How breastfeeding helped me to love my body again

Author: Lisa Moore

Although I am now 100% confident breastfeeding my smallest boy whenever and wherever we are, regardless of who may or may not be watching, it makes me a little sad to say that this is only a very recent occurrence, and that body image - or body confidence - is a huge part of why I didn’t breastfeed last time round...

I suppose I should start from the beginning...

I was only 19 years old when my daughter was born... and even if she had survived, I wouldn’t have even attempted to breastfeed her... I can honestly say the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind throughout my pregnancy... in my head babies had bottles and that was that...

We had bought bottles and formula very early on in my pregnancy and there wasn’t really ever any mention that I would do anything else... as things worked out, in her incredibly short life she had neither breast nor bottle... 11 months later when my biggest boy was born, we still had all the things we had bought first time around... my 20-year-old head was still firmly bottles and formula - I knew nothing else... my friends all used bottles, nothing else even crossed my mind... this time though my baby was in neonatal intensive care and the nurses there told me that breastmilk was good for premature and sick babies and encouraged me to express for him... of course I did, I’d have done anything to keep that boy alive... but I’ll openly admit that I HATED every single minute of it. Sat attached to a pump every couple of hours day and night for a fortnight was not my idea of fun, I was home without my baby, and still up every 2 hours to express milk, then travelling for up to an hour at least twice a day with my cool bag to get it back to the hospital and to see my baby... I only got to actually breastfeed him twice... and that was with him covered in tubes and wires next to his incubator with a screen around us... I had no idea what I was doing and there was no support available... I didn’t exactly enjoy the experience... Needless to say, when the Drs told me after 2 weeks that he couldn’t have breast milk anymore, that he needed a specialised formula I wasn’t sad... just relieved that I didn’t have to pump anymore...

My horrid experience of pumping, plus my lack of body confidence meant that once again 4 years later when having my next baby, aged 23, I still didn’t contemplate breastfeeding. Although by then I saw it as a “normal” thing to do, I just didn’t have the confidence in myself to do it, the thought of getting my boob out in front of anyone made me want to run for the hills... I used bottles and formula and never thought twice about it...

A lot has changed in the years that have passed since then though...

Back then I hated my body. The stretch marks that covered my stomach from the polyhydramnios id suffered from with my first 2 hydropic pregnancies, and my huge 3rd baby... I hated them with a passion... If someone had offered me surgery to remove them, I’d have taken it without question... I hated the scars from my 3 Caesarian sections... I just hated the way my body looked...

Fast forward a few years and I hated my body even more... not only had it created 2 such seriously ill babies, but now it had put me and hubby though 3 years of unexplained infertility, and subjected us to fertility drugs, and the horror of 2 missed miscarriages and 2 lots of surgery afterwards...

By the time I became pregnant for the 6th time aged 30 it’s safe to say I didn’t have a positive thought left about my body, there were times when I was so consumed in hatred for it, for it “not working properly” and for it looking so hideous...
My hubby would constantly tell me that I was wrong, that my body was beautiful, that it had given me my children, that I should be proud of it etc etc but his words fell upon deaf ears, I didn’t want to hear them, as far as I was concerned my body was broken, and I hated it.

Fast forward to now…. my smallest boy is now 11 months old and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of my body... I said to hubby over the weekend - every time I look at our smallest little man, I am amazed that he has grown so much and that it’s all down to me... that my body is doing what it should be and feeding this little man everything he needs... breastfeeding has given me back confidence in my body, in a physical sense that I’m happy to just get out a boob and feed him, that I’m past caring about my body image, past caring what anyone else thinks... when he’s hungry all that matters is that he is being fed... it doesn’t even cross my mind to be self-conscious!

But also, mentally... it’s proven to me that my body isn’t broken after all... it’s carried a perfectly healthy little boy, and it’s feeding him and helping him grow... I feel a massive sense of achievement, like a weight has been lifted from me... I’m no longer wasting energy hating my body, I no longer care what anyone else thinks about me feeding my baby... my body is doing everything right... and although I still don’t like what I see in the mirror and my stretch marks and scars are always going to be there hidden away, for the first time in 13 years, finally aged 32 I can honestly say I am proud of my body and what it has achieved... after all it has given me 4 beautiful children, and right now as I type it is feeding one of them...all 21lbs of him, nothing makes me happier than being able to comfort him whenever and wherever we are without a care in the world, my initial goal was to breastfeed for 2 weeks whilst we didn’t have to leave the house or see anybody... now we’ve almost made it to a year, and we’re hoping we can make the WHO recommendation of 2... fingers crossed!


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