This week is World Breastfeeding Week. I’m very proud and lucky to have been able to breastfeed my son and to currently breastfeed my daughter.

uneasy

When I was pregnant with my son, I started reading books about babies. Until then, I thought the normal way to feed a baby was with a bottle. It was all I had ever seen in the media. When I read about breastfeeding, I had this uneasy feeling. The idea of a baby sucking on my breast was a bit sickening. As I read about all the advantages, I felt I had to get over my discomfort and try my very best at breastfeeding my son.

difficult start

The start of the breastfeeding journey with both my son and daughter was difficult. My son had a hard time latching and wasn’t gaining enough weight.

My daughter had respiratory problems after she was born. Instead of doing skin to skin, doctors were taking care of her. Nine hours later, she could breathe without the help of an oxygen mask. It was only then that we could start our breastfeeding journey. I’m convinced that by this time, her natural reflexes didn’t kick in anymore. She latched but didn’t drink long enough for the milk to start flowing. This was the start of weeks of practising, pumping, bottles, pain, tears and frustrations. There were moments I got hopeless, thinking she was never going to be able to drink well from my breasts. Other moments I feared I didn’t have enough milk.

I breastfed my son for a year. This time around, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Except it wasn’t. I still felt lost and confused. How is it possible that I don’t instinctively know how to breastfeed. This week I read a comparison by Laura from Mommoiselle: breastfeeding is like sex. Both are natural but require practice.

I’m proud now that I made it twice. My daughter is now 15 weeks and drinks like a pro.

lucky

When my son was born the breastfeeding guidance in the hospital was awful. Every nurse that walked into my room had different and conflicting advice. They were rude and didn’t like being asked for help.

At home, I still couldn’t get my son to drink well. I felt so lost. I had no clue what to do. We contacted a wonderful midwife from Zwanger in Brussel. The moment she started helping us was the moment things started going better.

When my daughter was born, I wanted to make sure that I had proper guidance from the start. So I made an appointment with the midwives from Zwanger in Brussel for when we got home. They helped me week after week and were always available to answer questions. I’m convinced that without this help, our breastfeeding story would not have been a success story.

This is why I was lucky. Lucky that I knew who to contact, lucky that I could afford this help. I’m also lucky to have a husband who is as convinced about the benefits of breastfeeding as I am, and who did everything he could to support us.

shame vs confidence

I read a statistic yesterday that only 1,4% of Belgian children are exclusively breastfed until 6 months (the WHO norm). So breastfeeding my son for a year made me an exception. 26 year old me felt judged and ashamed like I was doing something wrong. When I would see pictures of “older” children being breastfed, it looked wrong to me. It didn’t look normal.

36 year old me knows better. So this time around, I have no end goal in mind. We’ll just keep going as long as it feels right for us. I’m confident that I’m doing the best for my child and our relationship so people can think what they want.

normalise

Let’s normalise breastfeeding. Let’s share our breastfeeding stories. Women need to get a realistic idea without romanticising it. This includes difficult starts to overcome, getting professional help, and yes sometimes pain. It is ok to show the beautiful side of breastfeeding because it is an incredible experience to share with your child. However, let’s not hide the challenges that come along with it.

Let’s share our breastfeeding pictures and not hide when we breastfeed in public. People need to get used to the image of women breastfeeding from newborns to toddlers and beyond.

Happy breastfeeding week!