It’s 3am and just as my iPhone had predicted earlier today, it’s raining. I’m laying in bed writing this after having just been up, nursing Calvin. He is coming up on 17 months and our breastfeeding journey is still going strong. It’s times like this I am thankful for what my body is able to do. My milk is nourishing as well as being a comfort to him when on nights like this, he has woken suddenly and very upset from sleep.
It’s not always been an easy breastfeeding journey and I won’t say that even now I don’t face some challenges with it, but I am lucky to be able to do this, after all, some women never have the opportunity (if they have the desire to).
In the very beginning at his birth, the first thing he did when they placed him on my chest, was to pull his way up and begin to nurse. He had a great latch and a big appetite! I was given some not so great advice from the lactation consultant during my very short stay at the hospital, that as a new mother, I took to be gospel. It resulted in some problems down the line with sleep that I won’t go into right now, but a good indicator of what that advice was, is in the fact that I’m awake right now writing this.
The first few days felt like a breeze, but like many breastfeeding mothers, the challenges of nourishing a child from your body around the clock, started to rear their ugly heads. My nipples cracked, bled, swelled and were so painful that wearing a bra was agony and feeding felt like medieval torture. This was a point where I had thought about throwing in the towel, but with time, copious amounts of lanolin and advice from experienced mothers, we pushed through. The journey began a happy plateau at this point, I thought breastfeeding was rainbows, butterflies and unicorn farts from this point on. Boy was I wrong!
The next challenge I had was that Calvin developing an intolerance to milk protein, which meant I needed to reevaluate my diet. He was irritable, gassy and had loose green stools. After about 6 months of an elimination diet, we tried again with no adverse effects to his system. Another issue at this time was also a heavy let down which lead to him choking and sputtering during nursing sessions. With some carefully positioned pillows and pumping off an ounce of milk before nursing sessions we tackled this problem. Thankfully both of these issues he outgrew, my body responded to his needs and adjusted accordingly.
Since then we have had a pretty good go of it. I’m a great believer in the normalization of breastfeeding, especially in public. My thought being, we are not the first generation to feed our children from our bodies, yet we have sexualized the breast so much that we shame mothers into hiding, into feeling that how they desire to feed their children is unnatural and shameful.
I may have gone off on a tangent there, but had it not been for the help and guidance of other breastfeeding mothers and the support of my husband, I may very well have thrown in the towel long ago. Instead I have watched my child thrive, he signs “milk” to let me know he wants to nurse, he is cutting back on his feedings himself and when he does need to nurse, wherever we may be, we do.
Here are a few things I wish I’d been told, that is like to share with you. Whether you are a pregnant woman considering breastfeeding or perhaps just starting out!
– If the advice you’ve been given sounds questionable, seek the advice of someone else, or several others!
– Get yourself the biggest tube of lanolin you can find, I mean big enough that you can slather your nipples like honey on a Christmas ham!
– Know that it gets better!
– It’s not shameful to say it isn’t the right fit for you if you can’t get over the hurdles on what can be, a bumpy journey.
– Build a group of support around yourself, people who cheer you on when it gets tough.
– Don’t buy into the notion that there is a set period of time that it is “appropriate” to breastfeed.
I’m sure there is more I could add, but this post has already been very long!