmilk, using undrinkable stored breastmilk for baby’s bath or putting on her face for smooth skin, all the way to making my own hands free pumping bra (which is probably the only advice I didnt follow out of laziness). Of course, like many moms of this generation who let their baby sleep on them during the day on their maternity leave and hence, cannot do much except check their phones, I follow some motherhood and breastfeeding accounts on instagram where I can find funny mêmes or read some information on other people’s experiences. It simply makes me feel less alone especially being confined and far from my family and best friends.
- Most importantly, listen to your body and your baby. It is all that matters. Advice, whether or not sollicited, from anyone, should always be taken with care. I remember the first few weeks, I felt like a machine and felt like I had postpartum depression. I was very lucky to have my family around to help me as well as my husband waking up at night with me, but I found myself the calmest when it was just me and my baby at the hospital. We did have very helpful midwives when I called them but most of the time, it was just me and her. It was very easy to focus. Also, my baby used to have issues defecating. We went to the osteopathe who told me to space out her feeding to 3 to 4 hours instead of whenever she wants. She became grumpy and didn’t gain weight as much as she did before. My pediatrician advised me to feed her whenever she asked and she directly gained weight normally. Regarding listening to my body, I simply decide when I need to use the electric pump more, to use the haakaa more or less, depending on how I feel. After a few months, I have developed this relationship with my body that whenever I feel like I need to produce more (by power pumping), it just does. As long as I respect and take care of it, which is as simple as drinking a lot of water and eating nutritious food, I feel confident that I will be able to continue my breastfeeding journey with my baby for as long as my baby and I wish.
Jamaica is the full time mom of 6-month-old Océane and a full time finance officer for a Swiss asset manager. She is looking forward to doing BLW (baby-led weaning) with Océane in the coming months and aims to document them in her motherhood Instagram account @raisingoceane.