ode to breastfeeding
This post comes as a surprise, to me especially, but recently I have had such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in breastfeeding that I thought it was worth writing down and remembering. Breastfeeding was always a no brainer for me when imagining myself raising a kid. I beleive every family needs to do what is right for them so I didn't put much thought into formula feeding as nursing was something that I assumed would happen easily.
At first it did. I think with aftershock of childbirth, the healing process for me was a slow decline in pain and soreness. It had me a bit numb to the pain I was enduring as I was learning to nurse. But after two weeks of breastfeeding with Mo I was really feeling the affects of both him and I being novices at the practice. This coincided with the doctor suggesting we begin to supplement to get him to gain some weight.
As I wrote in my previous post, we had really beaten up my nipples with the rigorous scheduled feedings and I was truly injured- swollen, cracked and raw nipples were my new normal. I attribute some of my symptoms to the stress I put on myself to produce for him after the doctor telling us that he needed to gain weight. Supplementing with formula definitely had its advantages, mainly that other people could feed him. But I began pumping frequently and working really hard to produce and provide him as much milk from me as possible. The hardest part was not ever really knowing how much he was getting when we were nursing. The beauty of a bottle is that you see the ounces go in and see them come out. Its really easy and that was satisfying. Knowing that he was eating and that he was gaining we were told we could wean him off the formula. We began to do so but still things were not working on my end. I continued with the pain and discomfort while nursing. My complaints to friends and family were met with encouragement that it would get better and that it would just take some time for both Mo and I to learn how to operate this new symbiotic relationship. So I continued to nurse him, but I continued to struggle. The reassuring comments from friends and family were becoming hard to take, making me feel weak and unmotherly because I was absolutely hating nursing. It stung and burned and any movement he or I would make during a feeding would make me cringe.
Finally, after five weeks it all changed for the better. While my best friend was visiting we had dinner at her mom's house. Her mom, Julie, happens to be my childhood pediatrician and has known me 29 of my 30 years. At the dinner table Julie told me she had heard about my rough time feeding, that I was not enjoying nursing at all. I nodded my head and began to feed Mo, he was crying from hunger, while doing so Julie got a good glimpse at my nipple across the dinner table. She told me it looked really bad and asked me a few questions. Turns out my symptoms were all adding up to a breast infection. From there I contacted my doctor and figured the rest out.
But back to my ode to breastfeeding. I have read other women gush and rave about breastfeeding, going on and on about how it is time they cherish with their babies. For me the sense of pride I feel in feeding him comes from the struggle it was to begin with. I was ready to quit and did not have any issue with that. It didn't make me feel less of a mother as some people want you to think it should. It made me feel smart and proactive. Breastfeeding truly was not working for us. But part of being proactive was getting help from doctors and professionals. After treatment and guidance we now are doing really good. We got healed up quite quickly with the help of ointments and antiobiotics and have been going quite strong ever since (five weeks later now). My breasts and nipples look healthy and are producing milk as they should be. We supplement with formula when it makes sense for our family and most importantly we are continuing to figure this relationship out together.
Breastfeeding now feels very natural and is something I continue to be amazed about everyday. The same way baby wearing makes me feel like we are honorary members of the animal kingdom, breastfeeding does as well. And just like an animal I choose to feed Mo on demand, out and about and in public. I am not sure how long we will breastfeed, I do not have any milestones I am trying to hit or time tables that are holding me accountable. I think I will just let our bodies naturally determine for us when it makes sense to stop.
Thanks for reading, xx Ly