From the beginning, I knew what kind of mom I wanted to be.
I wanted a healthy pregnancy, a drug-free labor, I wanted to stay-at-home with my son, and I wanted to breastfeed.
My life has a tendency to not go according to plan, and I wound up with a complicated pregnancy that left me on bed rest for three months, a long labor that resulted in a c-section and a near overdose of medication afterwards that left me in an unconscious state and unable to meet my son until two and half hours after his birth. (It’s recommended that babies nurse within the first hour of life.) I don’t have a conscious memory of meeting him until he was 9 hours old. My difficult birth experience in conjunction with my later developed postpartum depression set me up to fail as a breastfeeding mother.
Against all odds, I survived as a breastfeeding mother and nursed my son for two full years. He weaned right before his second birthday.
Today, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I would love to share a bit of my breastfeeding story with you.
The first time my son nursed I was in the hospital room and he was a bit over 2 ½ hours old. It was the first time I was meeting him and I don’t remember it. There are pictures of a very out-of-it-me holding a very hungry newborn and I just didn’t have the ability to do anything. The saving grace of my son and I’s breastfeeding relationship, and really our relationship at all, is my Mom. She is a lactation consultant, and the first time my son nursed I literally had nothing to do with it. My mom held my breast, my husband held the baby, and they helped him latch.
The next time I nursed my husband helped me in the darkness of the late night hospital room when the nurse brought our son to us from the nursery crying.
By the time we left the hospital, I thought I understood what I was doing, and my son seemed to be thriving. We were released to go home on a Thursday evening and by Friday I had decided that I couldn’t nurse anymore.
My nipples hurt, my c-section incision hurt, my son wasn’t latching well, and mentally I just couldn’t handle the demands of a newborn needing me to feed him every two hours. I remember wanting to give up on that Friday afternoon, and if it hadn’t been for the encouragement and knowledge of my Mom, I absolutely would have.
Eventually, my son and I fell into a routine with our breastfeeding. I used a nipple shield and tried other tricks to ease the pain. My mom stayed with us for two weeks and helped me learn the art of latching and positioning.
And at the end of that two week period, it just got…easier.
My son never took a bottle or a pacifier and he nursed right up until his second birthday, an accomplishment I never would have expected to achieve.
I became a pro at breastfeeding, and would nurse my son anywhere from a restaurant to a car to a baseball game and anyone’s house we were visiting. I fell in love with my Bebe Au Lait nursing cover and also became very un-modest around close friends and family.
Here’s what I will tell you about breastfeeding: it is hard…AT FIRST. It is scary…AT FIRST. It is demanding and trying and sometimes you feel like you just can’t do it anymore because it’s your body and would everyone please stop touching me.
But it’s also beautiful. There is nothing more amazing than nourishing your child with your body and the bond you establish with your child as a nursing mother is indescribably close and sweet. And once you get through those first two weeks, breastfeeding is EASIER. Your milk is always accessible, always the right temperature, and always the perfect cure for a baby that’s hungry, tired, or just needs soothing. As added bonuses your body is much more voluptuous and you can eat whatever you want! I used to call nursing my “magic power.”
I endured some judgment for my breastfeeding from friends who bottle fed and from strangers when I nursed in public areas. I have definitely received some questioning stares when I reveal that I nursed my son for two years.
But I also established a wonderful, loving, and permanent bond with my son through our breastfeeding relationship. Given my difficult pregnancy, delivery, and recovery I needed breastfeeding to work. I truly believe that breastfeeding saved my relationship with my son. (And me…but that’s probably a story for another day.)
Thankfully, breastfeeding is not as hard for everyone as it was for me. Some moms and babies are able to establish a wonderful nursing relationship right from the start, but even if that doesn’t happen for you, there are still ways to succeed in breastfeeding. I found that the keys to my breastfeeding success were support, knowledge, and determination. I am incredibly lucky to have a Mom who happens to be a lactation consultant, and I also had a husband totally on board with breastfeeding. Our son was born in an area where I didn’t find a lot of support from peers, but once I moved to Richmond I was so pleased to find a city where breastfeeding was accepted and celebrated, and I made friends with other nursing moms. Nursing isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds, but there are a lot of ways to make it easier for you if you are having difficulty with latching or positioning. And I always tell my new mom friends something my mom told me: “Breastfeeding does take more energy at the beginning, but then it is so much easier.”
And oh so worth it.
What’s your breastfeeding story?