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breastfeeding

A Story About Breastfeeding and Mom Friends

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It’s not always possible to see the ways you grow and change over time. But sometimes it’s possible to get a little glimpse.

For me, that glimpse came in my journey through breastfeeding.

I didn’t start out particularly invested in breastfeeding. I tried it with my first born. We lasted a couple months, although I mostly pumped and bottle fed. We supplemented with formula the entire time and it didn’t take long before I transitioned out of nursing. I never felt guilty or cheated. Breastfeeding was HARD. I was a new mom doing what I needed to do.

It was four years before my next baby came along. By then some things had changed. I had done more research. I had a group of breastfeeding friends. I was making the transition to stay at home mom so I wouldn’t need to make arrangements to return to work. Although I still didn’t have anything against formula feeding, I was more invested in the idea of breastfeeding.

And it was still HARD. Cracking, bleeding, engorgement, pain. I went back to pumping to give myself a chance to heal. And pumping worked well. So we stuck with it. At four months old, we were still exclusively feeding breast milk–just doing it through a bottle.

Then we planned a vacation. The logistics of packing for and traveling with two children were overwhelming enough. But the idea of having to find places to pump, storing milk, and warming and sterilizing bottles was too much. So I took the leap and transitioned back to nursing.

After a brief adjustment period, suddenly it wasn’t so hard anymore. In fact, it was pretty great. Much easier than pumping and warming and sterilizing. I actually felt a pang of disappointment when she self-weaned the week of her birthday.

Then along came number three. After nursing for a year with number two, it was pretty much a given that I would breastfeed again.

But guess what? It was still hard.

Baby came early and, after being supplemented in the hospital, she decided that the extra effort required to nurse versus bottle feed was irritating. Since she was early and small, pumping and bottle feeding was a great way to know how much she was getting at each feeding. And that was fine with me. In the early days, pumping is easier, even with all it’s inconveniences.

And that’s where we are. I’m still nursing enough to keep the option open. But for the most part, we are pumping and bottle feeding. But because I’m a chronic over-thinker, I feel like I’m constantly wondering whether to keep going as we are or transition back to nursing more or even exclusively nursing. There are pros and cons to everything.

But that’s another post. Back to my point.

It’s been a long journey through breastfeeding. It was and still is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.  To be honest, by the time the third baby came along, I was feeling a little disappointed that I wasn’t more of a “pro” at this by now. Should it still be this hard?

But then I went to our local breastfeeding support meeting where they weigh baby and have a lactation consultant on hand to answer questions. Moms usually weigh baby before and after feeding so that they know how much baby is eating.

Since I am re-starting this breastfeeding journey from square one, and since we haven’t been nursing regularly, I wasn’t planning on nursing in public at the meeting. I really only got “comfortable” nursing in public during the last few month of nursing my middle daughter and hadn’t had enough practice with the newest baby to have regained my confidence. I just wanted to see how much she weighed. But then as I started talking with the consultant, I though “Eh, why not?”

Afterward as I was driving home, I was remembering going to the same support group with my firstborn. I don’t think I ever actually nursed her there, but if I did I tried to hide in the corner behind my awkward nursing cover and be as discreet as possible. It felt stressful and awkward and I had no idea what I was doing.

But tonight, even though we are still adjusting to this round of breastfeeding, I sat down on the couch and nursed her like it was no big deal. I chatted with other moms who were nursing. I didn’t bother with an awkward cover. She was a champ about it, and it boosted my confidence knowing she got a good feeding even when I wasn’t measuring with a bottle.

And I couldn’t help but feel just a little proud of myself. I used to envy the people who could breastfeed effortlessly in any situation. I always felt so awkward and self-conscious. And while I still don’t totally feel like a pro, being able to go to the breastfeeding group, not feel completely naive, and sit down and nurse my baby with minimal stress feels like a huge accomplishment, especially compared to where I started this journey.

On a closing note, as I was reflecting while writing this post, I realized that the growth I’ve seen in myself as a breastfeeding mama has so much to do with the people around me. With my second and third babes, I had stumbled into a friend group of nursing pros. Maybe with my firstborn I was just young and oblivious, but with my next two littles I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who made it look easy. Not only did I learn so much from them, but I drew inspiration to keep going even when it was tough.

I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to see how much I’ve changed and grown in this aspect of parenting. But I’m even more grateful to be surrounded by other amazing mamas who inspire me to grow and keep me believing that we can do hard things.

 

Breastfeeding Was The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done. Until It Wasn’t.

world breastfeeding week

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I decided to throw my own two cents into the ring. You’re welcome.

First, the disclaimer that is necessary before controversial topics such as this: I admire people who feed their children. How you do so is none of my business. Period.

Phew. Now that that is out of the way, here’s my breastfeeding story.

I nursed my firstborn for approximately eight weeks. It was really. freaking. hard. I coped by giving her one bottle per day of formula so that I could maintain a shred of sanity. At six weeks, I started pumping so that the transition when I went back to work would be simple. I don’t remember how long I pumped for honestly. Maybe four months? Maybe. The combination of working and pumping and adjusting to motherhood was overwhelming to say the least. After that we switched to formula. That child is now a brilliant and amazing six year old.

By the time my second came along four and a half years later my perspective had changed a bit and I was more committed to trying to nurse for longer. It helped that I wouldn’t be returning to work and would instead be staying home with her, thus easing the pressure to balance work and feeding.

