DISCLAIMER: This post is not a breast vs. bottle debate. Also, this post may contain TMI..you have been warned.
My mother breastfed all five of us. My whole life I have been surrounded by breastfeeding mothers. Maybe that is why I never gave it a thought. I went into breastfeeding assuming it would just happen…I mean, it is natural right? It is the way mothers have been feeding their babies since…well…forever. Gisele does it. Beyonce does it. Pope Francis encourages it. All those crunchy moms rant and rave about it. So it must be so easy…I mean…how hard can it be? If Pink can do it, so can I!
Well… listen. It’s not always so easy. Let me share:
The first time I nursed Edmund it was awkward and uncomfortable. I barely knew how to hold him, let alone feed him. The lactation consultant (LC) told me about the Football Hold. So I cradled my tiny baby in one arm and brought his tiny little mouth over to suckle. And it was perfect and magical and everyone should do it…right? So wrong. So, so wrong. Edmund latched-success! It was a little painful, but the LC told me that was normal. I tried to describe his suck to her, he was using his gums to pull the nipple and she said “oh that’s fine.” Little did I know, that was not fine. Not fine at all.
Later that day, after two feedings, I was in pain. My nipples had both developed lines of blisters from the sucking. But I was told it happened a lot and it would be just fine.
We left the hospital on a Thursday. Friday morning was a complete nightmare. I was exhausted. Edmund hadn’t eaten in 6 hours because I had a major meltdown Thursday night and my MIL took him to let me rest…but the story of my Post Partum Depression is one for another time.
Basically for the next 4 days I cried…constantly. Every time it was time to nurse Edmund I cried. I couldn’t sleep because I was constantly anticipating the pain of the next feeding. Travis and I read every line of the baby books, watched a million Youtube videos, called our mothers, e-mailed breastfeeding friends, rubbed on nipple butter, expressed milk to let it dry on the nipples. We practiced the latch…made sure his lips were flared just right, that he had enough areola in his mouth. Examined the shape of my nipples when he was done…were they round or flat? Shaped like a tube of lipstick or a perfect circle? All the while the skin over the blisters was peeling. I was bleeding, and crying, and Edmund was crying and poor Travis was so helpless.
Tuesday was the day the hospital had a Breastfeeding support group/class. I just had to make it to Tuesday. I went in and told the LC, the same one I had seen when Edmund was born, that his latch was bad. So I pulled down my shirt and showed her. “His latch is textbook! That was perfect!” she told me! Apparently it hurt so bad because of the blisters and tissue damage. Duh. Of course that was why. She told me, imagine if you have a cut on your arm and every couple of hours you poured water on it and rubbed it. Would it heal quickly? No.
So basically their advice was come back next week for more support and fight through the pain.
But I fought through.
I fought through because I was terrified of formula. I was terrified of failing as a mother. I was terrified my breastfeeding friends would find out and judge me…
FAST FORWARD: Edmund is almost 7 months old and we have overcome all of the obstacles. I nurse anytime, anywhere. I nurse in church, in restaurants, on an airplane, in museums, at the park, on the couch, while I go pee, in the bed, standing in the kitchen, in the Walmart dressing rooms, in the car, hunched over the car seat; in Food Avenue at Target. I nurse in front of family and friends and strangers. If my kid is hungry I am going to feed him…period.
I went to a wedding in late August when Edmund was about 6 weeks old. At the rehearsal dinner I sat in the handicap stall with my mom breastfeeding Edmund. So many women noticed what I was doing and were so kind and encouraging. “Oh, I remember those days!” “It is so great that you nurse him!” “I am very proud of you for breastfeeding your baby!” “Why are you in that stall? There is a nice couch just outside the door! Go sit and be comfy!” Hearing all of that made me proud that I had stuck it out and continued to nurse Edmund.
My little brother was not so enthusiastic. In the hotel room with my family I wasn’t nervous or self-conscious at all. I didn’t want to miss out on any of my time with them, so I just nursed right out in the open. Zach was always yelling: “Can you at least warn me before you just whip it out?!” haha
In October I went to Virginia with Edmund to spend a few weeks with my parents. My whole family works at Target…it is our thing. And by work there I mean practically live there. I was in Target with my mom and sister and I sat in Food Avenue and nursed Edmund without a cover. I did the Pull-Up-Pull-Down method, which is my personal favorite! You couldn’t see anything. The next day Jenny came home and told me the following: A guy (boy? young man? man?) that she works with came up to her and said that he had seen a woman breastfeeding in Food Avenue the day before and he almost told her to go do it in the dressing room. He didn’t even know we she is my sister…idiot.
Oh, oh my goodness…I cannot even wait for the day someone tells me to take my breastfeeding somewhere else. I really cannot even wait.
Recently Edmund has taken to pinching the skin on my breast while he nurses. Hello?! This is not a juice box! He will nurse in any position. He will laugh while nursing and pull my hair and look around and cross his legs and try to take my boob with him while he tries to crawl away. Silly baby.
From what I can gather, most breastfeeding moms nurse their babies as modestly as they can manage. Maybe not with a nursing cover…because most babies hate them. I get a false sense of security while using a cover and when Edmund whips it off I am left scrambling to cover myself with something!
Breastfeeding is natural, and beautiful, and beneficial to a child’s health. But it is also an intimate act between a mother and her child. As a Catholic woman I was taught at a young age the importance of modesty. I don’t think everything I learned should be thrown out just because I am breastfeeding. Our bodies are sacred, and we should be respectful and modest while we nurse in public.
I love breastfeeding. I love looking at Edmund while he nurses. I love holding him close and snuggling with him. I love when he curls his legs up and gets as close as possible. I love when his hand tickles my side and his other hand rubs my face. I love having this special bond with him that no one else will ever have. But I am hear to tell you that just because it is beautiful and natural does not mean it is always easy and painless. You are not a failure. You are not a bad mom. If you want to breastfeed your baby–in public or in private–you have to be strong and confident in yourself. You have to work through the pain…and I am pretty sure if you hang in there, you will both learn, and you will love it too!
I would love to hear some of your hilarious breastfeeding stories!