Before I even start to dot my thoughts down, to try and capture the memory, I would just like to say that every person on earth is unique, every situation is different and every individual has her own opinion, with regards to breastfeeding in particular, this is just my journey and I am so blessed to have had it continuing for so many months.
For future mothers this might be inspirational!
So just keep reading...
When I fell pregnant in March 2009, one of the first things that I was determined to do was to breastfeed, for at least six months if I was fortunate enough too. I've made the choice way before hand as I think it is a life changing experience, it was going to be challenging, and it was definitely going to affect the rest of my being. I knew that I was going to be a stay-at-home-mom so I guess all the thoughts of pumping etc didn't even cross my mind.
So let me start at the beginning, our baby girl was born on 23 November 2009. Approximately 30minutes after her birth we had our first breastfeeding experience, little did I know it was the start of something so amazing and mind blowing I can't describe it in words! (see first image)
The breastfeeding nurses at the hospital was wonderful and really supportive, and even while I have to admit I am a very private and shy person, it was as if the mothering instinct kicked me right into fifth gear. It was all buttons loose GO!
If I think back today, I know Nikah's latching was a little off at first, but nothing was going to stop me from perfecting this art. When we went home I was confident I was going to make this thing work...
My milk supply was really something phenomenal, and let me just say, frozen cabbage leaves are not a 'ouvrou storie' it works magic for swollen, firing, gigantic breasts. Every two and a half to three hours I would get up, rush to the bathroom as I felt the pins-and-needles setting in, and milk would just stream out into the basin. We thought of donating some, but it stabilized after a few weeks. At my two week Gynecologist appointment my nipples were wrecked. It bled for a few days with every feed... I started doubting my choices, luckily she assured me that it was quite normal and would heal in time. I kept applying nipple cream after every feed, let them see some direct sunlight, and read up repeatedly on latching techniques, while clenching my teeth through the sessions.
Nikah and I were most comfortable in the rugby-ball position. This was actually changed a bit to her sitting mostly upright in front of the breast with the rest of her tiny body off to the side, it helped a lot with her swallowing, as she was fond of drinking very quickly and taking down a lot of wind. We soon adapted to feeding anywhere, at first it was only on the bed where I felt relaxed but eventually we moved to the couch. About three weeks after her birth we left for our end of year vacation, it was a really long road trip, so I sat with her in the backseat of the car and breastfed my way to the coast.
Soon a few weeks became two months, then four, when six months arrived we've managed to breastfeed exclusively without ever administrating a bottle of any sort or any other solid food. Nikah started feeding every three to four hours, and we would just arrange our schedule accordingly.
I noticed that on really hot days my initial milk would be just grey-water for quite sometime before the thicker creamy milk would come in, amazing how your body automatically adapts to your child's needs without you even lifting a thumb.
The best benefit I guess, is fresh milk at the right temperature with the exact nutrients required without the preparation, at any given moment of the day. The downfall I suppose when you breastfeed exclusively without pumping or additional formula, is the fact that you do it all by yourself, and you become the sole 'provider' to this little person for a couple of months, luckily daddy can tap-in when the burping needs to start.
We've managed this routine anywhere and almost everywhere.
I must admit, the car became my second home, it was just so easy to feed, burp and change the diaper at any given time, when we were out. For instance we would go shopping, I would return to the car in time for our feed, spend the next 30 to 45minutes in the car, and then just go back to whatever we were doing, it was almost as if hitting the pause button, but still get to have the closest ever bonding time you could ever ask for from a little child.
(This was on the beach in a little tent with some help, the wind was blowing like crazy, so I think it might not have been the best idea :) but we pulled it out of the hat) Like I mention before, I am super private, so it was hard for me to breastfeed in public, I had to once in the Spur at OR Tambo International Airport, and more than once in a aircraft, but other than that and the beach, the car was my back-up buddy...
We started solids around 6 months, and carried on with breastfeeding six to seven times a day our schedule was: Early morning feed 06:30am, Mid morning nap time feed 11:00am, Lunch time feed 13:00pm, Afternoon nap time feed 15:00pm, Early evening feed 18:30pm, Night feed 22:00pm. (Sometimes we had a 3:00am feed)
Soon we hit her first birthday and there were just no reason for us to stop, up until this point she never had a runny nose, had no form of any sickness whatsoever.
Breastfeeding Nikah was just a solution to every possible fall, heartache or teething battle. All tears usually vanished when we've spent those minutes together.
So we've breastfed and supplemented with solids until around thirteen months. I then decided to replace the Lunch time feed with a growing up formula, directly out of a sippy-cup. I am quite proud to say that my little girl up to this day has not put her lips to and drank from a standard bottle with a teat! We started off slowly, as she didn't feel like it too often.
My plan was now to carry on feeding up to two years!
Nikah battled a few bugs around 18 months read about it, and this just made me realize that even with exclusive breastfeeding your not totally protected against the 'evils' out there ;) I was determined to nurse her back to health and I am pretty sure that she would have been even more ill without it, as it becomes a soothing mechanism as well as the most balanced nutrition her body needs in extreme conditions. Because she had a severe stomach bug she was only allowed small amounts of fluids throughout, the doctor suggested we gave her sips of water and black Rooibos tea with breast milk, nothing else, no formula no solids, that was it.
At twenty months I suddenly noticed a change in her drinking method, I could feel that she wasn't drinking because she was hungry or thirsty anymore, it was more just playing around for fun, and I realized that this was possibly signs of us reaching the end of our journey.
This will probably be the last photo of us ever being this close and intimate. We've adapted to the Madonna position when she grew taller, as there were just nowhere for her legs to go anymore behind me, than straight up the back off whatever I sat on!
She would now run off and bring me her feeding pillow anytime of the day, and demanded to be fed. This was just too adorable.
We've started supplementing her fluid intake with Rooibos tea, diluted fruit juice and water during the day, so she would forget about feeding, except at night before bed, and the first thing she comes up with in the morning.
Our last feeds were not as gracious as the initial ones, as she got really annoyed with me trying to stop her while she is just fooling around and I felt no let-down reflex anymore. She still asks for it at bedtime and in the morning, but we manage to settle her down with a sippy-cup of tea or growing up milk.
Today marks the fourth day of me not breastfeeding at all for the last 22 months of my life, oh boy do I miss it already!
It has been such a remarkable experience and blessing for us to be able to let it consume our being for so long, a part of me already longs for that closeness and warmth. I'll definitely except the challenge the second time around if we are yet again blessed to experience it!
Glory to our Creator, for designing us to be beings that can sustain the precious lives He place in our hands.