Seven Months Of Breastfeeding

27 Jul 2022

Seven months of breastfeeding

Naturally when I started writing this, my Christmas Eve baby was actually six months. And then I blinked and it’s a month later, because that’s how time seems to work right now. A lot suddenly seemed to happen at once at six months, or so it felt. Baby boy went through a big growth spurt and now seems impossibly long. His hair is growing more, little tufts sprouting all around the side of his head to go with the long locks on top; locks that seem to be going strawberry blond. He suddenly started reaching out to grab things with real ease, including food from my plate! His eyes are still very dark, but seem to be settling on brown. He’s nearly mastered sitting unsupported but is a bit slow to the party because he prefers to stand. He has, however, really nailed blowing raspberries at every available moment, a skill he’s been perfecting for half his life. He also loves screeching like a demented parrot, belly kisses, the wind (either natural or fans) in his hair, watching cars go by, rolling over (particularly on the bed where he likes to burrow into the pillows like some kinda badger), biting my nose, Sophie-the-giraffe, sucking his toes and - more than anything else - standing ALL THE TIME. He has no concept of anything bad happening and so will smile at anyone and anything. He moved into his own room recently (although still ends up back in with us a lot) and we’ve been offering him food for a few weeks now which he mostly enjoys throwing on the floor. 

Sometimes I look back at myself in January and really wish I could show her how we’re doing now. I probably wouldn’t mention that I’ve yet to sleep more than 3 hours in one go but I would tell her that it works out. That the birth flashbacks fade and her hungry baby struggling to feed now has a double chin and can latch himself onto the boob without any assistance in the dark. We did not have the easiest starts. For a number of reasons, most of which I won’t go into, our little boy struggled to latch and feed properly at first and - to be blunt - it was grim. 

One of those reasons was a posterior tongue tie which wasn’t picked up on until he was four weeks old, by which point we had a baby that wasn’t gaining weight, trauma to my nipples and a reduced milk supply. It was horrifically stressful, I was completely unprepared (not that you can really prepare for such a situation) and we had some really low days. The feeling of panic and horror of having a hungry baby that you can’t sufficiently feed is not something I will ever forget. I found the endless advice & questions and repeated weighing exhausting and distressing, and I have never known pain like breastfeeding with open wounds as nipples - and I say that as someone who had recently given birth. I spent many weeks wondering if it would ever feel easy or normal, particularly on the days when we could spend 14 hours at a time doing nothing but feeding (tongue tie problems). I cried a lot. I told friends we were fine when we weren’t. I began to dread him needing to feed and wanted to scream when I was repeatedly told it would ‘get better’. Weight gain and milk supply issues usual mean that you are told to express extra milk on top of all the feeds and that really was the cherry on top of the feeling that feeding my baby was one of the hardest and most exhausting things I have ever done. And I felt so resentful that this was my experience when I knew that for so many, it is the opposite. 

I’m still utterly astonished that I kept going, that we’re still going. It does feel a lot easier and normal now, but still hard work at times. I have a baby that now refuses to take a bottle and sometimes the lack of break, inability to leave him with anyone for more than a couple of hours and general pressure solely on my body, particularly as he still wakes every 2-3 hours to feed during the night - can feel like a lot. He is such a wriggler which means that sometimes I am really bloody tired of being accidentally kicked and pinched and a recent bout of mastitis (ffs) seriously tested my patience with the whole thing. So, yes, even now I have moments - particularly lying in bed with a fever and a bowling ball for a boob - where I wonder if I should keep going. 

And yet, even if he would take a bottle, I know in my heart of hearts that we will. The ease of it months in, whacking him on whenever he’s hungry or tired or upset or, quite frankly, just to shut him up for a mo. Being able to go anywhere and not worry about it is such a massive perk. I’ve fed him on the side of the road, on many trains, on a canal boat, in restaurants, up a skyscraper, in a church, on multiple benches, lying down, standing up, walking around. I dread to think how we would have managed to get him to sleep ever if it hadn’t have been for the magic of the boobs because he sure as hell won’t be rocked to sleep. And I will never not be blown away when I look at this excitable and curious baby with his ridiculously strong thighs and think that his sole source of nutrition is my milk. And when he giggles because he’s just blown a raspberry on my boob, or looks up just to give me a quick grin, or does a happy food wiggle when he sees me getting my boob out, or holds onto my finger for reassurance whilst he feeds, I’m a total sucker (there’s a pun for you) for the whole thing. 

I would really like to keep breastfeeding him until he is a year old which I will be very proud of, and after that, I am open to see what works for us around him starting nursery and being a more established eater, and me returning to work. 

I bear scars. I wish it hadn’t been so difficult to begin with. Sometimes I wish I could hand my boob to somebody else and say ‘you deal with this for a couple of days’. And yet, I’m in awe of what my body can do, taken aback by a determination I didn’t know I possessed and proud of how far we’ve come in the last seven months.