It’s World Breastfeeding Week. A whole week dedicated to breastfeeding? This concept made zero sense to me until 18 months ago when I had my son. Breastfeeding (and the mamas who breastfeed!) for sure deserve this week! Breastfeeding is the ultimate labor of love and here I share some of my challenges, rewards, frustrations, and memorable experiences.
As I sit here writing this, I am currently working out a clogged duct. I have had several of these over the course of our 18 month journey including a horrible round of mastitis. I remember when I was pregnant and attending the child birthing class at Lexington Medical Center. The nurse recommended the breastfeeding class and in my mind I thought, why would anyone go to that? Breastfeeding was natural and as easy as popping the baby on to eat. If only I could go back in time and tell myself how crazy I was and then go sign myself up for that one!
Failure to Victory
When my son was born, he had trouble latching on. I remember nursing him in tears and feeling like a failure. Why wasn’t this working? Thank goodness for baby whisperers also known as lactation consultants and the local La Leche League Facebook group! After working at it, we started to get the hang of it and I quickly realized that this was going to take some serious dedication on my part. When he latched correctly and I was without pain, I felt like I had just won my first mom victory!
Crying Over Spilled Milk
Then came the pumping at work. Everything that goes into pumping was so overwhelming and it added another layer to my new mama role. The prep, intention, scheduling, care, worry about pumping enough. I never could have anticipated the tears that would ensue after I dumped my first full bottle of milk that first week. It was absolutely devastating. I can count on one hand how many times I have spilled milk since pumping and every time I cried!
Clogged Duct, Fever, Mastitis, Oh My!
The pain was unreal. I had no idea what was happening when it happened but I knew I’d remember for the next time! We were about 6 months into our journey when one day it was painful to nurse on my right side. I had no idea why. That evening, I also started get serious chills. It was August in the heat that is Columbia, SC and I was in a heavy bathrobe under 2 blankets. After doing some Google searches and checking with the La Leche League, it became obvious that a clog had turned into mastitis. After warm compresses, massaging, antibiotics, and nursing, we were back on track. If you are having pain and flu like symptoms while nursing, do not ignore it! Check in with your doctor ASAP!
People Will Stare
There have been three times when I felt super uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. It is truly unfortunate when it happens. Thankfully, there were no words exchanged but their faces said it all. Looks of disgust and huffs of “go somewhere else” signaled how they were feeling about me providing nutrition for my baby. It was difficult, but their stares only encouraged me to keep it up because so many women quit due to the agenda of others and I felt empowered to help normalize breastfeeding. It is not a crime, it is not disgusting, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Sharing the Love
I have been so appreciative that my body was not only able to provide adequate milk for my son, but also for another little boy. Since I was pumping more than my son took the next day, I had quite the supply in the freezer. I was able to find a donor through South Carolina’s Human Milk for Human Babies and was able to find a mom in need. Another stop in our journey that I had never anticipated nor even thought about, but was so grateful to have that experience.
The Serene Quiet
It happens after a really long and stressful day or right before you are about to hustle at work. When you’re at a family gathering and are happy to have a mandatory time out. Sitting on the beach feeling absolutely at peace. When you feel like you’re doing a horrible job but the look on their face tells you you’re perfect. Those quiet moments I have spent breastfeeding have been my most memorable. It is forced relaxation and bonding time with my son and I love every moment. It is in those moments where I feel calm, I catch a breath, and I reflect on how this little being keeps me grounded.
We’re still going after 18 months. My goal was originally 6 months, then it became 1 year, and then 18 months. At this point, I do not have a goal for us and I am happy with that. The feedings are getting less and more spread out. It is truly bittersweet for me. There are days when I am so ready to be done but I know I will never get these moments back and it makes me thankful for the next nursing session. I wonder what motherhood will look like for us without our nursing bond. It is exciting and scary at the same time. I am scared at the thought that he is starting to need me less but so excited to find new ways to fill our time together. Ultimately, I will look back on our journey and thank him for teaching me dedication, patience, and pure selflessness. Afterall, Isn’t that what motherhood is all about?