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Breastfeeding: Precious, Perilous & Poignant Pt. 1

Okay, so I went full English major on my alliteration there. Get over it.

I did a couple of posts on the start of my breastfeeding journey, which is to say, exclusively pumping and not breastfeeding until 3 weeks after baby was born (some tips here). There was so much to this process and my whole nursing experience that I could write a book about it. There's a reason they call it a journey...

So I've tried my best to break it down into a few major sections. You can thank my teacher ways for that.

Section Uno: Getting Accustomed

There were a lot of realities to get used to as I began nursing. There was the initial bliss of no longer washing and sanitizing bottles day and night. HELL YES. The great debate on how I was going to play this thing - do I embrace my feminine power and whip the boob out at every opportunity? Or is it okay to be like, I would rather die than show my partially nude bod to strangers, or even worse, my uncles when baby was peckish.

It took me a bit not to feel ashamed of wanting privacy. You get it shoved into your face on mom social media that we should free the nipple, and while I wholeheartedly agree and am free with my body in the gym change room and walk around the house... as nature intended, I didn't want that in this specific situation. It took me time to embrace that I didn't want those bad boys free in public, like, at all. I remember sobbing when I had to breastfeed in front of a beach of people because she was wailing away in the lake. #momlife.

There was also a lot of logistics. How was I going to sit for nursing? In the beginning, side-laying was best for me, after the first month, I could do it anywhere, and by the end when she was squirmy, I really had to sit up and hold on tight. There were the nursing blankets, nursing pillows, nursing bras, and of course, the pads and the nipple cream. All of those things made life easier as I adjusted. But washing all those things was also exhausting.

There's no point in pretending it was easy, it wasn't. There was no quick manual for how to do it because everyone's body and baby are different.

There were a lot of tears from physical discomfort (sore muscles, insatiable thirst, a sore tummy from baby kicks and general postpartum, painful nipples) as well as a lot of emotional strain (confusion of all the changes to your body, a lack of personal space that could be suffocating, intrusive thoughts while nursing, constant worry that they aren't getting enough to eat). A few things that really helped me: being transparent with my partner about the struggles and hopelessness I was feeling, therapy, very hot showers, supplementing with formula when I wasn't getting much milk, and forgiveness (for myself and baby).

Section Deux: (Mostly) Pure Bliss

The height of my breastfeeding days (probably 8 weeks in to shortly before stopping) were physically the easiest.

Although I never thought I would, I enjoyed nursing. Those sweet little sounds and relaxed baby. The adorable hands holding on to you like they are just loving life. When they fall asleep and snore while they feed. I'll never forget that time we had. When she was upset, it just settled her right down and we both relaxed together. When she fussed, my boobs hurt and let me know she needed me and when they refilled after a feed, I knew it was going to be food time soon. And just the general closeness. Having this adorable little creature need you so much and being able to provide for them.

It is the most intuitively connected I will ever be to another person.

Once I was used to it (after about 6 weeks) I just never wore a bra (even though I'm... well-endowed, I couldn't STAND them until I stopped breastfeeding and even now, I often need to take it off) and didn't need all of the extra stuff as much. I didn't buy very many nursing clothes and I'm glad - tank tops worked just fine.

It wasn't all great, of course. The psychological and emotional pressures stayed with me throughout, feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, "bad thinking" spirals and being overwhelmed. But mostly, I was happy I had chosen this course for myself.

Breastfeeding became a way to spend time staring at baby, to cuddle and talk to her. But is was also a time for me to have me-time. I could scroll away on my phone, binge shows, or chat on the phone with my family I couldn't see in person. It became both a crutch and a comfort. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that!

My best advice for breastfeeding: find what works, and just do it. It may not be what everyone else is going, but you know what's right. Your body and your baby will guide the way. Have trust in both of you as you figure it out together!

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