I wish I could share that my breastfeeding story was smooth and perfect and the most amazing experience. That is not what you will read here.
I am very modest. So, when I first found out I was pregnant, the idea of breastfeeding (especially in public) didn’t go over too well in my mind. What if my baby flings the nursing cover and exposes me to the world? What if my baby is loud and lets the entire restaurant know exactly what is going on?
Then, there were other questions like: what if I can’t get my baby to latch? What if he doesn’t get enough milk? All the questions that ran through my head were already making me feel like I was going to fail.
So, lo and behold, day one of breastfeeding was awkward.
First, nurses were in and out of the room while I’m fumbling to latch my son. So, I had to mentally block my emotions of feeling weird about being exposed to everyone and for having a nurse help me latch my son.
I like to describe nursing kind of like when I was learning to play string bass. My fingers were not use to pressing the giant strings down to make beautiful, musical notes. Practicing daily caused my fingers to develop calluses which were necessary for it not to hurt anymore.
That’s what happens to your nipples.
An infant doubles his birth weight in the first 6 months. A baby’s schedule looks a lot like this: sleep, eat, poop and repeat in those 6 months. So, a mama’s nipples take a beating for awhile. They develop calluses. So, I highly recommend lanolin, coconut oil or nipple balm for that. If it’s not taken care of, they can crack and bleed – not fun. Nursing through cracked, bleeding nipples is torturous.
Then the dreaded public feeding came. I had my cover. We requested a booth at a restaurant. And, maybe it was the smell of food that triggered this, but he was HUNGRY. And he was hungry NOW. So, I told myself, “This is natural. This is what mothers do.” I sucked up my nervousness to feed my baby. He’s my priority. I took out my cover, my pillow and tried to latch him.
Success. Until about 5 minutes in, he started grunting letting everyone know what we were doing. Then, he tried to take the cover off of him to see what was going on around him. I kept trying to keep the cover over him. And he kept trying to take it off. One of his arms and legs ended up in my face. It felt like a one-sided boxing match. And the grunting got louder. I ended up excusing myself and my baby; so, we can go to the restroom and nurse in private. I could only imagine what the ladies in the stalls were thinking. But, at least I was behind a door. Don’t worry, I laid a bunch of toilet seat covers everywhere.
This was my constant struggle in public. My errands ended with me nursing in a dressing room at Target, going to a restroom, walking back to my car or driving back home.
I was a new mom trying to figure out my baby’s schedule and the rhythm of it all. I eventually got some sort of schedule (well at least I knew right after I fed him, I had about 2 hours until he was hungry again). So, I looked like a mad woman on my errands. I was always speed walking. And I was on a mission. So, if you saw me in that season of my life and tried to say hello, I apologize if I looked right at you and didn’t even see you. You must have thought of me as rude.
Then the pump entered my life. I wanted to at least give myself an extra hour if I wanted to go on a date night with my husband. But, the pump and me are not friends. I would pump and 1/2 an ounce would come out. So, I had to pump for a week to get a small bottle’s worth of milk. I then understood my mom friends when they called it liquid gold. If you spilled the milk, you would cry.
And when my son got teeth, oh my goodness! He nearly took my right nipple off. I will not go into detail about that. I will let you fill in the blank. Let’s just say I have a battle wound.
Then, there were those days my son wasn’t that hungry. He would skip a feeding or two and I felt like I was housing some grenades – some really painful ones about to explode. That’s when the pump and I tried at our friendship again. It was a love-hate relationship. But, it got me through those painful times.
So, why did I stick with it? Why did I battle through the struggles of breastfeeding?
I was already on board with breastfeeding after reading all the benefits for my baby. I was able to do it with no serious issues. So, I was determined to power through. I fed my son until I found out I was pregnant with my daughter which was around 15 months. It flew by. While I was pregnant with my daughter, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She past away when I was 8 months pregnant. So, when I read that breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast cancer especially if a mama breastfeeds for over a year, any reservations I had to breastfeed my daughter for as long as my son went out the window.
And just to let you know, my breastfeeding journey with my daughter was simpler. Maybe it was because it was my second time around (I do recall very similar situations during the journey). Maybe she cooperated more (once she latched, she was there until it was done). I really can’t pinpoint one particular reason. And I’ll save for another post the battle of sitting down to nurse your baby while the toddler decides to use that opportunity to stress a mama out (climbing counters, dumping eggs on the floor – how did he figure out the child lock, and much more). But, enough of my story.
This isn’t a post to tell you that you must breastfeed because of reason 1 and 2 and 3. I simply wanted to share my story hoping it will help a mama or two with their journey. And whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, we are all mamas here choosing to do the best for our babies.
So, if you formula feed your baby, you’re an awesome mama. There are great options out there for your baby (like these formula options from The Honest Company). If you breastfeed, you’re an awesome mama. We are in this together to help support one another.