In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, I wanted to share a little about my journey as a nursing mama and how it all came to a sudden halt about two weeks ago. While I definitely encourage moms to breastfeed because of the many benefits, I totally understand and respect moms that either don’t want to or truly can’t nurse their babies. Just felt like I had to include a disclaimer – no mommy wars please! We all do what’s best for our kiddos, families, and circumstances. Charitably moving on.
From the get go, I knew that I wanted to try breastfeeding. I honestly didn’t know the first thing about it but was confident that I could learn and get the hang of it. I mean, how hard could it be? (said the naive first time mom) Our little Clare caught on quickly and seemed to be a natural from the beginning. But then when my milk supply came in full force, we had some struggles. In those first few weeks and months when my body and supply was adjusting, I came to realize that nursing can be hard! Clare had some real difficulties – she would get really fussy and keep unlatching when the flow and letdown were too much for her to handle. Then when she got upset, I’d get frustrated too and before I knew it we were both crying. This was hard enough to handle at home, let alone trying to feed her in public while attempting to keep covered and stay discreet with cries and little arms flailing.
It took some time and attempts at different techniques but eventually everything evened out, we got into a beautiful groove, and it all felt natural again. But I can absolutely understand why some women might get fed up and throw in the towel. I’m extremely thankful that I had/have amazing support from my husband (first and foremost) along with my friends and family. Support and encouragement go a long long way and can make all the difference, especially if you’re struggling.
Also, a huge shoutout to moms who have to pump while they’re at work. (or pump anywhere, for that matter) Keep up the great work! The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is actually “Breastfeeding and Work. Let’s Make it Work!” While I’m a stay at home mom now since we moved, I did go back to work part time for several months after my maternity leave ended. It can definitely be difficult to squeeze in the time and find a good place to pump while you’re at work. But again, I had the best support! My boss and coworkers all understood and encouraged/helped me to make the time. For that, I am eternally grateful. And I’m sure Clare is too!
Clare became such a champ after those beginning issues and loved to nurse. I will always cherish the bond we created and was in awe of the ability of my body to nourish hers in such an amazing way. Such a miraculous way that women’s bodies were made! I nursed her exclusively for the first six months, which was my initial goal. From there, we started to slowly introduce other foods but still nursed her several times a day. As she ate more and more solid foods and started to grow up way too quickly for this mom’s liking, we gradually transitioned to nursing only at nap time and at night. We did co-sleeping for a long time, which I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for us this time around. At that point, she was still in the habit of stirring several times at night to nurse. And while I loved being able to continue giving her that nourishment and comfort, I was also feeling ready to soon bring that chapter to a close. Plus we were already working on her sleep habits and transitioning her to a separate sleeping space, which was hard when she was in the habit of having me and my milk right next to her on demand.
Jason and I had planned to really work on gradual weaning (especially at night) when he got back from his trip to Ohio last month. Also in the meantime, I’d scheduled a dental appointment for Clare, for her general check up along with some curious spots I noticed on her front two teeth. Long story short, she does have some issues with those teeth and the dentist told me to stop nursing NOW in order to work towards resolving it. I was definitely not prepared for that sudden news. Even though we’d been planning to work on weaning, I was a bit emotional about how unexpected and abrupt it was happening. In the long run, it was probably better that I didn’t see it coming. Otherwise, knowing myself, I’d have been much more weepy about the fact that I’d nursed my baby girl for the last time. It’d already happened without me even realizing it at the time!
That first day was ROUGH. Poor Clare didn’t understand why her favorite comfort and lifelong routine was suddenly off limits. Cue the crying and heartbreaking sad faces. It was hard to bear but I’m a total rule follower and forced myself to follow doctor’s orders. Clare’s favorite stuffed lamb quickly became her new comfort and soother. She would sit on her bed, fuss off and on, and pluck at little lamb’s fur until she finally gave in and fell asleep. Nap time #1 took forever to happen but nap #2 was a little better and faster to occur. Bedtime that night took a while and the serious overnight sleep training began. She awoke several times that first night but luckily dozed off again quickly. Then on her 15 month Bday this week, she slept through the night for the first time EVER. Praise Jesus.
We are making great progress in the sleep department much to mom and dad’s joy. It’s hard to believe that I hadn’t slept a full night uninterrupted for 15 months!! But in hindsight it honestly flew by and I just got used to it. Plus coffee helps. Also looking back, those nursing struggles in the beginning now seem so small and fleeting. But at the time, they sure were stressful. So hang in there moms if you’re having a hard time. I’m beyond thankful to have nursed my little girl as long as I did and will forever cherish that time we had together. Especially as a first time mom. Now I will be more prepared and experienced for (God willing) our future children!
If you have any nursing stories or experiences that you’d like to share (good or bad) I’d love to hear them in the comments! Also, a huge shout out to Allison from Seven Arches Photography for the main photo on this post. She is a photographer in DFW who loves to capture images and stories of nursing moms. She has a special series of breastfeeding photos which I was able to be a part of last year. Look how teeny tiny Clare was! This was also during that fussy wiggly nursing stage, which made for an interesting photo shoot! See our story here if you’re interested.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week to all you past/present/future nursing mamas and those who support them!