In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I have debated how I would join the thousands (millions?) of brave, strong women sharing their journeys, nursing proudly in public & sticking up for what they believe in. So here goes... I hesitate to share this story, especially with "the internet," but it is an important part of my life and has been an essential aspect of my sanctification through motherhood -- aka the toughest thing I've ever worked at and gone through. I also went back and forth on whether that was an appropriate title for this post, because as much as I appreciate people advocating breastfeeding and using compelling reasons & bullet points to argue their case that "breast is best," and as much as I do not want to discourage a mama who is ready to give-up or one who hasn't decided yet how she'll nourish her baby, I am a bit bothered (maybe even a little personally offended) when people -- women AND men -- use "breastfeeding is free" as one of their persuasion expressions. Breastfeeding has been far from "free" for me. Not just in monetary cost -- for the pump + supplies, nursing bras + tops, ointments + creams + oils + herbs, lactation consultant fees, doctor's appointments, procedures, specialists, books + resources, teas + supplements, baby gear attempting to lessen the loss of sleep -- but also in emotional, physical, mental + spiritual cost; sacrifice. Breastfeeding is natural, sure, but in this case natural does NOT mean easy or intuitive or free. I do believe that it is the way God intended mamas to feed their babies, if possible. Note: this does not mean I am in any way judging mother's who don't -- or can't -- breastfeed. We live in a fallen world and, as with anything else, just because something is natural and "as God intended/created it to be" doesn't mean it's not difficult, broken or impossible.
I think I had always just assumed I'd breastfeed, and was determined early-on in my pregnancy to make the commitment to nurse at least 1 year, with my goal being at least 2 years. I wanted to avoid formula. I wanted to bond with my baby. I wanted to give her the best possible start in life that she could have, and there is certainly enough information out there arguing that breastfeeding does just this. In our case, however, breastfeeding caused a lot of pain. A significant loss of sleep. Tensions in my marriage, frustration towards my baby, and feeling depressed because there was clearly something wrong with me that was interfering with my ability to do what I felt was best for Madelynn.
The first month was excruciating. A nipple shield (note: avoid at all costs!!) was, at the time, my saving grace that allowed me to continue nursing M without curling my toes and screaming in pain. However, if I could go back and do it all again, I would push through the pain without artificial assistance from that maddening piece of plastic that my daughter would come to depend on. Madelynn was born with a fairly extreme upper lip tie & tongue tie (which went undiagnosed, despite visiting several lactation consultants, until she was 5+ months old), which caused me incredible pain and prevented her from transferring the amount of milk she needed to thrive -- resulting in her developing jaundice, loosing weight and then struggling to gain weight, being incredibly gassy/colicky/inconsolable and therefore waking up every 45 minutes or so to nurse, and me struggling to maintain my milk supply. I stuck with breastfeeding through all of this because 1. I felt very strongly that it would be best for her in the long run, despite how many issues it was causing at first and 2. because I'm extremely stubborn and insisted on continuing because it was my plan to nurse for at least a year (unless, of course, it had become harmful to her for us to continue). Once she was diagnosed with the ULT/TT, we were able to get those loosened and resolved with craniosacral therapy and we experienced immediate results. She began gaining weight normally for the first time in her life, and slowly but surely we were able to ditch the shield (praise God)! Unfortunately, she was still waking up every hour - hour and a half, most likely out of habit.
We still struggle with nursing some of the time, especially now that she's at the age where EVERYTHING else is more interesting, but I am thrilled that we are finally at the point where it is usually painless (during teething is a whole 'nother story), doesn't feel like a chore and is serving it's purpose of nourishing her in a way that no other substance can quite compare to. Thank you for sticking with me through my breastfeeding saga. I would LOVE to hear your story -- how nursing has blessed you, changed you, been hard for you, been easy for you, or even why you never did or no longer choose to.
// the above images of my sweet girl nursing were taken by the super-talented Kristiane Webb -- she's the photographer these photographers trust with all their personal photo needs.