When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s a God send if you can get them to take a bottle. Not necessarily with formula inside (if you don’t want to, but if you do that’s also fine), just expressed milk. It means you can have a few hours ‘off’, where your baby is not wholly reliant on you. That’s a God send for 2 reasons: responsibility and exhaustion.
Responsibility is great. We work towards gaining it in careers, and as we go from children to teenagers to adults. We learn that it is a good thing to be responsible and to have responsibilities. But when you are solely responsible for feeding your child, because they flat out refuse a bottle, that responsibility can be quite heavy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding. Really love it. I’m thinking about training to be a breastfeeding support worker, so I can help other women to feel empowered about feeding their own child with what nature has blessed us with. But there are 2 sides to every story, as they say, and the down side of breastfeeding, when your child won’t take a bottle, is that all of that responsibility is on you.
Rather like in Mad Max: Fury Road, where the ‘mothers’ are constantly having babies so their milk production will continue. Their milk is then pumped all day and night, to ensure that the King and his cronies are nourished and hydrated in their droughted land. Those mothers are entirely responsible for the feeding of their King, where they are physically enslaved.
Now, it’s not to say I feel enslaved. Just that it would be nice if she might take a bottle every now and again.
But the bigger, seemingly unspoken / not understood thing about breastfeeding is the exhaustion. Now, this isn’t because my little girl is awake all night. That’s just normal parenting tiredness and, actually, she only tends to wake once in the night now which I can just about manage. This is about the physical exhaustion that happens because your body is burning an extra 600 calories a day.
That’s right, 600 calories! I thought the best way to give you an idea of what that means would be to list some of the things you’d have to do to burn 600 calories.
1. Swim for 3 hours continuously.
2. Run at a pace of 10mph for around 3 hours.
3. Cycle for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
4. Do an hour of sit ups.
5. Walk for 3 hours.
Choose one of those activities, and imagine how hungry you might be afterwards. Imagine the physical toll it would take on your body if you did it every day.
Breastfeeding is wonderful. Breastfeeding (now we have latch sorted and supply established) is simple, clean and easy. Breastfeeding is free. Breastfeeding is empowering. Breastfeeding is remarkable – I’m in awe of my body. Breastfeeding is the best thing I’ve ever done; the thing that’s made me proudest in my life.
Breastfeeding is exhausting too, especially if your baby won’t take a bottle. It’s worth it though. It really is. It is such a short time in her life, in the grand scheme of things. And it is such a small sacrifice in what will be a life filled with sacrifices.
Next time you see a lady breastfeeding, perhaps tell her she’s doing a great job (if you feel brave enough) – you should probably tell any parent this anyway, because words of affirmation are amazing when you’re tired and making it up as you go along. If you’re sat in a cafe, and feeling kind, maybe tell a waitress to send over a glass of water and a slice of cake. Cake is good because it feels like a guilty pleasure, but we literally need the calories.
Remember, breastfeeding is great. I’d recommend it to anyone. But make sure you’ve got a supply of cake and or biscuits to hand. You’ll need them!
Also, post-feed sleepy cuddles are amazing!