A breastfeeding mama’s reflections on her second year of motherhood.
Before Baby, I had never thought too much about my breasts, much less their biological function. They were just twin appendages that I dressed in pretty cloth cups. There were times, of course, when I imagined ampler assets would fill out some tops better, but most days I was glad they were small and didn’t get too much in the way of exercise.
Then I got pregnant, and along with the belly my boobs grew. I figured I would breastfeed my baby when she arrived, if everything worked as they should. As neither of my sisters had it easy when it came to breastfeeding their children, I was mentally prepared for it to be a challenge for me too (or so I thought).
As it turned out, breastfeeding was more painful for me than recovering from the caesarean delivery. And the latter was no walk in the park. Long story short: I did not master the right technique of latching my baby onto the breast during my hospital stay. Noob that I was, I didn’t realise she was biting rather than suckling, and I had no idea how much pain was “normal”. By our fourth day together, my nipples were sore and bleeding from her zealous but ineffective attempts to draw milk from my boobs. She wailed, I sobbed. So many tears were shed between us both.
It was a rocky, traumatic start. Breastfeeding was a skill both Baby and I had to acquire, and it took us about three months before we found a decent rhythm. Until Baby learnt to latch deeply and had enough strength to drain the milk from my breasts, my milk ducts often became clogged. Twice this developed into mastitis, a painful inflammation of breast tissue, which also brought on high fever and chills.
Did I consider giving up breastfeeding? Too many times to count. But stubborn I also was, and I kept thinking: If I could just make it past this rough week… The weeks stretched into months, and what my cheerleaders kept saying eventually came true: It got better.
Having a supportive husband (who never once pressured me in any direction) and a baby who appeared to really enjoy nursing kept me going, even in the face of new challenges that came along, like Baby’s sharp first teeth which she initially liked to sink into her mama’s sensitive bits…
Now my baby has become a toddler and, yes, I am still boob-ing her.
Over my first year as a mother, boob has become a verb for me. 18 months on, boob-ing is now more than feeding and nourishment. To boob is to soothe my child and bring her calm; it is how I lull her to sleep and give her rest, how I offer her love, comfort and security, how I tell her I am her safe place.
For how long more will I breastfeed Baby? Honestly, I have no clue. The Baby is also showing no sign that she will be weaning herself soon! But yes, I look forward to the day I can reclaim my body, when my boobs are my own (nouns) again. Until then, I will continue to boob – and be thankful for the bond I share with my baby because of it.
All that said, there is certainly a whole lot more to mothering than breastfeeding. The point of this post is to share my personal experience, and not to say that breast is best. Love is best, is what I think. Raising a little one is hard enough without others passing unnecessary judgment on our decisions – including whether to breastfeed or not.
So to all mamas and mothers-to-be reading this: Whatever you choose, you do you!
If you’re grappling with breastfeeding and/or being a new mum, please know that you’re not alone. I hope you will find these resources helpful, as I did:
https://kellymom.com/ offers an extensive range of articles on parenting and breastfeeding, including what to expect in the early days, how to deal with separation anxiety later on, and more.
Facebook groups like Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group Singapore (BMSG) and Stork’s Nest Singapore are a great forum for sharing ideas and information, and a way to connect with like-minded people who are going through similar experiences and struggles.
Images courtesy of Li Yuling, photographed by Nic Imai. Artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.