Dear Breastfeeding: An Open Letter

Dear Breastfeeding,

Our twelve-year relationship is almost at an end. For good this time! I have never felt so passionate, torn, ecstatic, pained, fatigued or content about anything else in my entire life. Nothing has ever stretched my feelings over so many different areas of joy and suffering.

Breastfeeding, we started out well. I thought you looked pretty amazing, natural and good. It was only after I had my baby in my arms that I discovered how tricky it can be to get things going. Baby #1 and I took a while to get ourselves together with what I thought at the time was excruciating pain (it was nowhere near, compared to #2 and #3).

Over the years, I have loved you with a depth that's gone beyond what I thought could ever be comprehended for something so simple as feeding one's child. That gently pulsating rose-bud lip against my areola is something so peaceful and beautiful. The contented sigh as an older baby swoops on an awaiting nipple. The milky trail from the corner of a milk-drunk newborn's mouth.

The delights of your bounty are many. It's unlike anything I have experienced and will ever experience again.

Sometimes, breastfeeding, you've provided some humour for my hum-drum days. The baby slapping my chest just beneath my collarbone in sync with swallows of breastmilk. A tight little explosion of foul gas from the nappy region of a little person while feeding. Baby being able to remain attached despite a loving crash-tackle from a big toddler brother or sister......or pulling off the breast to grin with all gums and milk showing at me cheekily.

Those times, I have loved you. I relished you. I was grateful for you and all that you provide for me and my baby - natural protection from breast cancer, immunity booster for baby, free food for baby, a hormonal reaction that benefits both baby and I, a sleep-inducing agent, quick-fix for gummy eyes, my smile lines and blemishes.

Each day that I have loved you, there's been a day when I have hated you.

When the baby weans, producing swollen breasts and I can't hug my older children without wincing in pain, I find it hard to appreciate you. The more children I have had, the more prevalent blocked ducts have become for me. Breastfeeding, I can't think of a more painful experience than blocked ducts. Not even labour. I've had to raid pharmacies for lecithin the last two babies just to relieve the pressure and get milk moving through my ducts. I can take up to four capsules a day just to clear those ducts out! The recommended dose per day is one capsule.

For years, I have been best friends with ibuprofen, hot and cold packs and hot showers. I've learned how to fold a damp washer into quarters, put it into a freezer bag flat and store in the freezer for times when I've needed to relieve sore spots. My shaver that was once used for my legs now spends more time with the back of it pressed against the sides of my breasts to release blocked ducts! I've had to be flexible and be willing to learn a lot.

You've kept me humble. I have never truly figured out the secret to making you painless, breastfeeding! Seven children later, I am still learning things about how to manage my lactation.

You have made me bleed.

I have spend many times with curled toes in the carpet of many houses while hot tears wind down my face. Blisters have often appeared in crucial areas. There have been many cracks and grazes.

Once they were gentle, now they have scar tissue. They look so very different to before you and I began our journey, breastfeeding.

But, oh, how I have fought to keep you in my life. I have persevered as best I can to give my babies the absolute best I can.

You have been a sometimes cruel and brutal companion, but the rewards have been great. I love the health of my children and my body you have brought. I love the convenience that you bring - just a lift of the shirt, a flick of the bra-strap and my baby's food is instantly ready! Amazing!

As our journey draws to a close, I want to thank you. Thank you for all the joy, contentment, pain, suffering, humility, challenge and beauty you have brought my babies and I. We are so glad we met you and are thankful to our Heavenly Father for thinking of such a way to feed babies and their mothers.


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