Let’s assume you have already made the decision to breastfeed your baby. You know the benefits. You know that breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition you can give your baby. Breastfeeding decreases your baby’s chances of contracting many diseases and infections like ear infections, eczema, asthma, juvenile diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few. You know that the benefits of breastfeeding extend far past infancy. You know that breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding, may help you lose weight post pregnancy, and may even reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis or breast cancer. You know the facts and breastfeeding is your plan. Or let’s assume you are already in the midst of your breastfeeding relationship, for better or for worse. You ensured you and your baby got off to a great start by remaining skin-to-skin immediately after birth. You have worked with lactation consultants to perfect your baby’s latch. You have been nursing your baby sometimes hourly or more to establish supply. You are in the throes of breastfeeding. Whether you are preparing to breastfeed your baby or you already are, you should know that you are not alone. Whatever you are facing, or will face, someone else has been there too. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, a group of women shared their experiences with breastfeeding. Let their stories encourage you.
Joys of Breastfeeding
“I absolutely loved the closeness it provided and the fact that I was doing what I felt was best for my son.” “Breastfeeding brought me closer to nature. The ability to feed my child from my own body made me feel more alive than ever. My child needed me, and I needed her.” “I loved everything about breastfeeding my son. Breastfeeding made me feel so close to my beautiful baby and made me feel so strong!” “Amazing bonding time with my son free from all the chaos of the day.” “Breastfeeding is the best way to kiss 600 calories a day goodbye. Staying fit, and bonding with my daughter simultaneously was the largest blessing imaginable.”
“Stressful and confining.” “I would describe my experience as seriously difficult and incredibly frustrating. I wish I’d had more support.” “I know that some women say they loved breastfeeding. I never felt that. I did it, and I’m glad I did, but I never enjoyed it.”
“As a very young mom with little knowledge and support for breastfeeding, I only nursed my oldest for a few weeks. By the time my second was born, I had gained much more knowledge and had a good support system. Using baby-led weaning, I nursed my second son until a few months past his second birthday, and nursed my third until a few months before his second birthday.” “I never knew it could be so painful, physically and emotionally. I just thought it was breastfeeding and God made us this way so how hard could it be? I had heard some people have issues, but that most certainly wouldn’t be me. I’m so thankful for being able to at least nurse for the first few months and the bond we shared and still do. I also didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to pump enough to provide what she needed. I’m so thankful for donor milk though.” “[He] latched on very well but it took nearly two weeks for my milk to come in. Because of that, his pediatrician said we needed to also do a formula supplement…I felt so guilty. When week 3 came, so did my milk. I was so proud and excited! After that, I was able to back off the formula and only breastfeed! However, when I went back to work my milk supply came to a screeching halt.”
“He never did latch on. He was jaundice, tongue tied, and 2 1/2 weeks early….he had the odds against him. We tried for 2 weeks and went to a lactation specialist 4 times. I did pump for 3 months so he could get some nutrients and immunity from breast milk.” “Pumping is hard. But worth it.” “I had a really tough time with breastfeeding. I made it 9 months out of sheer determination. I only had about three easy months out of the nine – and two of the easy months I was pumping at work. So I think my snippet would be: Sooooo hard, but worth it. “
“I’ve nursed three now! I would say “necessary.” It was necessary for my body, for theirs, for money, for relationship for sanctification, for prayer time, for sleep and for my laziness.” “[We’ve] been breastfeeding for 18 months now. When she was tiny and I didn’t know what she needed when she was upset, breastfeeding helped most of the time. Even now, when she’s in a grumpy mood, sometimes just sitting down and letting her nurse will turn that mood around.” “Breastfeeding has been the truest example of “labor of love” that I’ve ever known, especially in the beginning. Now that we’ve got our sea legs under us it is one of my favorite parts of our relationship. There’s nothing quite like a happy baby with milk dripping down her chubby cheek.” “A special bonding experience that didn’t last long enough.” “It’s been hard, and wonderful, and fulfilling, and exhausting, and painful at times, and emotionally draining. There are good days and bad days…”These women do not know each other, and they have all faced vastly different journeys. Some have had little hiccups in breastfeeding, but have been able to nurse successfully. Some of these women are exclusively pumping in order to provide breast milk for their baby. Some have relied on donor milk because they were unable to produce enough. Some have loved breastfeeding, others have not. None of the thoughts and feelings these women shared are wrong. Wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey know that you are not alone, and it is ok to feel the things you do. Breastfeeding is the perfect food for your baby. It is natural, but it does not always come naturally. Be patient with yourself, with your baby. Get help. Surround yourself with women who have gone before you. Get a doula. See a lactation consultant. Go to support groups. At the end of the day remind yourself that breastfeeding, and motherhood, is hard. For both, you need a lot of grace for yourself and a village to support you.