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The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th November 2020

Chris Walker is father to one year old Roma. Here, he tells the story of his partner, Rachel's breastfeeding journey, through tongue tie and frequent night feeding. Runner Up in our 2020 Writing Competition.

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th November 2020

The Green Parent

By The Green Parent

04th November 2020

I wake suddenly.

Blinking my eyes furiously, I try to see what woke me. The world is nothing but blackness, and at first I start to wonder where I am. Then, as my eyes begin to adjust to the dark, I realise I’m in my own bed. All is deadly quiet.

Too quiet.

I check the time. The middle of the night has been and gone, and we’re into the still and inanimate hours of early morning.

The bed beside me is empty.

I throw the sheets off and roll out of bed, footsteps cat-soft as I tip-toe across the room, trying not to make a sound.

I hunch over the laptop on the floor and tilt the screen back, blue light momentarily blinding me. I hit the replay button and close the screen, most but not all of the way. As the lullaby chimes out softly once again, I creep back into bed and pull the sheets back over me, glad to be warm again.

Yet that feeling doesn’t last long.

I roll over to notice the artificial light from the laptop and angle of the screen was projecting light onto the wall by the bedroom door, a splinter of dim blue in the darkness, and as I watch I notice wild, distorted shadows flitting and dancing across the wall and ceiling.

The feelings of anxiety wash over me once again as I recognise the slow, steady rythmn to the shapes being cast.

As I watch, she steps forward and for a moment stands perfectly silhoutted by the doorway, head bowed, with a little bundle clutched to her breast. After only a moment she moves away again, her dressing gown trailing in her wake as she continues to rock and nurse our baby daughter back to sleep.

As I lay in there and wait for her to come back to bed, the image of her silhoutte is seared in my mind’s eye; her head gazing down to the baby she feeds at her breast, the only difference is that her open dressing gown has transformed into the outline of a flowing cape…

In those moments, watching her breastfeed, I knew that she was so much more than a woman… she is a superwoman.

She is a mother.

Breastfeeding.

The most natural thing in the world, told from maybe the most unnatural point of view… Dadda’s.

I feel personally, and I’m sure there will be plenty of other dad’s out there who feel the same way, that we as dad’s go through the same trials and tribulations of feeding our baby from the breast just as much as the mummy’s. We share the same hopes, fears and expectations of breastfeeding that you do. The letdown reflex, cluster feeding, growth spurts… all these new things neither of us had ever heard of before, yet we had to navigate our way through, together as a family.

Breastfeeding is the most wonderful thing. My girlfriend Rachel was very passionate about breastfeeding our daughter Roma. From the very beginning when we found out she was pregnant, she was adamant she was going to be able to do it, and she had my unequivocal support.

But our breastfeeding journey hasn’t been plain sailing. From tongue tie to feeding in public, the first few weeks were tough and demanding. At the beginning we hadn’t quite anticipated how often Roma was going to be feeding as a newborn. We felt that she constantly wanted to feed and be at the breast, and as a dad that can make you feel quite inadequate. I began to get discouraged by the fact that I couldn’t help, especially as we’d never been able to master pumping.

Then I read something that changed my outlook. I learnt not to focus on the things I couldn’t do but about the things I could do to help Rachel. Even though I couldn’t take over with the direct feeding of Roma, I could make life a lot easier for mummy by doing some of the little things around the house. Whilst Rach is busy feeding Roma, instead of fretting about the baby latching or the baby going down, I can wash up the days’ dishes and put away the toys that have been inevitably strewn across the living room floor. I can do some bits of cooking and take charge of the bath time routine, giving mummy and her back a break before the long nightime feeds begin.

When mum wakes up in the middle of the night, I make the habit of asking her if she needs help with anything. The truth is most of the time she will say no, but just the fact I offered will make her feel like she’s not alone in this.

The little things really do add up to make a big difference.

It really was a eureka moment for me.

We’re now almost 11 months along our breastfeeding journey, and although I still get moments of feeling quite useless when Roma’s fussing and Rachel’s feeling overwhelmed or tired, but the difference now is we’ve settled into a routine that works best for us.

My biggest lesson and advice to any new dads that may be reading this is…

Patience.

Breastfeeding isn’t just food for your baby. It can be the equivalent of a cuddle, a cup of tea, a dummy, a drink, a snack, reassurance… It’s not just about feeding your child, it’s also about mummy and baby having that bonding time together. Breastfeeding is perfectly normal and natural. So be patient dads, and try to find ways of creating your own bond with baby too.

Breastfeeding may not always be easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it.

Homeschooled throughout his childhood, Chris is now an aspiring author and new dad. “As parents Rachel and I plan to worldschool our daughter, as travel and being amongst nature are our biggest passions. We’re a family of veggies. Visited 24 countries and counting, we love to document our adventures on Instagram. @a_couple_and_a_compass and @_roma.roams_

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