Breastfeeding, like marriage and childbirth, is not for the faint of heart. After suffering a miscarriage, we were blessed in the fact that we were able to conceive relatively quickly once my husband and I began trying again. I was so thankful that God gave us a second chance to bring a life into this world that I vowed to give our seed the best life ever. One of the gifts I wanted to give to my child was to exclusively breastfeed.
Until I had my son, I barely knew anyone who breastfed their children. One of my friends, who lived several states away, nursed her child; but at that time I was not about the “married with children” life so I took no interest in it at all. Strangely, “not” breastfeeding never crossed my mind and my “birth-plan” included an epidural (cause…ouch) and breastfeeding. The biggest asset in my breastfeeding journey was prenatal breastfeeding education. I took every class available on breastfeeding so that I could be my best advocate in the breastfeeding journey. Little did I know I would need this knowledge to keep me steadfast on this path.
I was fortunate to have my son at one of the premier women’s hospitals in my area. I felt that I was in the best care available and this was perfect beginning to the perfect life for our son. Perfect, until it came to breastfeeding.
My initial shock came when they wheeled my son into my hospital room when I was settled. They were like “watch channel 24 and call us if you need to take a shower”. I was like “huh?...I don’t know a damn thing about babies????” Growing up an only child, I may have changed 5 diapers in my lifetime. And hmmmm…how do I feed this dude? I mean, I’ve read all the books, seen a video or two, but I’d never actually done it. I called the nurse and receive a “crash course” on breastfeeding and the offer of some formula. And that was about it. Needless to say, things were not working out. I struggled trying to get my little one to nurse like they do on “tv” (but he wasn’t having it; and I was determined).
My night hospital tech would come in periodically to check my vitals and each time she would say “If you would just go ahead and give your baby some formula, you and he could get some rest.” I was pissed!
The following day, I had to, as we say in the hood, “cut the fool” to get some help. A nurse came in. She said that she was a certified lactation consultant (or certified something that had to do with breastfeeding) but told me not to tell anyone (I was like “huh, you are working the maternity ward…” but I obliged as I was only interested in getting my baby fed at the moment). The nurse showed me how to massage my breasts, gave me some nipple cream, got my baby to latch on and from then on it was “on like popcorn”.
A few hours later, the hospital’s lactation nurse came by for a visit and she let me know that there were classes twice daily at the hospital to help…Um, why didn’t anyone tell me this BEFORE I had to “act ugly”. It was smooth sailing from there, but I hated that I had to come out of character to get some assistance at the hospital. I wondered how many other women were discouraged in their desire to nurse by their hospital experience and opt out of breastfeeding.
Going home was a little scary, but everything “clicked” and I was a nursing champion, until my first cluster feeding. I swear my son was attached to my boobs for 24 hours!!!!! I was exhausted, but my milk came in and my breast “ranneth over”. I discovered I was pregnant early in the calendar year and I was able to plan my paid leave (and included using PTO wisely). This put me in a position to stay at home with my newborn for three months. I do not know what I would have done if I had to go back to work at six weeks (and trust me, three months is still not enough). There was a new mom group at the local breastfeeding education center that offered weekly feeding meetups and it was a true support. That is where I learned about Mother’s Milk Tea—HALLELUJAH—what a blessing that was. The nighttime feedings were a bit scary. I would always fall asleep during the feedings. Sometimes I would wake up and find my son propped up next to me. God was definitely with us.
Returning to work was the test of my endurance. I worked out in the field as an insurance professional at the time and each day when I left the house, I packed as if I was never coming back! There was no telling where my day would take me and I would often find myself eating lunch and pumping under a tree in a shopping center parking lot. And if my day ran late, I would swing through a drive thru to get a few cups of ice to back up my ice packs. Thankfully I was in the habit of pumping early on and my son was used to taking bottles and the breast. I personally was not comfortable breastfeeding in public, but I cheer on all who are, so whenever we would go out, I would bottle feed 75% of the time (If we were at a park or at a friend’s home, I would cover up, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to nurse at a restaurant). A friend referred me to an excellent in home day care provider who sadly never had taken care of a child who was breastfed. So I had to educate her on the the care of the milk (i.e. not to heat it up, etc.) but it was not a big deal or huge learning curve.
Fast forward one year, I had successfully breastfed my son, and not a drop of formula touched his lips. I was so proud! I rushed to the store to buy my first gallon of whole milk (organic of course)—only to quickly find out that he was allergic to milk. Ugh! I ended up breastfeeding for about a month longer than planned until I could get a substitute for the milk. We went with almond milk. Weaning was not hard at all. I credit this to him being bottle fed early on. Not that I am recommending bottle feeding over exclusively breastfeeding, but it worked for my family and I believe it made weaning easier for us.
One thing I did learn throughout my nursing season is the importance of nutrition. Good nutrition is so important in keeping up your milk supply and your overall health.
I am elated that I was able to breastfeed my son exclusively and I have a healthy, smart seven year old running around wreaking havoc on my housecleaning. I must admit, I sometimes feel like the breastfeeding police. In my mind, I feel that if God designed a mother’s milk uniquely for her child, and why voluntarily deprive your child of that benefit. I advocate for all pregnant moms to breastfeed and I try not to “feel some kinda way” about moms who have the ability to breastfeed but who don’t even consider breastfeeding as an option (I have so many friends who desperately wanted to nurse but were unable to breastfeed for a number of reasons, like breast surgery). As a busy, working professional, I know that realistically breastfeeding does not work for everyone, and a woman has to do what works best for her family. Motherhood, and the decision to nurse, should be a judgement-free zone. So, do you but as for me and my house, the breast is best!