Preparing for breastfeeding – what’s actually needed?
Preparing for breastfeeding – what’s actually needed?
Many of us have heard that somehow a scrubbing brush was once needed to prepare our breasts for breastfeeding. The mere thought of using this piece of equipment on such a sensitive area of a woman’s body is enough to bring tears to any woman’s eyes. The idea came out of the thought we need to ‘toughen our nipples’ in preparation for the ferocious grip of our newborn’s mouths. This practice has been abandoned as part of preparing for breastfeeding in favour of the idea there is nothing needed in the form of creams or nipple rolling, as our breasts are naturally designed for a baby to feed from. The only current breast care that may be needed is taking time to become familiar with them.
Despite this hands-off approach, based on the thinking that women’s breasts are already equipped to breastfeed, many women struggle with establishing breastfeeding after giving birth due to issues with attachment, sore or painful nipples and insufficient milk supply. There are a number of factors that can impact this, but there is one vital piece of breastfeeding advice that is missing that potentially affects both establishing breastfeeding and even the choice to not breastfeed.
It could be said that this missing breastfeeding advice is partly being shared when it is suggested that women should familiarise themselves with their breasts by touching them during pregnancy. But for many women even the thought of becoming familiar with them by touching them feels like a stretch: many of us feel disconnected from our breasts as we have assigned them to being functional parts of our bodies to be used by others for making love, and for some women, for our babies to feed from.
In my own experience of preparing for breastfeeding with my seven children, I had little connection to my breasts when I was pregnant. My only concerns were wanting to support them with a maternity bra as they got bigger and heavier, as well as finding out if I needed to toughen them to prepare for the onslaught of my baby’s suck.
It wasn’t until my breastfeeding days were well and truly over, and with the support of receiving Esoteric Breast Massage, that I first came to understand that my breasts were not just for breastfeeding and making love. Over a period of time I began to feel that they belonged to me and it was my choice in how I used them!
The choice to have an Esoteric Breast Massage was a huge leap for me at the time, despite my years of exposing my breasts for breastfeeding. However, making this choice has been one of the most supportive decisions in my life that totally changed how I felt about myself as a woman, my breasts and my approach to breastfeeding.
From this, I came to understand that the best piece of breastfeeding advice a woman could receive when preparing for breastfeeding is understanding that we need to reclaim our breasts as actually belonging to us, and from this we can choose how we use them from what feels true to each woman.
"The woman's breasts are not sexual objects. The woman's breasts are not feeders for the young. A woman's breasts belong to the woman - they can be used sexually or they can be used to feed the young, but they must come back to the woman as they belong to the woman. Women must be enriched by their own body parts - otherwise the breasts become objects they use for everyone else but themselves."Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 521
This process is more significant than we realise as our breasts are first and foremost connected to the nurturing of ourselves, which makes sense as we currently connect them to nurturing our babies and as part of intimate relationships.
When we are about to embark on the journey of nurturing our babies, whether it involves breastfeeding or not, it would seem obvious that it’s vital that we develop a foundation of true self-care and self-nurturing before we can truly offer the love and care that our babies so need.
One specific way to build this foundation of self-care in pregnancy that supports redeveloping a relationship with our breasts and preparing for breastfeeding, is to establish a daily rhythm of lovingly massaging our breasts. Like me, this can feel like a big leap if you have rarely touched your breasts before. This is interesting considering we find it normal to touch other parts of our bodies and massage cream into them. It would seem that because our breasts are connected to being sexual, that we have a reluctance to touch them ourselves. It’s something to be aware of in how we feel about breastfeeding and our willingness to care for our breasts as we would other parts of our body.
A simple way to begin is to gently touch your breasts while in the shower, and as you feel more comfortable with self-touch, the next step would be using some cream to massage into the breasts after the shower. Making a space to connect to your breasts each day can begin to change how you feel about them and contribute to rebuilding the connection to them and your body.
This daily ritual can be part of the many self-caring and self-nurturing choices that can be made every day during pregnancy. What many women are not aware of is that the experience of being pregnant offers a unique opportunity to establish a deeper level of self-care and self-nurturing due to many changes that occur in the woman’s body that speak loudly in needing to rest more, making different food choices, as well as feeling the pull to slow down and connect to the inner stillness that lives within every woman.
Preparing for breastfeeding is not something we can do in isolation, as it can be part of how we deepen how we care for and nurture ourselves during pregnancy and beyond. In this process, there is an opportunity to build a greater connection to our bodies, which can lead to a greater awareness of how we are feeling and what feels true for each of us. This would support us in navigating the many choices related to breastfeeding, as well as discerning all the information that is offered in establishing breastfeeding.
The more we practise developing this awareness, the easier it becomes to trust what we feel, which would include our knowing that the suggestion to use a scrubbing brush or any other device to toughen our nipples would be a definite no-go zone!