“I Dub Thee, Breastfeeding Unicorn, oh Ye of the Golden Boobies.”
This is what I told myself as I breastfed my 2 year old boy to bed tonight. It’s his second birthday today. It’s been 2 years of having this little creature latching onto my nip day in, day out. Night in. Night out. 2 years today. I’m definitely 'breastfeeding unicorn' material. Oh but I so clearly remember wondering if I would make it beyond 2 weeks of breastfeeding my new baby. As I sat there, gritting my teeth through that special and exquisite pain of a small mouth munching on my nipple, strolling through the Internet for distraction, I happened upon a photo of a Mongolian mother, breastfeeding her toddler.
Lovely you say.
This wonderful mother, and her toddler, and her breast, were balanced on a horse.
In the middle of a river.
In the centre of the wilderness.
Are you serious? (I shall restrain myself from adding $%#* of frustation).
Here I was, perching on my couch (amid 17,000 cushions), failing to feed my baby with any degree of class or skill. Wrangling his tight little hands away from his face, stretching those tiny frog legs to wrap around my stomach, lining his nose up to my nipple.
I can’t say I felt terribly inspired in that moment. To see her sitting there, so nonchalantly, like it was the most natural thing in the world, seemed like an impossible future to me. But also a future I desperately wanted for me and my baby. Ok, so maybe minus the wilderness and the river.
My story is a common one; fall pregnant, push a baby out, attach baby to breast, experience phenomenal rush of oxytocin and shout to the world “I am woman, hear me roar”. Two hours later, notice burning pain in ones nipples; 4 hours later experience searing pain in nipples as baby latches for another feed; 6 hours later peel bra off nipple watching as small flaps of skin leave nipple attached to bra.
And so it continues.
Really it’s all a bit gruesome. I mean we get all sorts of sneak peeks into the gore of birth at ante-natal classes (am I right?!), and we talk and talk about how we will get through birth making birth plans and smelling oils and burning candles and dimming lights and playing with TENS machines. Oh sure we mention breastfeeding - that it is good and natural and your baby will crawl up your stomach to find your nipple and life will be sweet and lovely.
I had no idea my nipples could crack! And bleed! The closest I came to anything like this in my previous life, was from dancing at a foam party sans bra in a dress 2 sizes too big. A light bit of chaffing.
It should be listed as an extreme sport.
At one point in my adventures of learning to breastfeed, I googled “cracked nipple” images just to see if I was being a bit dramatic about the pain and struggle I was experiencing. My goodness, none of those nipples even came close to the mess of tissue projecting from my once pert and splendid bosoms.
Again, the gruesome, sorry.
As I reflect on that crazy, challenging time, I remember that many women have gone before me, and overcome these problems, either through sheer determination, or with support, resources and education. I certainly needed all of these things. I needed support from my husband, mother, sister and friends; I needed knowledge from a wonderful book and helpful lactation consultant; I needed tools and products that gave me respite from the agony of damaged nipples. And now I’m here, 2 years on, still breastfeeding.
Sure I’m not breastfeeding on a horse, but I wouldn’t say no to giving it a go?
This is how The Breastfeeding Box was inspired. This is the why. I want mothers to have the tools, the resources and the education to persevere through the tough days, to learn to breastfeed, to master breastfeeding, for the good of their child, the good of themselves and the good of the world.