If you asked me while I was pregnant what my plans were for feeding my little one once she arrived, I adamantly responded with “we’re going to pump”. Period. End of discussion. My reasons were, and still are, justified: I wanted my husband to be able to bond with baby in that way, I didn’t want to be the one having to do all the night feedings while my husband lay snoring next to me, I didn’t even really want my husband to see me like that (how could he ever see me as a woman – and not just a mom – ever again?), and, after seeing the invisible tether between my friends’ boobs and their babies determining what they could do and when they could do it, it was decided that breastfeeding was just not for me. These reasons may seem stupid and selfish to some, but perhaps relateable to others. Little did I know, this was just the beginning to my - our - journey.
My husband and I planned a home-water-hypno birth, and after learning how beneficial immediate breastfeeding is for baby and mama, we decided to have a little give in our plan and breastfeed following our birth. And this is where it all changed. That instinctual latch, those first gulps, the look in her big blue eyes, and those amazing “I’m really a mom” feelings.
To say our journey has always been this blissful and easy would be an outright lie. We definitely had our ups and downs. My milk took abnormally long to come in, our little one lost too much weight, then took to hour long feedings, and I continued to question whether or not every little thing I was doing was right. Many of the feelings behind my initial plan to abstain came flooding back: Sitting up in bed, half asleep, breastfeeding every 2 hours, having to seclude myself in another room for however long it took for baby to be satiated whenever company came over - how could they not? I even remember saying to my husband, in a stressed out state, “This is why I didn’t want to breastfeed!”
And then something clicked. I took a deep breath, decided to stop stressing about how much she was getting, how long she was feeding for, how often she was feeding, why she was feeding, and just…let it happen! I was also fortunate enough to stumble upon some amazing articles online which helped me solidify my positive relationship with breastfeeding, and it was like the fog cleared:
“Easy, long term breastfeeding involves forgetting about the “breast” and the “feeding” (and the duration, and the interval, and the transmission of the right nutrients in the right amounts, and the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive suckling needs, all of which form the focus of artificial milk pamphlets) and focusing instead on the relationship. Let’s all tell mothers that we hope they won’t “breastfeed” – that the real joys and satisfaction of the experience begin when they stop “breastfeeding” and start mothering at the breast.”(1)
The concept of “mothering at the breast”, along with understanding that this act is about more than an exchange of nutrients and calories, honestly changed my life. I began following such online campaigns as #milkmemo from Breastfeeding USA, which posts encouraging and uplifting photos and comments for moms who may be struggling with or questioning their breastfeeding experience. I began to feel confident, relaxed, and in love with this new relationship.
We are now six and a half months into our breastfeeding journey, have begun to introduce food, and have no plans of ending our relationship with breastfeeding anytime soon. I am now the mama who sees breastfeeding as more than a meal. I am the mama who leans into the carseat to breastfeed while the hubby drives. I am the comfort breastfeeding mama. I am the co-sleeping, nurse-all-night-if-you-need-to mama. But more importantly, I am a mama who has learned that not everything works out how you planned, that feelings change, and then change again, and perhaps once more. That every woman and baby have the right to experience feedings (and any of the other myriad of things to do with parenting!) however they feel is appropriate for them and their family, and that these decisions should be respected, even if they change several times. That’s life. And that is most definitely parenthood. I’m sure this is just the first of many things my little one will teach me.
(1) Wiessinger, Diane. "Watch Your Language." Journal of Human Lactation 12.1 (1996) Web. 27 April 2014