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Friday, August 5, 2011

Love. . . the simple pleasure of breastfeeding

Sonny Jim posing for the camera the day before his first birthday
This week is World Breastfeeding Week (more details here) and I didn't need much excuse to extol the pleasures of breastfeeding! It's many years now since I stopped breastfeeding my son (well, after all, he is 10 and a half!!) but it is a time I remember with great fondness. I wasn't breastfed myself, due to being a "distressed delivery", slate grey on arrival and having a very poor suck. Apparently, I had to be bottle fed with a lamb's teat, even though my mum originally planned to breastfeed me. So I didn't have personal experience of breastfeeding, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to breastfeed my son. It was free of charge, much less fuss than bottles and sterilising, and better for baby and for me as far as I could see. Luckily for Sonny Jim and me, we turned out to be breastfeeding naturals and he latched on immediately he was offered the chance, as if he had been doing it all his life. Or, as if it were the most natural thing in the world - which it is! My next-door neighbour was breastfeeding her son who was around 18 months when Sonny Jim was born, and she continued throughout her next pregnancy and then "tandem fed" both boys. I credit that lovely next-door neighbour with providing me with a wonderful role model - I could see that not only was breastfeeding natural and do-able, it was easy and enjoyable too.

First ever breastfeed 29.12.00
Sonny Jim's first ever breastfeed - 29.12.00
Breastfeeding is one of the best things I have ever done in life, and I freely admit I felt a bit sad when Sonny Jim reached the ripe old age of two and a half and our breastfeeding days dwindled away. Breastfeeding costs nothing, but brought so much to my life as well as Sonny Jim's. 

SJ breastfeeding 8.2.01
SJ "holding hands" with me whilst feeding - March 2001
As part of my current job I am involved in breast-feeding support and now I know only too well that breastfeeding isn't always easy for every mum and baby, no matter how determined the mum might be to make it work. I learnt so much from the "Global Online Lactation Discussion" GOLD 11 in May this year. Over 1700 delegates attended from 58 countries and in many cases each registered delegate shared the online presentations with many others in the local area, as happened here. The GOLD 11 experience was truly eye-opening for me and I gained a great deal from attending. The benefits of breastfeeding have always been something I feel strongly about, but the GOLD 11 experience really clarified that for me and I am determined to do more study in the area of breastfeeding/human lactation. . .

Project and photo by Caroline K

GOLD 11 really questioned my thinking. For example, one of the best known breastfeeding advocates, Diane Wiessinger, strongly promotes the fact that breast-feeding is normal-feeding and we need to think about our use of language around breast-feeding and how often we inadvertently present formula-feeding as the norm instead. For instance rather than talking about the benefits of breastfeeding, shouldn't we talk about the risks of formula feeding? After all, we talk about the risks of smoking rather than trying to persuade people of the benefits of clean air. She says that framing it as the "benefits of breast-feeding" presents formula as the norm, not breastfeeding. And yet we are biologically designed to breastfeed, human breast milk is undeniably the superior food for human babies and formula is a relatively new invention. An interesting perspective. Initially I sat there silently thinking to myself "WHAT risks of formula feeding? I mean, I know breast is best, but I didn't think formula was actually risky!" and it took me a while to see her point. Check out her website http://www.normalfed.com/ for accessible articles on "common sense breastfeeding". I am  really looking forward to attending the "GOLD 12" online video-conference next year.

Back to the personal side of things, rather than the global perspective. . .
I am going to share with you something I wrote around the time I stopped breastfeeding SJ. I think it puts across what breastfeeding meant to me. I incorporated it into a double page scrapbook layout which is part of SJ's scrapbook album about his childhood. The photo is from 14th March 2001, when Sonny Jim was two and a half months old and I wrote the "journalling" in August 2003. Anyway, this is what I wrote (name changed!):

LOVE scrapbook page 14.3.01LOVE scrapbook page 14.3.01
"Sonny Jim", we both used to love the special time we spent together breastfeeding every day when you were a baby. The IKEA chair in the conservatory was my favourite spot to feed you. I used to settle down on the chair with you lying on the "beeboo pillow" snuggled close into me, with a drink of water within reach on the bookshelf on my right. I remember the midwife said I should drink lots of water to help the milk flow! Sometimes I would put a magazine nearby where I could reach it too.

You would suck away contentedly while I sang to you, stroked your silky hair and soft, warm skin and and told you how much I loved you. Sometimes I would tell you a story or sing you songs and you really seemed to be listening. Every so often you would come off the breast for a breather and look up at me with those deep blue eyes of yours, which seemed so old and so knowing. 

I will never forget the quiet blissful sound of you drinking my milk, that beautiful sweet milky smell on your skin and my sense of achievement at watching you thrive on my milk alone. You often fell asleep towards the end of a feed and I would have to slip my little finger into your mouth to break the seal and ease you off me. 

The day when I took this photo was one of those days. I wanted to hold this moment forever so got out my old Canon SLR camera with black and white film to capture you peacefully sleeping with a tummyful of warm milk, before I carried you to your Moses basket. I only took one photo and luckily it worked! 

I used to wish that those days of being at home with you could just go on and on, but I reluctantly had to go back to work when you were 19 weeks old. I look back on those weeks at home with you as the happiest days of my life so far.

Love you always,

Mummy xxxxx


  1. This a beautiful post that really choked me up. I wholeheartedly agree with all your sentiments re breastfeeding and this took me back to my own (sadly brief) days of BF'ing Felix and what a magical time it was. Thank you for sharing this :)


  2. Thanks Laura, I particularly enjoyed writing this post - got pretty emotional myself! Wasn't sure about putting up the breastfeeding photos, but hopefully they are "tastefully" done?!

  3. Very tastefully done! All beautiful photos :)