I could tell you that breastfeeding is all rainbows and butterflies, but that would be lying, and Pinocchio taught me that’s not in my best interest if I wish to keep a face with fairly good proportions. So, if you’re looking for someone to tell you, “It will all be okay. You’ll be a natural. The baby will latch the first time you try, pain-free, and then you’ll be surrounded with glorious rays of sunshine from the unshaded window as doe-eyed woodland creatures surround your bed to witness the perfection that is your child at the breast.” Look elsewhere.
As with most things in life, breastfeeding doesn’t always go as planned, and nursing is by far the most natural and often the most difficult thing to learn how to do for both mother and baby. Having a baby for the first time is overwhelming, to say the least, and then being given the job of providing the child’s sole nutrition with no prior experience can feel downright crushing, especially when things don’t go as you’d hoped or expected.
The good news? You’re not alone.
While each woman’s breastfeeding journey is as unique as the person herself, you can almost always find someone who has similar or shared experiences with whom to commiserate or celebrate. That’s why La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA have become very popular resources for nursing moms; it’s why great hospitals now host breastfeeding support groups; it’s why Facebook groups for breastfeeding are so populated; we need each other to share what our “normal” is so that others can feel normal too.
I was just at dinner with a friend who told me that when she was nursing her new baby after he was born, the nurse said to her, “I wish we could bring in all the new moms on this floor who are struggling to just sit here and watch you nurse- to see how you do it.” I imagined a room on the postpartum care floor with a circle of rocking chairs all facing each other, mommas new and old hat sitting and nursing and chatting- reassuring one another, asking questions, giving advice, like the Facebook breastfeeding support groups but in real life, where nip slippage among strangers is accepted and lactation consultants act as the “admins,” keeping the crazies in check and ensuring solid advice gets put forth first. That support, the reassurance that “Yes, you’re doing it right! Way to go, momma!” or “When that happened to me, I tried…” or even “I have no idea either…” can go a long way to help you feel empowered and courageous and understood in a time when you overwhelmingly feel like you have no clue what you are doing.
Here at Dream Diapers, we encourage and support all of our customers to feed their babies with love, no matter how that looks for them. We also foster a sense of community and support through Stash Chat (an exclusive Facebook group you are invited to once you’ve made a purchase with us) where many of you have felt comfortable seeking advice and support from each other on a whole range of parenting topics. We wanted to contribute to National Breastfeeding Month by providing a myriad of voices from our customers and friends, who wanted to reach out to others who may be experiencing the same success or barriers, to cheer and cry with you, to support and love you as only other mommas know how: by sharing our own stories. We will be sharing multiple Nursing Tales through out the month as we continue to celebrate and honor each momma’s unique journey through breastfeeding.
First up, we have Stephanie and Brittany, sharing their stories of how breastfeeding changed (or didn’t) through multiple pregnancies. Be sure to leave them some love in the comments!
Breastfeeding my second child is significantly different than the first in some ways. In other ways, it’s gloriously the same. With my first, I was constantly worried about lack of production and always obsessed whether I was making enough or not. This happened especially when I went back to work and had to pump. Thankfully, I work with a great staff and administration who allowed me that opportunity when I needed it. It wasn’t much fun locking myself in the nurse’s supply closet, hooking myself up to a machine, and massaging my boobs as if my life depended on it (well, I felt my daughters’ did!), but it was totally worth it. With my first, we battled thrush on THREE separate occasions, and at times, I was ready to throw in the towel. We found out, however, that Gentian Violet works miracles and were usually able to clear it up in a couple of days. It was painful, raw, emotional, and frustrating, but we endured. I made it to about 9 months with my first daughter when I slowly began to dry up. I was teaching and coaching softball after school, so pumping proved difficult, and physical contact with my daughter was limited. I felt okay when it ended, sad to let go of the bonding, but relieved to not “worry” about it.
With my second daughter, who is now almost 5 months old, I am much more relaxed. I think a lot of this is because I’ve been through it, and having a second child FORCES me to be more relaxed–otherwise, I’d defer to locking myself in a bathroom and curling up in the fetal position. I don’t worry as much about production. This time, I fully TRUST my body. I know that at times production will fall (like when my period started again or she goes through a growth spurt) and she will nurse what seems like days on end. I have learned that my body is capable of a lot, and when it is time for it to return to “normal,” I will be okay with it. I can’t say that I will miss raw, cracked, even bleeding nipples at times or the “niplash” (you know, the sudden jerking of the head in the opposite direction) or the biting as she gets older, but I know for certain I will miss the gulping noises, the little hand resting (possessively) on my breast, the way she pops off and smiles as she looks into my eyes, the way she falls asleep because the warmth and comfort are just too much to overcome. But I will be thankful and grateful that we were able to bond in such a way, that special, almost indescribably joyful way that only breastfeeding mothers truly understand.
Breastfeeding has been one of my favorite parts of being a mother. It amazes me how my body can not only support life for 9 months but also sustain that life after all on its own. I’ve breastfed all three of my children, and each nursing relationship has been so different. I was determined to breastfeed my oldest, and we started our breastfeeding journey with no problems. I, however, ended up getting pregnant 4 months postpartum, and we slowly made the transition to formula as I felt we had no other choice. My daughter was born when my son was only 13 months old. She loved nursing. I pumped and pumped to make sure I would have enough for her just in case we ever ran into a problem again. My sweet girl would never take a bottle, leaving me with over a thousand ounces of breast milk going to waste in my freezer.
I found out about Human Milk for Human Babies and donated my freezer stash to a local mom who wasn’t able to produce enough milk for her son. I ended up pumping and giving to friends as well when the need arose. Milk sharing has become a passion of mine. I so wish I would have known about it with my oldest. My little girl ended up nursing longer than I ever expected and self weaned at 25 months. I look back so fondly at our breastfeeding relationship.
I’m now nursing my third and final baby who is six weeks old. I’m so blessed to go down this road one more time and hope to nurse even longer. Aside from losing my milk early with my first and one horrible bout with mastitis, breastfeeding hasn’t been too problematic for me. My kids have all had beautiful latches and milk supply is definitely not an issue, but it still isn’t easy. Those first few weeks are exhausting, and I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help and support. He’s been there with me though it all from helping me get my first latches, holding my babies against me when I was too exhausted to do so myself, making sure I’m drinking plenty of water, and even meeting the mommas I donate to for a milk delivery. I’m still donating milk (over 300oz already at 6 weeks postpartum) and plan to for as long as I can. Breastfeeding has been as rewarding and beneficial to me as it has for my children. Words cannot describe how thankful I am that it has been a part of my journey as a mother.
Thanks, ladies, for sharing your story with us! Check back soon for more Nursing Tales!