Tuesday, 27 June 2017

To A Friend, Who Unwittingly Helped Me To Breastfeed

This week is National Breastfeeding Celebration Week in England, this year the week has the theme of breastfeeding support. Unicef are encouraging mothers to share stories of our breastfeeding friends, the people who supported us with our breastfeeding journey.

It's got me thinking about the people who supported me when I first started breastfeeding five and a half years ago. My husband, my mum, midwives, health visitors, strangers on online advice forums all played their part. But there was someone else, someone who may not have directly helped me, but whose example gave me the determination to keep going. This post is to her.

We were in each others' day to day lives for just a few months. We worked together, but by the time I started working with you, you might already have been pregnant with your second child. I was childless but hopeful for the future. You talked to me about motherhood, my first real 'mum friend'. You shared your pregnancy woes with me, but talked about the joys of being a mum too.

You talked about breastfeeding. You didn't preach about it, just casually dropped it into our conversations. It was something normal, run-of-the-mill, alongside talk of nappies and toddler tantrums. No big deal.

You went on maternity leave and we stayed in touch via Facebook. And that's how I heard about what happened after your beautiful baby was born. You were ill. Very ill. Scary, hospitalised kind of ill. Then you posted thanking your friends for helping you to continue breastfeeding your child. A few months later you called into work and talked about how you'd had to argue with medics to be able to keep breastfeeding. It stuck with me.

Fast forward two and a half years and I had a newborn baby of my own. I'd always assumed I'd breastfeed, but then I'd always assumed it was easy. How wrong I was. Eleanor had a habit of flat refusing to latch on, and would go from asleep to screaming with what we thought was hunger (actually it was reflux) in seconds. I didn't know how I could keep feeding her, it felt impossible.

But I remembered you. And how you'd continued to breastfeed despite being so very ill. And I kept telling myself, "If she could do it, so can I." You were my proof that it could be done, no matter what the circumstances. And that thought kept me going and helped me to fight for support until, at eight weeks, it finally started to get easier.

You did actually visit me in those early weeks but I didn't talk much about how I was struggling with breastfeeding at the time. You told me your two had both had reflux and we exchanged a couple of texts about it after Eleanor had been diagnosed, but other than that you weren't really directly involved in my breastfeeding journey. And yet you were crucial to it. You were my model of a normal, regular, breastfeeding mum, carrying on despite adversity. Simply by doing what you felt was right by your children, you inspired me to keep doing what I felt was right for my child.

Now Eleanor is five and a half it seems bizarre to me to think how close I came to giving up. Breastfeeding is just part of family life now. It's normal, run-of-the-mill, just like nappies and toddler tantrums. And I have you to thank for that.

Thank you, my unknowing breastfeeding friend.

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