I have been breastfeeding ON and off (maybe a total of 12 months total) over the past 10 years. I'm not one to get hung up on "labels" or "milestones" so I honestly can't tell you exactly how many years each of them nursed. Yes, I said years. I know each one got a little longer time on the breast as I gained knowledge, trust and, let's be honest, stubbornness and nerve. I struggled from Day 1 with each of my nurslings and though the struggles didn't stop, ever, they did improve over the years. So, I thought in honor of WBW and all those mommas who are struggling, just making it, have moved on to more mutually exclusive methods of nourishing their babies ie. Bottle-nursing, or excelling in this awesome calling to breastfeed, I would share my top 3 things I've learned along my breastfeeding journey.
#1 Breastfeeding is beautiful. Sacrificial. Worthy.
No one is gonna lie and tell you every milk-soaked breast pad, shirt, mattress, car, is beautiful but when you think that breastmilk is technically like "blood"; it's living, it's life-giving, and it's ALIVE, it's pretty amazing that it just flows from our healthy (disclaimer: I have not been very healthy during my past breastfeeding years) breasts into our little ones. It's like literally giving them a blood transfusion; it is made for them! Lesson: Breastfeeding is Crazy. Beautiful.
#2 Breastfeeding is natural but not always easy.
I had this BIG misconception when we were preparing to meet our first, that breastfeeding was natural, instinctual and easy. WRONG. I struggled so hard for weeks with my first. I've learned to OWN my life, so I can say that many of the nutritional and lack-of-health on my part as well as parenting choices we made back in those days definitely didn't make it any easier on me (or hubby). Those first 3 weeks were filled with sleepless, tear-filled (LATCH matters!), and sometimes anxiety-stricken nights (birth experiences MATTER). I tried to go to La Leche League (honestly, my husband kicked me out and said, "go and get this figured out."). I went to the meeting but didn't immediately connect so I just sat in the back of the room and held back tears next to my carseat sleeping baby until she woke up and we pretended to nurse while she screamed, I was packing up... I recall a kind leader asking how we were doing but I couldn't bring myself to tell her I needed HELP without bursting into tears so we just slipped out the door and had a major bawling anxiety attack in my car. It. was. horrible. Lesson: get support; hire a doula, lactation consultant, don't take NO for an answer when you know there is something OFF, reach out to others who have been-there-done-that, contact a La Leche League leader by phone or in person at the meeting (but meetings aren't every week so don't WAIT). Oh ya, and your health (PH balancing, genetics, hormones, and gut health) matter a lot in the breastfeeding realm. Long story short, be well, nurse well.
#3 A Breastfeeding Relationship to Remember is possible. I think.
I've not had one yet, so I'm not quite sure. But you better believe I've pretty much changed every cell in my body, mind, and spirit to make it happen this time around. Not to mention surrounded myself with people and resources to support me. I have a serious postpartum breastfeeding plan to get help if Day 3 comes and I'm still struggling like I have in the past. My sanity can't take another immense struggle like the past has brought me. On the bright side, I vaguely remember through the gray-tinged postpartum depression lenses, that my 2nd child was the easiest yet most black-n-white, nursling. I have a sneaking suspicion it wasn't really a good thing, but she was my most mellow nursling. She nursed fairly well structure-wise which was a blessing as she suffered from other anatomical dysfunction though tongue/lip tie wasn't one of her issues. I had found a few natural health and healing modalities so I think my gut was a tad bit better (so not as much projectile puking, panic screaming, and green foamy poo's as her older sister had done), and she was a very "chill" baby (again, I don't think this was a good thing for her) but it did help me not be so anxious and sick over breastfeeding. Only downside was when we were expecting again about 12mos later, she quit cold-turkey. Ouch. Heck of a way to find out your expecting, huh?!
Okay, so those are 3 big things I can process about breastfeeding at the moment. Maybe I will have the energy and thought process to delve into my 3rd & 4th babies' journeys which were the hardest yet.... but for now, I will just focus on the Good- Breastfeeding is crazy beautiful. It's natural. And it's possible. AND... it's not this tough for most mom-baby teams. I promise. But, since I'm on a #REALMOMLIFE kick, I thought I would share the real raw side.
I have BIG hopes that this next little one coming this Fall will be the nursing champion and my body has healed enough to support them in just the right way. Stay tuned. <3
Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all my milky friends- I hope to join the ranks again soon! ~J9