Even before my baby was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. I was aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding. However, I didn’t know much about the practice, the real challenges and possible difficulties, as I had never met someone who had breastfed for a while.
My mother had complications that did not allow her to breastfeed for more than a short period of time and I did not know other mothers who had positive experiences with breastfeeding. So, I was kind of afraid that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed either, but I was willing to try and do my best to make it work for us.
Fortunately, as soon as Clara was born, she breastfed right after skin-to-skin contact. On our first night in the maternity ward, I didn’t know if she was feeding properly, and I received great guidance from a midwife who patiently explained to me about positioning and latching. Before that, I was quite naive and I used to think that breastfeeding was something simple and automatic, but from then on, I realized that I had a lot to learn.
I was privileged to have the support and help of my parents who came from Brazil for the birth of my daughter. My partner and them supported my decision to breastfeed, doing their best to help me and give me some rest and sleep at the beginning.
I didn’t suffer from breast problems like sore nipples, mastitis or other difficulties. My biggest challenges were my lack of knowledge and self- confidence. Despite growing steadily, Clara was a smaller baby, and I was afraid that she wasn’t feeding well. Dealing with the uncertainties, such as not knowing exactly how much my baby was eating and if she was getting enough milk, was quite difficult, especially at the beginning of breastfeeding. Every time she was weighed, I used to feel relieved when her weight increased. I celebrated every ounce she gained!
After all, we still live in a culture that can very easily make us believe that our milk might not be good enough, and if the baby cries or wakes up too much it is because of breastfeeding.
Also, three weeks after my daughter was born, the lockdown period began in New Zealand. The midwife visits, baby’s monitoring and all types of consultation had to be done by phone. There were no groups and I did not meet with other mothers. All the insecurity of that period seemed to increase my insecurities even more.
I asked for help, I received some good and inappropriate advice and I searched for information. It took me a lot of reading to gradually increase my knowledge and understanding to make me trust in my body’s ability to produce what was necessary to nourish my baby. I learnt that breastfeeding is much more than filling a baby’s belly with milk. It is not just a form of feeding, it is also for comfort, bonding and connection.
I’m still learning to deal with my insecurities. This is a constant work, which perhaps goes beyond breastfeeding and maybe also relates to motherhood.
Breastfeeding is not easy either and can be quite exhausting. Non-judgmentally, I value and believe that every journey is unique. It is not always possible to breastfeed. However, for me, despite the challenges, it brought gains that went beyond nutrition. I am really grateful that I’ve been able to do this for over 16 months and I am very proud of our history until here.