After I volunteered to write a guest post for Breastfeeding Awareness Week (2010), I developed mastitis, so the last thing I wanted to do was write a post about breastfeeding and how I’d recommend it.

However, I realised this is exactly when I should be writing it, because even when it’s successful breastfeeding has its’ challenges and if we were more honest about these, perhaps many women wouldn’t feel they were failing and would carry on longer.

Before I had MM I was desperate to breastfeed until he was at least a year old, but no-one I knew had successfully fed for more than a few weeks. As a result I armed myself with as much knowledge as possible and was prepared for the experience to be more complicated than I originally expected.

He was exclusively breastfed for six months and since then I’ve continued to feed him on demand, now just feeding morning, evening and once during the night.

Many friends have commented how lucky I’ve been to have breastfed so successfully and in many ways I do feel luck played a part. He picked it up quickly and was always an efficient feeder, never taking more than 20 minutes, even in the early days.

Nonetheless we’ve had to come through some difficult times, which I like to refer to as my ‘breastfeeding walls’ and it has taken more than luck to persevere.

He was always a snacker, so frequent feeds were required. In the first few weeks I had a blocked duct, which I cleared by holding him upside down to feed, after calling the NCT helpline. We spent many evenings, with him alternating between feeding and sleeping. At six, nine and twelve months, after some nasty bouts of teething, feeding was so painful I would hum the theme to ‘The A-Team’ to stop me crying out. Finally, I have mastitis to add to the list.

So, it was a lot more than luck that prevented us from giving up, such as great support from some friends and my partner, great advice from breastfeeding forums, websites and helplines, the information that I had armed myself with before I even started and my sheer determination to make it work.

It’s hard to know how honest to be with women that expresses a desire to breastfeed. The last thing I would want to do is put them off, but my instinct and dreadful habit of being a bit too honest, tells me that the more reality they can be exposed to the more prepared they can be and the more likely they will carry on when they hit a problem.

Would more women stick with it if they knew that spending the evening feeding doesn’t mean their milk isn’t up to the job, but simply baby’s way of putting in their order? Or that blocked ducts and mastitis don’t mean you have to stop and will usually go away if you just feed, feed and feed some more?

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that I wish more women could feed for longer. It is a great way for both of you to relax, a chance to sit down for a few minutes, a good excuse to eat cake and it is a great tool to have in your pocket when all else fails. MM has had lots of nasty tooth pains this week and I have been so relieved that a few extra feeds have given him comfort.

So, do you agree that forewarned is forearmed or do you think it’s possible to be too honest about the ups and downs of breastfeeding?

Post written June 2010 by Emily is a Stay-at-Home Mum to Mini Mck (MM) who was 14 months at the time. She blogs at Mummy Limited.

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