Updated: Oct 31, 2021
Today 𝐼 needed this just as much as him - if not more.
It has taken me a week to write this post, because it has been a week when I came face-to-face with racism & it knocked me for six. As a half Jamaican, half Irish Brummie, I was fortunate to grow up in a multicultural suburb where I never felt as though I was any different to anyone else because of the colour of my skin. I went to school with children whose parents & grandparents had emigrated to the UK from all over the world. After traveling to & living in big cities around the globe, my fiancé highlighted how I have, in his view, been extremely fortunate not to have come across racism as I have this week, before now. Yet, the truth is that I hadn’t.
Have I been living in an idealized dreamworld? Perhaps. My growing up in a society where we celebrated Diwali & Eid alongside Christmas & Easter, meant that I never truly appreciated just how lucky I was to be exposed to such beauty, such diversity & so many different cultures from such an early age. The events of the last week have shaken me to my core & have left me wondering whether rural Oxfordshire is the kind of place where we can raise our son to be a confident & happy man who knows that his worth as a human being has absolutely nothing to do with the colour of his skin or his magical, mixed heritage.
There is a poisonous narrative that after a certain period of breastfeeding, a mother is, “Only doing it 𝒻𝑜𝓇 𝒽𝑒𝓇𝓈𝑒𝓁𝒻.” Firstly, let’s set the record straight: BREAST MILK NEVER LOSES IT NUTRITIONAL & IMMUNITY-BOOSTING QUALITIES. Therefore it is impossible for a mother to 𝑜𝓃𝓁𝓎 breastfeed for herself. Even if her motivations were purely selfish (& I’m yet to hear of a mother yet who feels this way!) her little one will benefit from the nutrition that her milk provides. Not only is breast milk 𝒶𝓁𝓌𝒶𝓎𝓈 nutritionally beneficial to children, but a significant part of the reason why I continue to nurse my 22 month old son 𝒾𝓈 for me & that’s not just OK - it’s wonderful.
When a mother nurses her child, 𝓅𝓇𝑜𝓁𝒶𝒸𝓉𝒾𝓃 & 𝑜𝓍𝓎𝓉𝑜𝒸𝒾𝓃 are released into her system...(Cont. In comments/on the website - link in bio)Prolactin is associated with stimulating milk production when a child nurses.This particular hormone is produced at night & is reported to make mothers feel sleepy & relaxed during night feeds (1). I experienced this first hand from the the moment that my little man first latched onto me. I remember the feeling so clearly that second night in hospital - his latch was voracious & as he nursed, waves of sleepiness washed over me with such power that I struggled to stay sitting upright & holding him (unfortunately I had no clue about safe cosleeping/breastsleeping practices at the time)! The feeling is less intense now, but one of the reasons that I continue to nurse my son at night is that it helps both of us to drift back to sleep in moments, allowing us both to get as much precious sleep as possible.
Oxytocin is responsible for triggering the let down reflex (which forces milk to be ejected from a mother’s breasts in fine streams). It is also responsible for two very different physiological & psychological responses in mothers. Oxytocin generally induces a sense of calm and reduces stress (1). I count myself to be incredibly fortunate to experience this each time nurse my son. I know that not every mother does & oxytocin is thought to play a significant role in D-MER (when a mother experiences negative emotions just before & during her let down - follow @breastfeedingaversion for more information). For me though it’s a bit like the sensation of being immersed in a warm bath or embraced by someone you love, really tightly. That feeling of closeness as my son’s chunky body melts into mine is priceless & my gosh, will I miss it when our breastfeeding journey ends.
So yes, on this day & on many other days, I was nursing my son for myself 𝒶𝓈 𝓌𝑒𝓁𝓁 as for him & I say that without a hint of shame & with a heart full of gratitude.
1. Infant and Young Child Feeding: Model Chapter for Textbooks for Medical Students and Allied Health Professionals. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2009. SESSION 2, The physiological basis of breastfeeding.