My Unexpected Love Affair with Breastfeeding

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Disclosure :: World Breastfeeding Week is recognized August 1 – 7, 2016. This year, the World Breastfeeding Week theme is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.

The matchup

Bottle versus Breast: a matchup that seems like the world championship bout in the boxing match arena of motherhood decisions. At least it seemed that way to me.ejm1

Unexpectedly surprised to be pregnant and completely overwhelmed by the number of decisions I was having to make throughout those nine months, one question I was asked more than others was, “are you going to nurse?” 

Considering I didn’t even find out my baby’s gender, I had no idea how to answer that. I was bottle fed, but my mother-in-law nursed her children in a time when she was considered a pioneer for doing so.

If I wasn’t already overwhelmed by the question, the mere number of articles, research and products available that supports one versus the other sent me completely over the edge. And like any overly hormonal, scared mother-to-be would do – I asked my mom her advice. What she said still resonates with me in many of my motherhood decisions today, “give it a try, if it works, then keep it, if it doesn’t then stop. You’re already a good mother for even asking the question.”

After a textbook pregnancy and a peaceful labor and delivery (yes, I used the term peaceful to describe that), I was completely unprepared for the brick wall of breastfeeding I crashed headfirst into at top speed. 

Breastfeeding Roadblocks

It hurt y’all. It hurt a lot. And I was tired. And hormonal. And you guessed it: completely and totally overwhelmed.

My first month of breastfeeding was filled with bruised nipples, an infection in my milk ducts, what seemed like back-to-back nursing sessions, and an isolated feeling. In the beginning, I locked myself in our bedroom and nursed our daughter for sometimes and hour and a half while my husband dutifully entertained the stream of well-meaning guests in the living room.

I wanted to believe that this would get easier, that it would get better.

A better person would’ve cut their losses. But along with my indecisiveness comes a heavy dose of stubbornness.

I wanted to believe that this would get easier, that it would get better. I gave myself the goal of just getting through the first three months, remembering research I did read that explained how we can pass along our antibodies to our infants in order to protect them until they begin producing their own. I wanted to push through the pain and sacrifice three more months to give my daughter her best start.

It is a sacrifice I will never regret.

It was three a.m. It was the fourth time I was awake and breastfeeding my daughter. As I sat up in the semi-conscious state I had adopted since my daughter’s birth a mere 12 weeks before, it dawned on me: breastfeeding was no longer a chore. Somewhere between packing extra breast pads in my pump for work and finally getting my daughter to latch, breastfeeding had become part of the routine. I arrived at the elusive breastfeeding nirvana that so many mothers spoke of and I was convinced, until this moment, did not exist.

DSC_8138From that moment on I fell completely and totally in love with breastfeeding. It was no longer a sacrifice I dreaded every time I heard my daughter’s hungry cry. It no longer left me feeling isolated and anxious at the thought of company coming over. And ultimately, it was the unconditional love and transcendent joy I felt while nursing my daughter that pulled me through some of my darkest moments of postpartum depression. I thought that if I could push through the pain and defeat I felt at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, there was light waiting for me out of my postpartum fog.

I cut the ties that seem to tether new breastfeeding mothers to the guilt of not getting it right, of having to supplement with formula, of feeling all alone in this journey. Breastfeeding allowed me to step into my own as a new and young mother.  

Like many moments in this motherhood journey, when it seems like you’ve failed completely, it can turn into your greatest triumph and bring you the most unexpected love and joy.

I share my breastfeeding journey with all of you to let you know that it doesn’t need to be something you fall in love with right away, but know it does get better. Breastfeeding does not need to be something you love every single minute of, and you are no less a mother because of it. Like many moments in this motherhood journey, when it seems like you’ve failed completely, it can turn into your greatest triumph and bring you the most unexpected love and joy.

So to all the mamas-to-be or new mothers that find themselves in a similar position as me: take a deep breath, you’re doing just fine. I believe in you and so does that little human staring up at you while you nurse. Whether your breastfeeding journey lasts a day, a month, or a year, walk a little taller and be proud of yourself for trying. You did good mom.

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