My breastfeeding journey started when I was a child. When I was four, my mother gave birth to my younger sister, and breastfed her until she was one. My mother has always been an advocate for breastfeeding, and was never shy about breastfeeding in front of anyone, in any setting.
My first memory of seeing someone breastfeeding was my aunt breastfeeding my cousin. I would have been in primary school. The reason the memory stands out for me is that we all had to clear out of the lounge room while she breastfed, because she wasn’t comfortable doing it in front of other people. I remember sensing my mother’s quiet judgment of this requirement, even as she supported it outwardly.
I grew up as part of a close-knit extended family. As well as my mum’s and dad’s families of origins, we would also catch up with my mum’s extended family – her cousins, uncles and aunts, and eventually cousins’ children – at least twice a year. All of my mum’s cousins breastfed their babies, and it was never hidden or secluded.
I knew I wanted to be a mother since I was a teenager. I remember being 16 and feeling ‘clucky’ as we called it. Hormones kicked in and started doing their thing. I didn’t actually want to be a teen mum, but I started to get in touch with my maternal desires. Part of that was breastfeeding. As much as my womb craved bearing a child and my arms craved holding the child, my breasts craved nourishing the child. I couldn’t wait to experience that sensation.
When I got pregnant, my desire for breastfeeding blossomed into pleasant anticipation. I was looking forward to meeting my baby – and I was looking forward to breastfeeding her*.
When I was only a few weeks from full term, I was cooking in the kitchen and I started to smell the distinct scent of baby. The scent was wafting around. I opened the neckline of my top to access my bra. My suspicions were confirmed: I could smell my own breastmilk, getting stocked up in anticipation.
I first breastfed Finley about an hour after he was born. It made me so happy to do this. I was already high on birth hormones but to finally experience this sensation was amazing. It was like having sex for the first time, but better. After the third time I breastfed him, I felt like I had been doing it forever.
Six months later, I was visiting my grandparents in Melbourne and one of my mum’s cousins was visiting with her three daughters, two teenaged and one primary school aged. I sat at the kitchen table breastfeeding Finley while eating pizza with my second cousins. It didn’t seem that long ago that I had witnessed all three of them being breastfed.
The youngest asked my grandmother for a cup of milk, which she procured for her. She drank the milk and then pointed to Finley. “He’s drinking milk and I’m drinking milk!”
“That’s right!” I said. I was pleased with how comfortable and upfront she was about the whole process.
“And one day, I’ll have milk in me too!”
At first I thought she meant, she would have milk in her because she was drinking milk. Then I realised that she too was anticipating breastfeeding a child one day, just like I had done when I was young.
And so it continues.
*We never found out the sex, but thought we were having a girl.