It feels appropriate that it is Lammas time and my thoughts and struggles are currently focused around breastfeeding. Even more so that I am writing this whilst feeding my son AND during World Breastfeeding Week. Flow in action!
I have been exclusively breastfeeding my boy for his full 6.5 months of life and feel incredibly blessed to have the support, determination and faculties with which to do so. The journey has not been an easy one – yet I know compared to some it has been terribly simple. I stand by the belief that our success has been largely due to me surrendering control of the hows and and whys over to little one, right from the word go. At just moments old he was placed naked on my chest and by the time he was 30 mins old he had wriggled his way unaided to my waiting nipple and latched on. It was a perfect latch, a smooth first feed and beautiful to watch.
Since then I have had the immense pleasure of watching my son thrive and nourish himself from my body. I am still overcome on a regular basis by the awesome simplicity of the act. I am also regularly frustrated, devastated and (yep, I’ll say it) enraged by the process and all it entails.
Breastfeeding is – in its own way- an act of sacrifice. I don’t say this to be a martyr, simply as fact. In order to breastfeed exclusively and successfully you have to be willing to give of yourself in a multitude of ways.
Your time: as you feed on demand, at all hours.
Your modesty: as you offer up a private part of your body whenever and wherever it is needed.
Your sleep: which reduces as quickly as breastmilk digests.
Your physical space: as you find ways to hold him close for that perfect latch.
Your mobility and time: each one disappearing as you are pinned to the bed/sofa for the next mammoth clusterfeed.
Your social life: which must be snatched in the spaces between his hunger and must always leave you in easy reach in case he fancies a snack.
And of course you give of your body, your fluids, your vitamins and calories.
You give everything to watch that tiny body thrive.
And sometimes it feels like its killing you. Sometimes you feel your own Self has been devoured along with that last ounce, leaving nothing but a milk-machine in its place. Sometimes you feel physically drained, body weak, breasts soft and empty, mind exhausted to the point at which you feel you might have somehow ceased to exist without realising it.
Yes, it is a sacrifice.
And yes there are ways to mitigate all this, to make it ‘easier’ they say (pumping, bottle feeding, supplementing). But I would argue that each of these come with costs of their own so why trade one set of struggles for another.
In fact I’m proud of my struggles, my sacrifice, not because they make me somehow better but because through living them I am enacting nature’s intentions as closely as I can. And at Lammas time I can take heart in the reminder that the sacrifice of body and energy is what allows for rebirth and growth in to follow. In feeding my son I feel more connected not just to him but to the Wheel itself.
Not a bad reason to stick at it, I’d say.