This week it’s World Breastfeeding Week. To be honest I had never heard of World Breastfeeding Week until recently as photos and events have been appearing in my social media feed. The week is organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA – not to be confused with WADA, haha!!) which aims to encourage and support breastfeeding. Each year they have a different theme and this year it has been based on educating the public on how breastfeeding is important to achieving global goals on sustainable development. You can find out more about it here.
I strongly believe that women should be educated on the pros and cons of ALL feeding options and supported through whatever situation they find themselves in or whichever choice they make. Women are the experts on their own lives and circumstances and should be empowered to make decisions on what is best for them. As mentioned, I recently weaned Roo from the breast and I have no intention on giving an explanation here, because quite frankly, my personal decision and circumstances don’t need to be justified to others.
I loved breastfeeding. Before I had Roo I watched videos, attended sessions with a lactation consultant, and even practiced feeding positions with a fake teddy at our antenatal classes. Roo fed well from birth but in hospital I found it frustrating when midwives would try and take control or tell me what to do, discounting the confidence I felt in my own abilities and knowledge. I found it very dispowering to be told I should wait to have a nurse with me before I fed Roo to ensure they could give me direction (which I sometimes didn’t feel was useful). I started feeding on my own and then buzzing the nurse to say Roo was feeding so I didn’t have to deal with them (something a friend informed me she had done also). On occasion I had them request that I stop feeding and reattach so they could check I was doing it correctly even though I knew I was. I was also given so many different directions to what I had previously learnt that I went from being comfortable and confident to being confused and anxious.
After being worried that things were not going as planned I booked in to see the lactation consultant who was able to encourage and support us with what we had been doing all along, as well as assist me to practice different positions (with a real baby and not a teddy this time!!).
The great thing about breastfeeding was that I could feed anywhere without having to pack bottles, formula (Ca-ching $$), and work out how much I needed for the length of time we were out. The down side was I really needed to grieve my new loss of liberty. Unless you have started storing a massive supply of pre-pumped milk, you can say goodbye to having any significant time away from your baby (and trust me you need those breaks – say hello to wandering around Kmart at 10pm just breathing in the freedom!!). Men will never, ever, understand the loss of freedom you can feel in those first few months. I have also never watched so much TV in my life. There was a time that I would never have believed that a feed would eventually only take 5 minutes instead of 45! I also suffered from hormone related anxiety attacks whenever I fed, which was horrible (although I had forgotten about them until now).
Now that I am bottle feeding, I absolutely love it and I don’t miss breastfeeding at all. I didn’t feel sad or guilty, just relief. I have so much more freedom. I then felt guilty for not feeling those things!! Bottle feeding has not been as great as breastfeeding for The Captain. Currently Roo sleeps straight through the night and has routine naps during the day but on the odd occasion (like last night!!) he might be unwell and wakes multiple times. The Captain can no longer rely on me to feed Roo if things get desperate, and must now put up with me sleeping soundly (or at least pretending to be ;) ) and if he thinks Roo should have a feed at 3am he has to get up and wander to the other end of the house in the freezing cold to make a bottle. If someone hasn’t done the dishes (not mentioning names here), it also means adding time to wash and sterilize bottles too.
The breastfeeding feeding journey was a hilarious one on many occasions. I remember visiting a café around the corner from my house with my sister when Roo woke for a feed. We were sitting outside at a table in front of the café window, while three men sat inside at the bar table looking out. The breast that Roo needed to feed on was on the window side, but more hilarious was that the breast was at the same height as the man’s face. My sister and I had the giggles at how funny the situation was (along with a mild anxiety attack). Although we are lucky enough that breastfeeding is perfectly legal in public in Australia, there is still a hilarious akwardness to the “giganta boobs” (as we called them!) being perfectly in his face at eye level with nothing but a pain of glass between his eyes and my breast! As luck would have it the men finished their lunch and left before we had finished laughing and started the feed.
I did find the Australian summer difficult for feeding on many occasions as I constantly had a temperature and many shops or cafes did not have air-conditioning. This meant that I often fed in the car with the air-conditioning running. Feeding in the car was cramped, uncomfortable, isolating and generally annoying. I noticed the lack of aircon venues and feeding facilities in many regional and rural towns when travelling with The Captain. When we were in Echuca on one of our first visits with Roo I remember asking a gentleman at the Information Centre where I could find a comfortable feeding location and he had no idea. I ended up doing a Google search and a brilliant website led me to the library next door which had comfortable chairs, aircon and an excellent family room for changing and a toilet stop.
Its crazy that in this day an age someone working at a Visitor Information Centre would not be able to recommend somewhere comfortable to feed. On another visit to Swan Hill the weather was so hot I twice ended up feeding in retail store changing rooms because no one I asked knew where I could find a comfy seat in an air-conditioned location or a family room if there was one. During my second feed that day the aircon stopped in the Target store I was in and I ended up stopping the feed before I fainted from overheating and heading back out onto the hot street, spending what seemed like forever trying to find a bench in the shade where there was at least a breeze.
Imagine what it would be like to live in a place where you cannot feed your baby comfortably in public. This week I can be grateful of the fact that we have the freedom in our country to feed anywhere and that there are so many places around now that support Mums.
Photos 1-3: Lunch stop at bakery after a day at the beach. Photo by FindingFemme
Photos 4-5: Stopping for a feed on the beach on our road trip in QLD. Photo by The Captain
Photo 6: Feeding on the banks of the Murray River in Mildura on a work trip with The Captain. Photo by The Captain
Photos 7, 8: The two of us squeezed into a booth at Cuthberts- the new tram restaurant in Ballarat. Photo by FindingFemme
Photo 9: Feeding at a black tie birthday bash (Yes I found a nursing friendly formal gown - Woop!) Photo by FindingFemme
Photo 10: Breastfeeding backstage at a fashion parade that I was modelling in. Photo by FindingFemme
Photo 11: Feeding on the street while waiting for a table at a local Bendigo restaurant. Photo by FindingFemme