How Breastfeeding Has Helped Me to Stay Calm During Lockdownby Sabrina Hackett-Saikul
When you think about Breastfeeding a toddler and not a small baby you often assume that it is all-consuming on your time, your body and your freedom. In some ways, you would be right, but our decision to continue feeding is a personal one. Despite me spending hours a day sat with my son nursing however, I don’t think I have ever been as grateful to still be breastfeeding him as I am right now.
Lockdown is hard on everyone, and as adults, we might not realise the impact it is having on our children, especially those who don’t talk properly yet! I know he sees that I am more easily irritated some days, and I also know that he can see I miss my family and friends. He has wondered why his Nanny hasn’t come for her monthly visit to see us, why we no longer go for walks to the shops together, and that I have been using my phone and tablet way more than I would usually do. I do have mum guilt over some of this but right now we are all in the same boat, and in months to come we can make up for it, once it’s safe and the time is right.
So how I hear you ask, has breastfeeding helped to keep me calm during lockdown? Well, it's simple really, I sit quietly with him, sometimes I read, or watch TV, or scroll on my phone. But sometimes we are just sitting. Him feeding and me watching him, I play with his hairs and tell him how handsome a boy he is; he looks up at me and smiles – almost falling off the breast! But we have these quiet moments where he knows that if he instigates a feed, I will sit with him. He is calming me through the direction he is giving me, forcing me to sit down and relax with him.
Perhaps he understands more than I give him credit for. Maybe he knows mummy will calmly feed him and have a cuddle if he asks for milk. Another thing to consider are all the hormones that both a long cuddle and a feed will produce for both of us, which in itself is producing good, happy and calming feelings in the form of oxytocin.
During a hug or a cuddle the hormone oxytocin is released which lowers heart rate and cortisol levels in our blood. Cortisol is the hormone which is released when we are stressed and lots of it leads to having a high blood pressure. Oxytocin is released by the brain during Breastfeeding too, therefore providing a calming boost to mother and baby, or in my case mother and toddler.
Although early breastfeeding is challenging, a huge learning curve for all and very tiresome. We persevered through all the obstacles and made it work for us. Now after twenty-two odd months of feeding it has paved the way for a bond with my child that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s second nature for us now and I don’t even have to think about it. I love those extra cuddles; I love the look he gets when I ask him if he wants mummy milk or some boobie time. And in return I get that lovely calm feeling and that extra time with my son, and that for me is priceless. During this lockdown I have never been so grateful to have my son as I do right now. He is the reason that I’m keeping strong and keeping going in a somewhat normal routine, as I am trying to do. So thank you to my son for keeping this mummy whole during a really difficult time, I love you with every part of me.
To any new mummies out there who are reading this, who might be feeling overwhelmed right now during this hard time, I have one piece of advice for you. Do what is right for you and your baby, but if you do want to breastfeed please know that there are tons of people and groups out there ready to give you advice and help. You are not alone, and everyone will tell you that it gets better over time. I have written a lot about my breastfeeding journey, and although it has been hard at times the good definitely outweighs any bad. And my son is thriving because of my sacrifices.
The World Health Organisation also suggested that mothers should continue to Breastfeed where possible to help their babies have the best chance of beating Covid19 if they were to contract it. WHO said “Close contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps a baby to thrive” and that mothers even with suspected or confirmed Covid19 can still breastfeed if they are well enough to do so, by doing this the breast will create antibodies in the milk for their child to receive. This included breastfeeding with the mother wearing a mask, and also pumping into sterilised bottles.
Breastfeeding is still one of the most incredible things about human life, in my opinion, the female body is amazing. From carrying babies, birthing babies and then feeding babies. Don’t ever forget just how much we all, as Mothers, go through, to give our children life and also to sustain them too. Oh, and the extra cuddles we get, well those are just a bonus!