My mother loved breastfeeding. I remember she would talk about how she, “hated being pregnant, loved giving birth and loved breastfeeding”. I used to think she was insane. How could she love giving birth and breastfeeding? Now that I have three kids myself, I can say that I feel exactly the same. I was born in 1980 when only 50% of women even initiated breastfeeding! My mom had me at the time when pretty much everyone was formula feeding. She told me that she did not know of one person who was breastfeeding! Here we are now in 2014 where many more women initiate breastfeeding (over 90% here in Australia where I am living now) and we have page after page of breastfeeding information we can look up on the web. It’s such a different world…
Since I have become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) I have been really interested in finding out more from her about why she actually chose to breastfed me. She was not breastfed herself. Being born in 1950 meant that her mother was drugged and completely unaware of even giving birth. After my mother was born she was promptly taken from my grandmother and put in a little cot with a bottle of formula.
I asked her recently to write up a few things about what it was like breastfeeding at a time where even less women breastfed than today and there was no internet, no Google to search things up, no information except the odd parenting book or La Leche League meeting. She just went with what she felt was right for her and for me. I asked why she chose to breastfeed me and I was expecting a really lovely, philosophical, attachment pareting type answer…she was so passionate about breastfeeding, surely she had something magical to say about this. But no, it was actually because of this…
“At that time bottles still needed to be sterilized, either in the dishwasher, which I did not have at that time, or a special bottle sterilizer, and I did not want to do that either. The bottle ‘thing’ really scared me and I worried I would harm my baby if I did not do the bottle thing perfectly so I chose to breastfeed.” Yup, you read that right folks. I can thank my lucky stars for being breastfed to the age of two all because someone decided not to add a dishwasher while building the house my mom was living in at the time!!! What can I say, she is a practical woman who did not want to have to worry about the bottles being sterilized properly! 😀
Honestly I think we can have INFORMATION OVERLOAD now too. My mother knew pretty much nothing about breastfeeding…
“It just seemed the best choice for me and it was easy as pie and most of all, I needed no special equipment. I loved nursing immediately and my daughter was an excellent nurser, although I really did not appreciate this at the time. I was lucky and very relaxed about the whole thing. I believe this was also because I was so naïve about it. I really did not know about any of the common difficulties ie: mastitis, latching problems, failure to thrive, etc. All I knew was it was easy and my daughter was growing!”
I always go on about how important education is and that women have all of the evidence based research to be able to make informed decisions…well my mother is an example of the EXACT OPPOSITE working! She knew nothing, she read hardly anything, she took a short little class on breastfeeding (which told her to only breastfeed for a few minutes on each side and change me in between feeding on each boob, every feed). She got no information from her mother or friends…she just latched me on and never looked back. I had a relaxed mother who just knew she had to latch me on, maybe that is partly why I was such a good little breastfeeder? I know, I know, if only it were that simple!
When I asked her about breastfeeding in public she said to me she never worried about it, I don’t think she actually even ever though about it! She didn’t think of it as a “thing” back then like we do today. The whole “breastfeeding IN PUBLIC” hoo haa did not happen like it does today. “I had no problems nursing in public. I always believed that this is how I feed my baby and if someone had a problem then they could walk away! I would refer to my baby books if I had a question or concern (so she did read a book here or there!) or knew I could call La Leche League, but luckily it all went quite smoothly.”
The best thing she had to say (besides the dishwasher reference) was when she spoke about returning to work when I was just 9 months old. Now, today if a breastfeeding woman is returning to work full time she has purchased an electric double breast pump, has a variety of bottles and nipples to try, has a schedule worked out of pumping breaks and is worried sick about keeping up her supply and not knowing how much her baby will need during the day of expressed milk!! My mother did not even consider this whole concept of pumping…
“When Meg was 9 months old I had to go back to my full time job. I found a wonderful woman to watch Meg in her home. My husband would drop her off with a sippy cup, which I had been offering her and she was drinking from with me holding it (juice or water). She was also eating solids at that point. Pumping was not even something I considered. I did not want her to ever have a bottle because then I would have to wean her off of it. Also I never offered a pacifier either but luckily at 3 months she began to suck her thumb but I did not see this as a problem.” So there you have it! Nine months old and straight to juice when I was being looked after by someone else (remember it was 1980 people! And the “juice” was probably 90% sugar!) or water in a cup. She never pumped…ever! She said, “After going back to work I would nurse her in the morning, after work and then before bed.” Apple juice by day, boob by night. She never had issues with supply upon returning to work as she continued to breastfeed me on demand when we were together before and after work and on the weekends.
This is what I loved the most about talking to my mother about all of this…the term, “it just never occurred to me” was spoke frequently from her and I could not help but really admire her naivety about so many things and just instead going with her gut and what worked for us. There was no “Dr. Google”!! This term is never spoken anymore because the first thing we do is run to Google and type in a question or see what others think!
This is what she had to say when I asked her why she had never co-slept with me (I was put in my cot down the hall in another room). “First, it never occurred to me (see!! there it is again!) I would have had to transition her out of my bed and back into their own at some point. She had a cozy room and although their father supported me in breastfeeding, having them in bed was not something he would have agreed to. When I did have to nurse at night I would go into her room and sit in a rocking chair. I really loved that! In fact when Meg wanted to co-sleep with her first child I thought she was crazy!!” Yes it’s true, she thinks I’m cray cray! The funny thing is though, I think she was crazy how she went about night nursing me! She would wake up a few times a night, walk down the hallway to my room, breastfeed in the chair, put me back and then head back to her bed. The woman was amazing. I would not have put up with that for even one night! The key here though is that I was happy to sleep in my cot and only wake for a feed a few times. She was doing something that worked for both of us.
One of the last things she mentioned (almost as an after thought) was how she did not leave the house with me for SIX WEEKS after I was born!!! Did not step outside the house!! ” One old wive’s tale was that you were not supposed to take your baby out of the house for 6 weeks and my mother was adamant about this so I did not go anywhere. I believe this really helped me settle in with nursing and the whole bonding process. People would come visit but we did not leave the house and when I think about that I don’t know how I did it but again I wanted a great start to my baby’s life and my mother had me convinced there were germs out there that I needed to keep her away from!!” Although my first thought was, “my poor mother”!!! The more I thought about it, the more I think its a BRILLIANT idea. Not because of germs (my grandmother had a real thing about germs!) but because so often women have difficulties breastfeeding in those early days. There is not enough “lying in” and just hanging out with their babies. Taking the time to just “be” with their babies. Don’t leave the house, don’t clean or cook unless absolutely necessary, ask for help and just lie around.
My mom is my biggest supporter! My mother has supported me while I breastfed to natural term (as she did with me), she supports me co-sleeping and bed-sharing even though she thinks I’m crazy, she is a true breastfeeding advocate and supporter. She was actually the person who encouraged me and frequently mentioned (while gently pushing me…) to become an IBCLC! Mom you are the best. And thank you for boobin’ me to the age of two. I feel like such a lucky little former breastfeeder. 😀