And guess what? It was freaking hard. Again. I had forgotten about the joyful engorgement stage after your milk comes in. That was fun. And then came the blood. I’m not kidding, you guys, after one nursing session my newborn looked like a vampire because my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I switched to pumping for part of the time to hopefully give them a break to heal. And then I mostly kept pumping because the idea of trying to nurse again was terrifying.

I almost exclusively pumped for a few months, only nursing her occasionally when I was curious to see if she still would. Then we started planning a family vacation. She would be about five months old at the time of our vacation, and the idea of packing for and vacationing with two children, not to mention having to worry about pumping, milk storage and heating, bottle sterilization, etc. was EXHAUSTING. So a few weeks before the trip, we tried out the nursing thing again.

And it went pretty well. Up until this point I hadn’t nursed for long enough to get truly comfortable doing it. I had only been through the hardest part–the beginning. But now I was more familiar with the tricks of nursing, I was through the rocky sleep deprivation stage, and I was working with a much more experienced little eater. It still took us a little while to get the hang of it, but I ended up successfully nursing through our vacation.

And then I just kept going. Because suddenly, it wasn’t that hard anymore. In fact, compared to dealing with pump parts and bottles, it was actually kind of convenient.

I ended up nursing her until she turned a year old, at which point she basically weaned herself. Who am I to complete with birthday cake?

And at the end of the year, I was kind of sad to see our nursing run end. It was an amazing experience and I’m grateful that I got to see it through as long as I did–to know that it isn’t always stressful and painful and overwhelming. And because after my first, it seemed like an almost impossible task. To know we accomplished it is pretty cool.

So why I am sharing this random story with you?

I suppose it’s just to offer up my experience in case it can help someone else. Maybe it will help to know that, when it’s hard, you’re not alone. Breastfeeding was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Maybe it will help to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It does get easier, I promise. Maybe it will help to know that I didn’t get it on my first try. And that’s ok. Maybe it will help to know that pumping can help you get through the rocky patch. There’s nothing wrong with doing whatever you need to do for you and your baby.

Or maybe I simply broke you out of your Internet scrolling boredom for four minutes with my story. Either way, you’re welcome.

It sucks that there is so much controversy over breastfeeding. But, on the bright side, no matter which path you take, you’ll never have to feel alone because chances are, someone else has been there too. And that’s a good thing. Because the truth is, raising these tiny humans will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, regardless of how I choose to feed them.

It’s nice to have some company along the road.

 

May 15, 2015

 
My four month old is officially asleep for the night. That is an accomplishment today because I officially nursed ALL DAY.  I did not feed her a single bottle. 

It only took four months. On my second child.  

Explanation: I’ve been pumping and feeding her a bottle for most of her short time here on earth. Breastfeeding is freaking hard, man. At least, it is in the beginning. And I’ve never really made it past the beginning. Engorgement, bleeding nipples, blocked ducts, and I’m out. I’ll happily lock myself in a room to pump a few times a day. I’ve always had good luck with pumping, and can build up my supply to feed her and stock the freezer. 

And for the most part, I’m happy with the bottles. I like being able to see how much she is eating. 

But there’s a few times where bottles don’t rock. Like when you’re going out of town overnight to a wedding. Like we are tomorrow. Or anywhere else for that matter. Hauling the pump and the bottles and sterilizer and figuring out how to keep milk cold and then figuring out how to warm it. UG. It’s way easier just to pull out a boob. 

Plus I’ve always watched those people who are just good at nursing. You know? And somewhere deep down, I wanted to be one of them. 

So I decided this morning to give it a shot. To see if I could nourish the baby for an entire day, no bottles, no pumping. I wasn’t sure how she would do, having only nursed sporadically, or how I would do, or how the transition from pumping only a few times a day to regular nursing would go. 

But I did it. 

No, I am not going to show you my boobs. 

A portion of my days are spent attached to a breast pump in order to feed smallish human. It’s a glorious and dignified process. (No it isn’t.)

This morning, attached to aforementioned pump, the four year old walks in. The idea of me feeding the baby “from my boobs” fascinated her, of course, because she is a curious four year old and it is a new thing for mommy to be waving her boobs around. (I am not really waving my boobs around.)

As curious as she is, she is not impressed by the pump. She looks at it with a horrified facial expression. Sometimes she makes really flattering comments including phrases like “hangy boobs”, because that’s what ever woman wants to hear. (No it isn’t.) She has also learned how to take advantage of the time mommy is immobilized to hide food in her room or glitter glue all of her toys on my living room carpet. But that’s a topic for another day. 

This morning, she walked in as I was re-layering after pumping. 

“Hahahah! Your boobs look funny!” she announced. 

I laughed (kind of) at her response and said, “Yes, they do look a little different after pumping don’t they.”

Let be clear. I was not waving my boons about. In fact, I was working to be extra discreet given her horrified reactions in the past. 

“Let me see them.” she demanded. 

Believe it or not I’m actually a pretty modest person. I work to teach her not to be ashamed of her body by not being ashamed of mine in front of her and by teaching her that the human body is amazing and beautiful. Still, putting my boobs on display for a preschooler who says everything she thinks out loud (and then tells others about it later) is not within my comfort zone. 

“No,” I said. “I’m don’t feel like showing my boobs to you right now.”

And that, my friends, is the quote that inspired this blog post.