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Mama, you won't regret this (part I)

More than 15 years on, Maggie Holmes looks back on her breastfeeding days as providing a battery pack of love that has lasted her children into adulthood.

The first in our series of life lessons from nursing:


I sometimes glimpse a breastfeeding mummy, when I’m out and about, and find myself sending her an unsolicited, empathetic smile.

I was a breastfeeding mummy for about 10 years; nursing my son till he was three and half, breastfeeding through the second pregnancy and upwards and onwards with my daughter for ‘quite a long time’.

Breastfeeding was a big part of my life.

But my ‘babies’ are now in their early twenties and looking back, I’m sketchy on the details, instead remembering the time as a contented blur of happiness.

A period of time when mothering felt ‘right’.

For sure, there were long, lonely nights with a sleepless child and a sense of irritation when I wanted to get on a do something, but one of the children need a long feed.

But those times don’t feel important now.

I remember saying, when pregnant with my first child, that I rather wished I would give birth to a border collie, because at least then I would know what to do with it.

Breastfeeding rendered those worries redundant. It allowed me to follow my instincts and put in a place a set of behaviours that formed the bedrock of our mother-child relationship.

No need to worry about what they would eat, for a start.

I remember the first time we had a feed on a train, it was so liberating , from then on, I knew that we could move around Hong Kong freely, and even travel further afield, as we were a self -contained unit. I just needed a small bag with the nappy kit, but didn't need to worry about bottles and formula and where to find clean water.

When they got sick, it was such a relief to be able to feed them myself.

At once providing comfort and the ‘best’ possible food-medicine on earth. The breast milk was definitely protective too. Once, when my son was at kindergarten, he brought home a horrid virus. My son and I both had a fever and mouth ulcers. But my daughter, who was barely one year old, still sleeping with us and breastfeeding constantly (it felt like) didn’t get sick at all. It seemed a wonder!

The most basic thing a breastfeeding mum does is respond to the needs of her child.

And this constant communication sets up a pattern of responsiveness that I think becomes more important as the child outgrows the breastfeeding and moves into childhood and adolescence.

I know I’m looking back with rose coloured glasses and that in fact, there were some long, lonely nights and many mothers have tough patches. I think it’s important to separate out the different kind of challenges.  If you are having problems with the technical side of breastfeeding, for example you are in pain or concerned about milk supply etc., then do get help.  

And get help sooner, rather than later.

Many problems can be fixed fairly easily with some specialist help. I got a lot of helpful information from La Leche League.   If it’s general exhaustion, please know it won’t be like this forever! And do try to find a network of like-minded mums to see you through the early days.   As babies get older and are able to communicate with you more about their breastfeeding preferences, then it’s so much fun.  They say such funny thing and it’s all so adorable.  Here’s an important tip: keep a diary and write  those fun moments down - it’s a priceless treasure to keep for later. 

I think of those early breastfeeding years as a battery pack of love.

It gives both side the energy to navigate the more challenging teenage years. Building up that relationship of trust and respect is a lasting contract between mother and child.

Breastfeeding is not always easy. But it’s always worth it.

Maggie Holmes is a retired La Leche League Leader and mother of two who lives in Hong Kong.

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