Guest Post- Using Your Village

Breastfeeding was something I was determined to do with Bennie. I won’t pretend for a minute that it was easy and although it was me putting in the hard yards, I was never alone in it. I had my husband and some wonderful friends to support, encourage and advise me. Marissa is a mum of three and breastfeeding has never come easily but this time around, things are different…

I was going to write about my previous struggles with breastfeeding. I was going to write about poor advice, scary nurses and mummy guilt. I was going to write about how, three babies in, I have overcome my struggles and am now breastfeeding my third baby. I was going to explain how proud I am, how great it feels to have finally succeeded at something that has been so difficult for me.

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I was going to write a lot of things, and then I realised one important thing: I could never have made it this far without my village.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. For me it has taken a village to feed a child. From the obvious people in my village like my husband and my parents, to the less obvious ones like strangers on the internet, this village has been behind me every step of the way.

Before I had Jared, I started thinking about how I was going to breastfeed him. I have two other kids, one of whom is in primary school, and at times the logistics of adding the 24 hour requirement of my mammary glands into the equation just seemed impossible. I considered formula feeding from birth. I considered giving him colostrum and expressing a few times a day for as long as I could. How would I do it all? How would I care for a five year old and a two year old, at the same time as feeding an infant? How would I manage school run? Cleaning? Cooking? Eating?

My village came to my rescue. When I was tired after a night with a constantly feeding my son, my parents picked up the slack and took my daughter to school. My husband took extra time off work, and cooked and cleaned while I sat and fed. My brother and best friends entertained my children.

My village was varied. The ladies I talk to in my Facebook mother’s group supported me through long feeds at 2am and crazy sleep deprivation. They offered loads of practical advice and support, empathised with me in hard times and celebrated the good. One of my best friends is a breastfeeding advocate, and the other is a midwife. Both were on hand with emotional and practical support. When Jared didn’t gain “enough” weight, they encouraged me to keep trying. When he was hospitalised with various health issues, they researched and helped me understand the issues.

I recently read this article. The author laments the loss of the traditional village and yearns for a time when we supported and helped each other through hard times. I don’t think the village is lost, I think it has evolved. We may not be washing clothes together at the riverbank while our children play; however we are still offering laughs and kind words to our fellow mothers through blogs, forums and social media.

If the concept of breastfeeding your child is daunting, prepare you village now. Prepare it even if you are not considering children or breastfeeding. Gather it around you in whatever form it may happen to come. Ask your village for help and receive it gratefully when it inevitably is provided. Breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural and amazing thing to do. We are biologically designed to breastfeed. This I know, I have been told hundreds of times and seen on many information handouts. But we are not designed to do it all alone.

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