The first time that my husband,Dave, placed Broden on my chest and I tried to feed him, he latched immediately. I remember feeling incredulous that it had gone so well, and looking at Dave and seeing the same thoughts written on his face. I hoped that future feeds would always be like this. Throughout your pregnancy, everyone asks if you are going to breastfeed – and although I had been determined that I was going to, I have to admit that I was a little scared that I wasn’t going to get it right. I realise that we were incredibly fortunate and that not everyone’s experience is as straightforward or easy.
Those early days were filled with awe. I spent hours just watching my baby. I watched him feed, sleep, and slowly start to make sense of this new environment. Most wondrous of all though was the breastfeeding. Neither Broden nor I had ever breastfed before and yet somehow – somehow – we figured this out together. Nature is truly incredible. My son, probably not even an hour old, and who did not even have a name yet, knew instinctively that I belonged to him. An indescribable moment – one of so many that day. Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it is as much an instinct for survival as it is a passage into motherhood. I noticed that almost every muscle in Broden’s little body seemed to be involved in the process of extracting milk, and it seemed to take all his energy.
When Broden was about four months old, a friend asked if I was finding the night feeds lonely at all. This was the first time that this thought had crossed my mind, and I recall laughing it off saying something like ‘no, the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, I’m enjoying all the extra cuddles’.
Bu then I thought about it.
It wasn’t the novelty.
It was the quality of the support I was receiving.
I have a husband who is a rarity (I’m keeping him!). Often, if Dave heard Broden wake up for a night feed, he would tell me to relax, and he would get up and bring him to me. Even if Dave went to sleep straight away, it didn’t matter. I felt like I was a part of a team, and definitely not alone in this journey. I was sometimes lucky enough to get a glass of water delivered or even a cup of tea.
To be honest, that is one of the main reasons that I have been able to breastfeed for this long. I cannot emphasise the importance of a supportive partner enough. Apart from Dave, I had other support as well. My mom breastfed all of us, so it never seemed like a strange concept. I have family and friends that have breastfed, so I have been surrounded by positive role models as well as advice when required. Because as amazing as your partner is, it’s the first time he’s supporting a breastfeeding mom as well. We don’t all have all the answers the first time we do something. So when you are wondering why you are thirsty when you breastfeed, or are not sure which breast pads are the right ones to buy, it’s good to have people to phone.
Although our breastfeeding journey has been relatively easy, there have been some challenges. When Broden refused to take a bottle (after two and a half months of trying), Dave asked me if it was worth the tears. I assume he meant mine – throwing away expressed milk is a soul-destroying business. We re-evaluated our diaries. For a couple of months, Dave and I planned our shoots around each other, so that we could both attend my shoots with Broden. I would shoot until Broden needed me, and then Dave and I would swop the camera for the baby, without affecting the client at all. I got to feel as though I was still contributing and had not turned my back on my work, and I could still be a mom. If Dave could not be there, my folks came. ‘Bottled at source’ was not good enough for Broden, he wanted to go direct. I’m so glad that we were able to make it work.
I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my support structure. If I had not had the encouragement and support – or I was in a different career, breastfeeding for this long may never have been an option
About this Shoot:
I understand that not everyone will see the point of a breastfeeding shoot. I myself was a little dubious, but having come this far, I wanted something to document this time of my life, as I may never get it again. I decided I would rather have the shoot than spend years wondering how it would have looked if I had done it. The photos could stay on a hard drive if I did not like them, but once breastfeeding is done, it is done. You can never go back and get it.
To put things into perspective, I am very uncomfortable being photographed. As it turns out, I did not have much of a chance to think about it. We were driving through Clarens, and found a spot on the side of the road. So while Dave was setting up, I was trying to put on some make-up, change and get Broden ready. We kind of knew that we may try and do the shoot, but spoke more about the possibility of it not happening. We are both photographers, so there’s ‘always tomorrow’ – possibly one of the reasons that it took us so long to get around to doing this shoot.
At the end of the day, how the shoot happened is not important. What is important is that it did happen.
For me, it was important to capture the bonding. There is so much eye contact with breastfeeding, and there are the laughs. There is the learning. I have watched my little Noo grow from only being able to suckle, progressing to trying to squeeze my boobs while he sucks to get more out. As he got older, his challenge was to stay on the boob while also checking out his surroundings. He learned the parts of the face by pointing at my eyes etc while he fed, and I would say the word for him. Even when his words were not yet there, he could show you where any part of his face was if you asked. Over all the time spent together, we have learned to read each other.
Apart from capturing the bonding, this shoot forms part of my #documentyourlife campaign which I am launching for the year ahead. Having a little one has made me realise that while you should not live your life entirely through a lens, we have to consciously make an effort to document more moments in our lives. One day, your kids will want to see photographs of you with them at various points in their lives. It is so important. With that in mind, I shall be running a couple of mini-shoot promotions throughout the year to ensure that more memories are recorded for everybody.
This post has been done as a tribute to #nationalbreastfeedingweek. So while I am here, I would just like to share some tips to anyone wondering how best to support a breastfeeding mom:
The first tip is water! Most moms get thirsty when breastfeeding. So often, in their rush to look after their baby first, moms forget about that glass of water. I have been fortunate that every time that I have been at my folks or sister-in-law’s places, someone has brought through some water as soon as they realise that I am feeding. I have always been so grateful for this. It may seem small, but it is a big thing when you are unable to get up yourself, and will mean that world to that mom.
My next point applies to all new moms generally, whether they are breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or just need to change a nappy at some point. If you are hosting a new mom in your house, please take a second to let her know where she can go for some quiet time if the baby needs it. While all moms will fit in and try their best not to inconvenience anyone, the reality is that the entertainment areas in a house can get noisy. This can lead to babies becoming over-stimulated. When this happens, it is nice to know that there is somewhere you can go without interrupting a busy hostess to ask.
At 18 months, I can see that our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. Broden is drinking less and taking more of an interest in ‘real’ food. While I never thought that I would breastfeed for this long, I am glad that we have made it this far. I am, however, excited for the next chapter, while holding excellent memories of our very special times of this season together..