Friday, August 9, 2013

~ grateful for ... breastfeeding ~

This week was world breastfeeding week... and I've been inspired by some lovely celebratory stories of breastfeeding (especially Marian and Tahnee's) to share my own story.  


I finished 6 years at medical school without a single lecture or tutorial about breast feeding.  I then completed 6 years in the hospital system and, from recall, did not see a single breast-feeding mother as a patient.  Towards the end of this time I had decided on a career in general practice.  Nervous and very aware of my limitations I enrolled in some extra courses (obs&gynae and child health) to try and broaden my knowledge beyond the hospital style of medicine.
So, finally... some sessions on breastfeeding.  The practicalities of attachment, the potential barriers to feeding, a practical demonstration of feeding, tips and hints for dealing with breast feeding issues, personal stories of breast feeding successes and failures.  Already strongly pro-breast feeding,  I left those sessions far more confident about my role to support, educate and encourage women and families about breast feeding.  I was also very clear that for some mother/child teams breastfeeding was not going to work and my role in supporting them was also clear.

Then, first week into my new GP career  the huge divide between learning and real life hit me right in the face.  Questions about bleeding nipples, the right dummies to use to promote breast feeding, how to improve supply.... my lack of practical knowledge fully exposed.  Luckily, in the next consulting room was a very experienced GP who had just had her 6th child.  This baby accompanied her mum to work each day and was fed in the consulting room, often whilst she was consulting.  This lovely lady would sail in and answer their questions, reassure them and leave me wondering if I would ever be really equipped to deal with all of these issues. 

I became an avid questioner of new mums.  I asked them all about their experiences, their problems.  I acquired knowledge by proxy and became a far more useful resource to my patients.

Then my own baby.  
I was determined to breast feed.  
It felt like my only option.

Luckily I was blessed with a baby that really wanted to, and loved to, breastfeed right from her very first moments.  In the next few weeks we practised and refined this new skill together.  It wasn't smooth sailing .. there were tears and blocked ducts and its only looking back that I realise just how hard we struggled.  The Doc was super supportive but there were many other voices far less so - who suggested bottles and me they were simply saying I'd failed.  We persisted - and then at the 8 week mark it all fell into place...became automatic, like something we were born to do. 

I loved it... from very early on it was clear to me that while I was nourishing her little body I was also nourishing us - with skin contact, with cuddles, with time just to be together.  I always had plenty of milk, she thrived, I revelled in the fact of being so needed. 
Lily fed for about 20 months until one day she just didn't want to any more.  Maybe the milk tasted different (as I was pregnant again), maybe it was just her time.   I didn't really think about it too much - I was busy with a toddler who slept poorly, getting ready for our next baby and planning our move back to Tassie.

Gracie was next.  This time it really was a breeze.  I knew what to do, she learned quickly and we never looked back.  Almost 3 years later she was still feeding (cue much consternation from family members) until one day I realised we'd missed 2 night feeds and it was over.  I was bereft.  I missed the closeness, the sense of being needed.  I wasn't sure if we would be able to have another child and I felt like I'd missed marking the end of something momentous.

And then Jack.  Another easy, super-keen feeder.  Having thought I'd never be in that position again I relished it all.  Even the night feeds.  Especially the night feeds. Day feeds were often squeezed in, fitted around the rest of the family - I'd be listening to readers, answering questions, multi-tasking.  At night it was just the two of us - quiet moments of drinking each other in.


It was a really precious and beautiful time in my life.  A true everyday miracle.  
I know how lucky I was and am incredibly grateful for it.

I'm linking up with Kylie over here for weekly gratefuls (its been a while).


  1. What a beautiful story. Breastfeeding is such a gift. To both mother and child. I am grateful for the time I breastfed my boys too. For once it is gone, That is it. It is gone. x

  2. Ah breastfeeding - it's been more than five years since I breastfed a baby but I still remember it. Both the good and the bad of it. It's a blessing when it all goes well! Visiting via the Rewind.

  3. Oh bringing back memories. It's such a lovely bonding with your bub isn't it? I could only feed for 4 weeks, and it was tough, but I'm so glad I got to experience it. :)

  4. I agree it is a wonderful blessing and such close contact is very special. I an grateful I was able to breastfeed all our children for an extended time, even our twins. Our last four were so content with breastfeeding they were hardly interested in solids until 12 months of age.

  5. Hello Ally, such a lovely story and to have that bond in each their own way. I loved feeding toox

  6. Such a beautiful story. I breastfed both my girls, but struggled through the first few months. I dream about having a baby that latches on from day one! xx

  7. It's a beautiful bond isn't it. x

  8. In my well laid plans I was going to breast feed my babies and be marvellous at it ... in reality I had an extremely poor milk supply that didn't increase even when I was feeing every hour. It all just got too hard and my babies were losing not gaining weight. So I decided to bottle feed. Even though my boys are both teenagers now I still look back on that time with regret.

  9. Its really a shame that more people don't breastfeed. Great story by the way -Hanna Marie

  10. A beautiful post. I hope you don't mind that I tweeted a link x.

  11. It's a lovely time in a mother and child's life together. Luckily that intimacy continues forever. x

  12. I have loved to read this Ally, it struck a chord with me. All my babies weaned themselves, the first at 14 months, the second at 22 months and my last at 3 years. For me it was the only way to go, we had our ups & downs but it was a blessed time once we got the hang of it :)

    1. Oh dear, i'm not really an unknown!

      janine xx
      aka rolypoly_girl

  13. A bit late reading this am I, but I loved it Ally! I can absolutely relate to your story about Jack - I am feeding Olivia still 2-3 times a night and even though I'm exhausted I love these feeds because they're just for us. The day ones are always rushed and she is too interested in watching her sister. I too feel grateful to be able produce heaps of milk and feed my babies - so special. x

  14. Beautiful! A bit late reading this am I, but wow I loved it. I can relate to what you said about feeding Jack - Olivia is so interested in watching her sister during the day and we are so busy, the feeds are rushed and awkward whereas our evening feeds are so close and wonderful, just the two of us. I too feel grateful to be able to produce lots of milk. I love breastfeeding. x

  15. I think I found this post via maxabella's rewind? Could that be? It was in the tab's along the top. Thankyou for this post. I am still breastfeeding a partially weaned toddler. I love it and I hate it. I love the closeness in bed in the mornings, I hate the kamikaze acrobatic mauling that it sometime is in the mid afternoon. But I'm reluctant to wean him as we tubefed for a month with him in NICU and then it took a good 12 weeks to get up to speed after that. After such a long haul and rough start telling him 'no' is just too hard, and somehow not right.


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