I grew up without any siblings or family around. As an adult, I didn’t even have friends that had babies. My sisters-in-law had children, but I was never around enough to really talk to them about breastfeeding. I do know that they went to great lengths to breastfeed–one of my sisters–law even pumped while driving and making deliveries for her job.
After I gave birth, I distinctly remember feverishly reading LLL’s “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” in my hospital bed, mentally kicking myself for not having read it beforehand! I was grateful that the nurses would help us get latched, and didn’t care that they were seeing me topless. Anything that would help my baby be fed was fine with me. I remember having some difficulty keeping her awake to eat, and she didn’t seem to be getting much even though she was latched on.
By day three, she had lost 15% of her body weight. Our midwife was concerned and suggested that my milk had not come in yet. She told me to really listen for baby’s gulps, and if I didn’t hear it, I needed to re-latch her. She gave us a recipe for “Jungle Juice”, something commonly used in South Africa, made from water, juice, an electrolyte powder, and Blackthorn Berry Elixir. I had to drink 3 liters that first day and 1.5 liters daily for a week after. My husband immediately went out and bought all the ingredients and mixed it right up. I chugged it like there was no tomorrow, and miraculously, I felt my milk come in that night! Two days later, when the midwife came back, my baby had regained that 15% lost and then some! I was so relieved and grateful. We have had a wonderful breastfeeding experience ever since that slow beginning. I’m lucky to say that I have never had cracked nipples, clogged ducts, or mastitis.
My daughter is now 17 months old, and we are still going strong. I pump two to three times a day and nurse on demand when we are together. Sleep is difficult because she still nurses several times throughout the night. The biggest struggle right now is that my supply is going down and I’m not sure if that is a natural consequence of my daughter growing up, or if it is something I should try to intervene upon (by power pumping, taking Fenugreek, etc.).
Breastfeeding is something that I always knew I’d do, but I never knew we’d last this long. I don’t really have a plan for when to stop breastfeeding-whenever it seems best for her, or me, to make the change. I truly believe that my daughter is as healthy as she is because of breastfeeding. My husband is 100% supportive of our breast-feeding journey and I’m grateful that I have been able to have such a positive experience. I hope that it goes as easily with our next child.
Marie, a PhD student, and her husband live in Cape Town, South Africa with their 17 month old daughter.
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Photo credits: Marie Osborn