There are so many emotions tied with breastfeeding: joy, exhaustion, accomplishment, and even sadness. I love the bond it gave to me and each of my sons, starting my journey was a steep mountain to climb, and I miss every second of every bit of it. Thanks for hearing about my journey, I hope you can be encouraged.
Seven years ago I was pregnant with our first son. The most I knew about pregnancy was from my mother’s stories. She had four unmedicated childbirths and I believed that was the typical experience for women. Once I became a teenager I watched Hollywood movies and was then fearful of what childbirth could be. It was then that I decided I would definitely have medication if I were to ever have a baby. Having a baby was scary, and breastfeeding seemed weird. How could it not be with how the media portrays women’s bodies? I was scared. How would I feel as I was nursing my new infant?
I was surrounded by women who had natural births and who breastfed. I always knew I would- as if it was the only option for me and my family, but I was still scared out of my mind!
Watching friends breastfeed helped, but it was not enough.
I was approaching my third trimester and I did not know how I would overcome this fear that appeared to be so deep-rooted. Then I had a dream. I was on a boat. I was worried, but I was also on a mission. I was looking for my baby. I went to go and get my baby. I went to go get him to nurse. I nursed him, it was perfect, and it was filled with peace. That dream changed my life. I woke up with no fear and complete peace! That dream was a gift from God.
Fast forward three months. My breastfeeding class at the hospital was set for Wednesday, March 16. I began having contractions and found myself in labor on March 15. I remember thinking, “what am I going to do? I don’t know how to breastfeed and I’m going to miss my class!” Miss my class I did, and I wonder if it would have helped if I went, or not. I delivered my first baby- unmedicated after 30 hours of labor, weighing over 9lbs. Now, the fun part- eating! I scarfed down a donut from District Donuts! Noah was not as hungry as me.
He did not care to nurse. Why did he not want to? Well, I learned the term “flat nipples” and his tongue-tie also did not help. The nurses were completely wonderful trying to help me and position him. Truly, he was getting nothing. I was doing it all wrong.
Nipple shields, tears, lactation consultants, tears, visitors, tears, effort after effort, and still nothing.
On our second night at the hospital, he nursed, for 10 minutes! I cried the entire time and mistakenly took him off to burp. Did he latch again? No.
The nipple shield and lactation consultant helped, but when we got home I needed my mom, my husband, and my hands to nurse him. I was bleeding and crying and he still was not latching. I would express milk and syringe feed him milk while attempting a latch so he would think that I was giving him the milk.
I don’t remember the day it finally clicked for us, but it did. It took us about 7-10 days. The hardest days of my entire life, no doubt. He nursed until 16 months of age. I nursed him to sleep at times; I was his main source of comfort; I soothed his fears.
I nursed him in the car, at the zoo, at the gym, and everywhere in between. I was embarrassed to nurse in public and I felt like I needed to hide this huge accomplishment as if I was gross. That was the fear I initially had before birth, before my dream. Toward the end of nursing my first son, I became a little more confident, but I was ready to move on from nursing and chose to wean him at 16 months of age. Emotionally it was hard to stop nursing but physically I was completely exhausted.
Nursing my younger two boys was natural and enjoyable, unlike nursing my oldest son in the early days. It was not nearly as painful as my first, and it was easier. We did have troubles where I would have to cut out certain foods from my diet, but that was a small sacrifice I was making for my babies. The health benefits of getting mom’s milk, far outweighed my appreciation for dairy. My milk gave them antibodies. My milk exposed them to food and nutrients they would not get from anywhere else. What an amazing thing our bodies were designed to accomplish. They were designed to keep a quickly growing baby alive and thriving!
I miss those days of nearness. I miss the fight. I miss the responsibility my body had for my babies. Nothing good is ever easy. Nothing worth it is ever easy. For us, the fight was worth it.