It’s been a long time since I wrote my first column on breastfeeding. Or it feels like a long time anyway. I started these columns shortly after the birth of my youngest child who is now four years old.
He was weaned this year, as I’m sure many extended breastfeeding critics will be happy to hear. No, he’s not going to kindergarten with a boob in his mouth.
My youngest child was breastfed for over four years. My first child, a mere 18 months; my second child, 21 months.
There is not a sleepless night, dietary change, unsipped drink or occasion when I was forced to just sit and be with my child to nurse that I regret.
I have never regretted breastfeeding. I have never regretted breastfeeding for as long as I did. I have never regretted a single incidence of breastfeeding — not the time on the beach when others stared, or at church, nor at the mall, nor even the time I embarrassed my mother by breastfeeding sitting at a restaurant table.
What I regret is the bottle of formula I gave on rare occasions — though I know at the time I weighed the risks and decided to cave in to the “convenience.” I regret the time I handed my eldest off to cry in someone else’s arms because “I can’t do this; it’s too much; he needs me too much” — though I know at the time I was a new mother, overwhelmed and unprepared.
I regret not talking with other mothers more about their choices — though I know such discussions are difficult to initiate. I regret weaning my oldest two as early as I did — though I know those were informed choices for the health of myself and our family.
We all make choices. We make choices that we weigh out and decide based on what’s best for us — meaning our family, our children, ourselves. Or, I hope we do. But sometimes we don’t make a choice. Sometimes we make a default decision, based upon what we think is expected. Do I have regrets? Yes. Do I understand that at the time I made the best choice I could? Yes.
The fact is, we’re much more likely to regret the things we didn’t do, the positive actions we didn’t take and the choices we didn’t weigh than anything we did do. And it’s the same with breastfeeding.
You won’t regret it is the message that the Baby-Friendly Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, in co-operation with a variety of local celebrities, parents, grandparents and children, and film director Mary Lewis is sharing with their new Newfoundland and Labrador Breastfeeds video series.
The videos, featured on their website at www.babyfriendlynl.ca and titled “You won’t regret it,” “What breasts are for,” and “Why,” are designed to be used both in public spaces and in prenatal and health education. They’ve been created to raise awareness and enhance discussion about infant feeding choices.
Often, we don’t make a choice. We do what “feels” right or what we see around us or what our friends and family are doing.
When it comes to parenting, everything should be questioned: how we discipline our children, the rules we make for our household, and… how we feed our children.
Some of those choices we take time to make, some can be changed after the fact (often with regrets about the earlier choice), but some need to be made early, before the baby is born. What we feed our baby is one of those. The fact is that yes, a woman can relactate if she stops breastfeeding, but it’s difficult.
If she decides to breastfeed and later changes her mind, it’s much easier to switch to the bottle from the breast than vice-versa — in fact so easy that the only difficulty will be the possible regret.
The message in the Baby-Friendly Council videos is that even a drop of breastmilk is good for your baby and that giving them that one drop, one day, one month, one year is something you will never regret.
From my experience, truer words were never spoken.
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