Breastfeeding is a beautiful bonding experience between a mother and her child. It is the most natural way of supplying nutrients, promoting growth, preventing sicknesses, healing sicknesses and providing comfort for an infant. Sounds great, right?
The things you read and the stories you hear make you think that breastfeeding is the most glamorous part of being a mom — think again! Breastfeeding is hard and it’s certainly not pretty. At least not in the beginning. For all of the reasons mentioned above and more I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I am a preparer so I had formula picked out and purchased just in case I couldn’t; but, I had decided that if I could then I would.
My breastfeeding journey began about 12 hours after Avera was born. She had some breathing complications at birth so they did not want me feeding her in fear of her aspirating. I was immediately frustrated as I truly believed that nursing her would help her get better and stronger faster. At this point she needed to eat and they were wanting to give her formula. I was tired of waiting and wanted to rely on my new mama instincts. So I waited until none of the nurses were around and I breastfed my baby for the first time.
So let’s start with the struggle because that’s where it begins. Despite breastfeeding being so “natural” I didn’t know what I was doing and neither did she. She had a good, strong latch, but I didn’t know what a good latch was. It hurt so I assumed we were doing something wrong. They sent in the birth center’s lactation consultant to meet with me. She spoke no English so a nurse was present to translate. She pretty much told me that my baby was doing it right and I was being a wimp!
We went home, continued breastfeeding then returned a day later for a check up. She was jaundice and they suggested formula again. I was determined and formula was not in my plan. I asked another lactation consultant to come meet with me. She is American, honest and to the point; I love her! She confirmed what the Korean consultant had said: I was being a wimp. Because it hurt I was being too delicate and not letting Avera latch good enough. I gave myself a mental pep talk, grit my teeth and let my baby do what she needed to do. The jaundice immediately improved. We continued.
I was very grateful for many aspects of breastfeeding:
- Avera had a great latch and was doing everything right.
- I had plenty of milk.
- I was doing what I felt was best for my baby.
- It was convenient.
At the same time, I had many feelings of resentment as a result of breastfeeding:
- It hurt.
- I was the only one who could feed her.
- I was the only one who could comfort her.
- I felt that others could bond with her while I could only feed her.
- I felt used.
- There was no end in sight.
I am proud of myself for:
- Putting my baby’s needs above my own by sacrificing my comfort and self-security to breastfeed.
- Embracing my role as Avera’s nourisher.
- Not allowing breastfeeding to dictate or limit my life.
- Learning to multitask and walk while breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding anytime, anywhere, and in front of anyone.
- Learning to breastfeed with Avera in the Beco Carrier.
- Sharing my story.
- Continuing to pump.
A little more detail:
So many people told me to just make it to the six week point and everything would be different. Six weeks came and went and while some things were different, others weren’t. However, I will say that the first six weeks was truly the most difficult time.
The pain was the worst during this time. Between my nipples being cut up and the constant engorgement, my boobs hurt! My lactation consultant told me my organic nipple cream wasn’t doing enough and insisted that I use lanolin. I did. Over a short period of time, my left nipple began to heal and became much easier to feed her. I would dread when it was time for the right side. After what felt like an eternity, but was really only around the five week mark, I began only feeding her on the left side and pumping on the right. I did this for one day. I also began a warm saltwater rinse on the right side. I continued this after every feeding until it healed.
Around 10-12 weeks my milk supply settled and became more established. After the pain had ceased, I was able to no longer dread breastfeeding. We began using bottles at 3-4 weeks which helped with the burden and I was able to maintain the stored supply by pumping during the night since she was sleeping through at least one feeding (another blessing!).
Unfortunately, this was only the physical pain. The emotional pain and mental struggle remained. I was questioning my purpose as a human. Was this the reason that I, a woman, was created? I can barely describe how used I felt; like my entire reason for being created was to satisfy other people. After being the host and sole source for carrying, supporting, and nourishing this child throughout the pregnancy, here I was continuing to do the exact same thing.
These feelings crept into my faith, my marriage and my motherhood. It got to the point where I began to question and resent the Creator I had loved and respected my entire life. Was I created as a means for man’s gain sexually, physically, reproductively? Was I solely created to support and take care of men and children? Was my Creator incredibly sexist in the creation of men and women. It affected my marriage through eliminating my desire to be touched. The thought of holding hands and kissing became a struggle. And it affected my motherhood as I looked at my daughter and wondered what I had done to bring her into this world where she would have to face these same burdens one day.
At six months, breastfeeding had become an ease. We have mastered nursing in the carrier, nursing while walking, and pretty much anywhere else! We know what we are doing, it works and it’s convenient.
At ten months we are still going strong. In fact, perfect timing yesterday as I found this post about breastmilk proving it’s wonders and killing bacteria. Later that same day, Avera swallowed some pool water which resulted in an afternoon of vomiting and diarrhea. I couldn’t help but think of the breastmilk post I had just read and found a peace that the best thing for my girl was for me to nurse her. It became another moment of confirmation that this natural ability and gift I had been given should be appreciated and acknowledged.
However, I am still struggling with my purpose as a woman. There are mixed emotions as I love my child, want another child, do not mind breastfeeding, my resentment for my Creator and distance from my husband has healed; yet, I still wonder if this is my entire purpose. And if it is, am I ok with that?
Breastfeeding truly is a beautiful thing. It is something I am so happy that I have been blessed to be able to do. It is also truly a struggle physically and emotionally. My advice to new breastfeeders is to be prepared to be unprepared. You never know what will happen or how you will feel. Have grace with yourself and embrace this time that you will grow emotionally while your child is growing physically.
My story is one of millions and everyone’s is different. Check out Brianne’s breastfeeding experience here and Jetta’s here for their unique stories and take on things.
Pictures of me breastfeeding around the world: