A personal story
It's one thing to have all the facts and figures about breastfeeding and quite another to hear another woman's personal experiences. So I thought I would share my experiences of breastfeeding my two sons.
Being an alternative minded person even then, when I found out I was going to have a baby I researched breastfeeding and felt that it was the way to go for me.
My sister breastfed although I don't remember paying that much attention to what she was doing and by the time we had our baby I was a thousand miles away from any family or friends who might have helped me.
I remember clearly to this day (and it was 22 years ago) waking up to my baby sons crying. He was hungry and wanted to be fed.
First feeds were tricky, I was confused about whether I was doing it right and whether he was getting any milk. I didn't know how to hold him properly and it was all totally new to me. To top it off I was sore from the birth and my nipples soon got sore too (mainly because I wasn't getting him attached properly). It's amazing how good a grip a tiny newborn can get on a nipple.
Luckily I had help, the nursing staff were experienced and they helped me to learn how to breastfeed properly. And when my son was a little older I started attending my local Nursing Mothers Meetings (now the Australian Breastfeeding Association). Being so isolated, (we had only just moved to a small country town,) the meetings were a great way of meeting other mums, learning about caring for babies and refining the art of breastfeeding - all of which I desperately needed.
When I got home and got into the swing of things, breastfeeding became much simpler - I became more confident and my son and I got the hang of it. I say the two of us got the hang of it, because they are learning too.
In fact, I was very surprised after the birth of my second son, that I had to re-learn how to breastfeed all over again - because he was different and he was doing it for the first time. (And I fed my first son for 13 months).
For me breastfeeding had a lot going for it - it was super easy. When the baby was hungry - I just whipped out my breasts. There was no bottles, no cleaning and no measuring so it was less hassle for me. I got to sit down and it was quiet time.
Another advantage is that it helped me to lose my pregnancy weight. It takes a great deal of resources to feed a baby, much like growing the baby to begin with so your body has to create the milk from somewhere. With a newborn sometimes its hard to eat proper meals - they always seem to wake up or need a feed just as you are settling down for your breakfast, lunch or dinner so you need to have some weight in reserves. Mother Nature is clever eh?
Breastfeeding created a special bond with my babies, and to me it was a beautiful thing in spite of the occasional cracked nipple, blocked milk ducts or leaking breasts (nothing like doing the grocery shopping and springing a leak halfway through).
If I had to list the disadvantages of breastfeeding - it would be always having to be the one to feed the baby or not being able to have a glass of wine or 2 or not being able to leave the baby without an expressed breastmilk supply or sometimes feeling like a walking milk factory instead of a woman. But really all those things were my choice and they are only babies for a short time so for me there are no regrets.
I still believe breastfeeding is the best choice for baby and mother. I don't think it comes naturally to everyone, and if you're having problems then ask for help because it really is worth getting it right. And some of us aren't surrounded by breastfeeding examples or experts so it pays to reach out to the resources available.
That being said, I also think it's every woman's right to choose what it right for her and a happy mother and baby is better than an unhappy, fretful mother and baby.