I’m a mother of 5 children and I have breastfed, am still breastfeeding (my youngest is 4 months old), ALL of them. If labor doesn’t make a mother out of you, a long-term breastfeeding relationship will…it’s tougher than labor, but also more satisfying…giving you an indpeth understanding of your child that will be the foundation of a lifelong friendship.
My breastfeeding style has changed a lot over the 8 1/2 years since I had my first child. When I had my first son I had lots of milk supply issues and I realize now that it was because my milk was not fully “coming down” like it should and he was just getting watery foremilk most of the time.
Before having my second son I researched and researched the problem and realized that I was not relaxing enough to allow the full “let down reflex” to occur (it would happen but only partially). And I had to ask myself “why am I not relaxing during breastfeeding?” and there were many reasons that I had to work through and I worked through them while breastfeeding my second son and eventually learned how to relax while breastfeeding. How to be in the present moment and be natural about it, as natural as breathing.
I have a theory on this, because breastfeeding is not what is the norm in this society even those who DO breastfeed are uncomfortable with it because it isn’t considered “normal”…I was like this. The breast is seen overly much as a sexual object instead of utilitarian, as in it feeds babies…so it’s just as much a utilitarian body part as is the hands or feet. I had to change my thinking on this. In the past, I had always loved watching The National Geographic channel and many times had often marvelled at the ease with which tribal mothers, walking around topless, completely comfortable, fed their babies. Nothing abnormal, disgusting or sexual about it…but very beautiful and loving. A society where the young girls were raised seeing this every day of their lives, it’s instilled within them as normal and they aren’t uncomfortable with it in any way.
Mother’s milk is a symbol of compassion. Without mother’s milk we cannot survive, so our first act as a baby together with our mother is sucking milk from our mother with a feeling of great closeness. At that time, we may not know how to express what love is, what compassion is, but there is a strong feeling of great closeness. From the mother’s side also, if there is no strong feeling of closeness toward the baby, her milk may not flow readily. So, mother’s milk is, I think, a symbol of compassion and human affection. And with the advent of formula, the milk barely flows in the world anymore…and compassion has declined to all but a trickle…there is a connection there me thinks.
So I was determined that that was where I needed to be, and I had to work on my mind and perception of my body and the breast and the act of breastfeeding itself. I noticed that when baby latched on I would automatically tense up and draw my shoulders upward towards my ears and I also noticed that my letdown reflex happened more often when I breastfed half asleep, like during a midnight feeding, being half-asleep meant my inhibitions were lowered and I could relax easier. I realized that I was unnecessarily stressing myself out by overthinking it and always in the back of my mind, because breast only equals sex in our society, I had the sub-conscious thought of it being wrong somehow…I had to work through all this in order to relax enough to allow that reflex to fully occur.
Here are some practical tips that always helped me relax enough to allow the “let down reflex” to fully occur:
1. Laying down to breastfeed and laying down topless, without clothes to get in the way. This obviously won’t be feasible everytime you feed, but doing it at least once a day is a good idea because we tend to naturally relax when lying down. This is why sleeping with baby is a good idea.
2. When baby latched on I would give a visible out-breathing “ahhhhh” sigh of relief and visibly, overexagerratedly relax my shoulders and my entire body.
3. Loving on baby…focusing on baby, watching baby’s mouth on the nipple, stroking baby’s hair and soft skin, smelling baby, kiss baby’s soft head.
4. Being in the present. Not rushing to get done with the feeding so that I could get back to my “job”…not thinking of all that needs to be done or make to-do lists in my head, but focusing on baby but not in a worrisome “will my milk come down?” kind of way…but in a loving admiring enjoying kind of way.
5. Having a beer or glass of wine would help A LOT in bringing the inhibitions down just enough that I could relax enough to allow let down to occur.
6. PRAY. Praying that my milk come down and that I have plenty of it and then breastfeed with the confidence and faith that God answers prayer…I needed to learn to not fret or worry, that is the opposite of Faith. If worry came, I gave it to God and forgot about it and went forth with confidence knowing that God created my body to do this and do it I will!
7. Learning how to be sexually comfortable with my body, seeing it as beautiful and good instead of with a critical eye no matter what my size may be. I’ve learned that sex actually has more to do with the let down reflex than most people realize…in the same way that an orgasm can’t occur if one overthinks it, stresses, worries about it or thinks about something else…the letdown reflex works in much the same way. I find that I have to be VERY in the present and INTO the breastfeeding and my baby, much in the same way that one has to be very in the present with one’s spouse and completely comfortable and uninhibited to allow an orgasm to occur. Believe it or not pregnancy, giving birth, and breastfeeding all relate to the sex drive and operate through the same mechanism…and it’s all a beautiful, wonderful and very good creation of God!
I have been breastfeeding now for nearly 5 continuous years and I very much believe in the healing power of breast milk and I want to help other mothers, so if you are a mother and have any questions about breastfeeding please ask away in the comment section of this post 🙂