Saturday, September 16, 2006

Breastfeeding Meme

How many children have you breastfed and for how long?

Two - (that's all I have). For seven years in total.

What were your reasons for breastfeeding?

I set out with the intention of managing 6 weeks max and this for the obvious health benefits. I didn't think I'd manage more than than this, seeing as there's a history of working mums in my family and I fondly imagined I'd be back at work as soon as the C section scar had healed.

How little I knew! My first born has taught me practically everything I really value, and this has included, " Hey, don't imagine you can play around with my attachment needs like that, you fool!"

Who was the most supportive member of your family?

My husband was very accomodating about it and didn't resent sharing the bed, which made the whole thing infinitely easier. (I learnt about co-sleeping the hard way too, having sat bolt upright in the baby's room feeding all hours God sends for the first six months. FOOL - again!)

My dear mum was supportive for the first year, and then started to get twitched up. By the third year, she admitted that she had gone to see the GP who had taken over her practice, in order to have a friendly, off-the-record chat about it all.

There are times when providence does indeed seem divine, for though this GP looked like the female equivalent of a stuffed shirt, she was actually married to a Lebanese guy who had encouraged her to think that it was perfectly normal to feed all your children until they are at least four, which she herself had done, thank you very much and so what was my mother talking about! Mum has been nothing but extremely supportive ever since.

Did you have any support from a group or Breastfeeding councillor?

Yes, LLL (La Leche League) saved my sanity at just the right moment. I was panicking when Ds reached the 15 month mark. We didn't seem to be close to weaning when everyone else we knew had stopped, apparently effortlessly, months before. Every time I tried to slow down on the whole proceedings, DS would seem devastated, and terrify me with an appearance of failing to thrive. You'd be right to think that I was in a pretty bad way when I walked into April's sitting room in Twickenham that sunny day, and saw a whole roomful of women feeding 3 and 4 year olds. It was a damoscene moment and just goes to show how ignorant someone with an expensive education can be.

Has breastfeeding changed the way you feel about your body?

Yep, I mostly ended up feeling powerful and useful but this wasn't just the breastfeeding, it was the pregnancy, the attempts to give birth, the skilled sleeping with the children and then the carrying as well. Good for the biceps.

What do you wish you had been told about breastfeeding?

That children don't clock watch and aren't interested in four hour gaps. This was something I'd been told I should be aiming for, and I do feel very angry that the health visitor didn't correct me. My son suffered for this.

What was the most surprising thing about breastfeeding?

I think the whole thing is quite surprising really. I can't think why I find it more surprising than say the miracle of birth or consciousness or the whole of existence, but my irrational response is honestly this: that yes, breastfeeding is a really surprising evolution.

Where did you first publicly feed?

I can't honestly remember. One of the first places where I got a negative reaction was in a church. (Despite not being a Christian, I know my liturgy, so it definitely wasn't an ignorance of this that cleared the pew.)

Is there anything you would change about your breastfeeding experience if you could?

Yes, I would transform the first 15 months of my first born's experience. He would feed on demand, we'd co-sleep and I would carry him in a sling. These things make sense.

What advise would you give to someone who was about to start breastfeeding?

I'd wait to be asked, unless there was anything glaringly obvious that required help, and then hopefully the advise would be appropriate to the problem. I don't have a thing about not offering advise, (a meme that has developed out of the counselling culture). Not offering advise when one patently could seems to me to be absurd, and a way of protecting professions from the threat of auto-didacts and the wisdom of the lay teacher.

Who are you tagging with this meme?

I dunno. A difficult one to tag, I'd say, as it is intimate, so I would rather hope that anyone who fancies would take it up.


Clare said...

The not advising thingy is not about not helping people out. It really is purely a semantic thing - you've never advised me about anything, but a lot of what you've told me has been very helpful to me in making my own decisions. If the way you'd worded it had implied that you were advising me, it would have been much more disempowering as you'd have been assuming a superior role within our friendship. All it means is saying 'have you thought about trying...?' rather than 'If I were you, I'd...'. If help is worded as advice, and I try it and it doesn't work, it feels like I did it wrong - if it does work, it feels like you solved the problem for me. Not sure if any of this is making sense - it took me about 18m of tutorials and reading and learning to 'get' it myself! Not advising also means giving factual information that allows someone to make a truly informed choice - but it's not saying 'I think that...'. And believe me, however wishy-washy and counsellor-y it sounds, it really is true - I've seen it happen so many times in real life. Women who've been advised (like you were) to do things that other people thought they ought to do come to the bf groups I work at totally confused and disempowered by the fact that they haven't been able to make work what the HV said would work - they're saying 'help me'. When we don't give any advice; just information and support for whatever they choose to do, they often look gobsmacked - sometimes it's just one little bit of information and they work the rest out for themselves - like you did. Didn't you feel that things were much more 'right' once you were following your own track, not someone else's?

Really interesting replies, btw :-)


Carlotta said...

That makes total sense. There are some counselling situations however, which encourage people to think that on no account should one offer any kind of personal comment...however it is worded, and I have seen this spill out into other areas of life, with people witholding on everything that could be inferred as offering an alternative theory...this does seem like a shame, I think.

Clare said...

I totally agree with you, which is why breastfeeding counsellors are not recognised by whoever it is who endorses counsellors - we do all the counselling skills, but there comes a point where we usually *have* to offer information.


Carlotta said...

SO frustrating, this rigid thinking! You'd have thought that counsellors, with their hope that thinking wouldn't be rigid, would be able to apply judgment in the use of proferring alternative theories!