August 06, 2012

Breastfeeding: An Evolution

Mayday, Mayday, my comments are now working! I repeat, my comments are now working!

I appreciate the level of concern shown and I'm so happy to report that I can now reply back to your comments so hitherto no more shall you wonder.*

I just found out that it's World Breastfeeding Awareness Week. I don't know how this escaped my attention. In honor, a little reminiscing is in order.

I have had very different breastfeeding experiences with Micah and Asher, probably mostly due to one being my first experience and the other...not.

Breastfeeding was extremely painful for about the first 4-6 weeks with Micah. Actually, a funny story that kind of has to do with breastfeeding. My first night sleeping with Micah (which would have been his second night of life), I fed him, burped him, swaddled him, and put him back to sleep right next to me. I then laid down to get some much-needed sleep. But alas, an hour or so later he woke up crying and so I fed him, burped him, swaddled him, and put him back to sleep. And then laid down to get some much-needed sleep. The sleep was much-needed. Not sure if you caught that part. Well, this continued for, let's see now if I can remember correctly...the whole night. 

And at one point I considered asking somebody if he was okay because he had all of his needs met and I wasn't sure if he knew that because he kept waking up. (I'm serious as a pimple on a 25 year old.)

I came to dread the nights. I knew it would be one wake up, followed by internal pleading to Eat, quickly, please! followed by trying to fall back asleep as quickly as I could to get as much "sleep" as I could before the next nightmare slash feeding after another.

I struggled so much and all of it alone. And only because I was so afraid to tell someone because I didn't want them to think I didn't know what I was doing. Which is funny if you think about it, because I didn't.

This all contributed to my wanting to quit breastfeeding from the very beginning. It hurt. It caused contraction-like pain. It required me being awake all night while I watched Matt sleep through feeding after feeding which in turn caused lots of angry looks and whispered murmurings about how "some" people are so selfish. I simply wanted to quit. If I went to formula then Matt could help feed too. But then it was formula and I'd heard all the judgments there and I didn't want to be That Mom.

I'm ashamed to admit this but I had a person in my life at that time who was so anti-formula and so pro-breastfeeding only that it was fear of her judgment alone that I stuck it out.

I just reread that sentence and I can hardly believe it's true. I feel sorry for the me that I was then. I'm so much more unconcerned now as a mother about what people think of me. In fact I think I've swung to the other side. I recently was part of a "friendly" debate about the Time magazine cover that showed a breastfeeding toddler. My contribution was simply that we shouldn't judge and should instead put our energies toward more important things like children who have no parents at all.

But after reading many of the vicious comments about how "wrong" and "gross" it is, I was tempted to resolve to breastfeed my child until the tender age of 18 and then wean him only because parents perhaps are not allowed in college dorm rooms. I'll show them gross.

But as an insecure first-time mother, that's where I was. I went on to breastfeed him until almost a year but I often longed for the day when I was no longer needed. I had many moments of enjoying the closeness but equally as many of simply wanting my freedom back.

My experience with Asher has been completely different, and I can only think it's because I now have a tiny bit of motherhood under my belt. I know how fast this season goes by and I'm less concerned with my "freedom."

Asher will be a year old this month and we are still nursing 4-5 times a day. I have loved it. It was still very painful in the beginning but I pushed on with the hope that comes from experience that this too will pass.

I've said pooh-pooh to the naysayers on both sides. I breastfeed because I love it and I know that before I know it he'll be grown and this time will be only a memory that I alone will cherish so deeply. The countless secret moments in the dark of cuddling close, of instant comfort, of tears fallen on soft faces, of whispered prayers. I will never get it back.

I don't judge like I used to. I still judge, but not like I used to. It's a process, no? I inwardly cheer on the first-time mama who dares to share in a room full of moms that she's thinking of quitting because it's hard. I was too proud to share and I suffered so much because of it. I inwardly rejoiced at the acceptance and encouragement she received. She's a smarter first-time mama than I ever was and I'm so proud of her for it.

So in honor of this special week, let us resolve to see the mama, the sister, the daughter, the wife, as more important than the boob, the formula, the "right" way, my way.

Happy Boobies Week.

*There was no concern shown but I appreciate that you guys were all internally concerned and just lacked opportunity to express it.

10 comments:

  1. Well said Sara! My experience with Daniel was rough and I struggled so much with the judgement about switching to formula. I equated my worth as a mother with how that was going and I regret how much of a wedge it put between me and Daniel and me and my husband. I'm glad I did breastfeed him but the daily flogging I gave myself over not being able to produce (especially pumping at work!) was enough to make anyone crazy. I hate to admit this but I kept a spreadsheet of how much I pumped at work and spent countless hours trying to figure out how to get more. I had some good support from other moms I know and my husband! I made it to 6 months and decided that I would be a better mom if I didn't breast feed anymore. I would encourage anyone to try their best but at the end of the day kiddos need mommas at their best which isn't about breastfeeding or not. If we have another child I plan to give it my best but I'm not going to waste that precious time worrying about if I'm a good mom or not based on my milk making abilities :)

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    1. Jess, this hurts my heart to read! We put so much pressure on ourselves and lose the mama moments in the meantime! Thank you for sharing this here, I hope somebody else in a similar situation is encouraged by it!

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  2. Note to self: do not, I repeat DO NOT read Sara's blog while sitting in a training!!!
    I just laughed out loud when reading the part about breast feeding your son until he is 18! I had a roomful of people turn and stare at me.
    Sara I love your blog and your view of life. Thank you for the much needed laugh.

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    1. Oh Selina, you make me so happy. Thank you. :)

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  3. Please, please tell me that it stops hurting! My love is one month old today and I am seriously in need of some relief. Thanks for the timely post! I'm determined to not give up.

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    1. I PROMISE it gets exponentially easier! But I would highly recommend talking to a lactation consultant (we have them at our hospital here) and making sure that she has a good latch, etc. As long as all that's in place then your boobs should toughen up and it just gets easier and easier. But most importantly, talk to a friend! Whatever you do, don't do it alone! She's beautiful by the way. :)

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    2. Jennifer, when I had my first I remember absolutely DREADING feeding him. I would tense up right before he latched in anticipation of the pain. I will never forget the day that he had just latched when my Mom walked into the room and I was slamming my foot on the floor in agony. I totally relate to what Sara said, because inside I was seriously wishing that I could give up but I was so absolutely determined to stick it out because "good moms breastfeed" so I was putting up a front that it didn't hurt that bad and I absolutely LOVED breastfeeding. With tears in my eyes I looked at my Mom and finally said "Mom, I don't think I can do this any longer, it hurts way to much." I have to mention, at this point NO ONE told me that it hurt in the beginning. I thought there was something wrong with Noah's latch but the lactation lady said he had one of the best latches and sucking ability that she's ever seen in a newborn. So I just figured I was the unlucky one. But my Mom reasurred me that it was completely normal, and that it PASSES. That one sentence gave me the strength to stick it out. I can honestly say that if I wasn't told that it passes and stops hurting, I would have given up. But the knowledge that it will pass is what kept me going, and now I am so glad I did. One thing that I think helped it speed along with my second child was putting on the lansinoh nipple cream after every feeding. You will wake up one day and it will hit you, the pain is gone!! And then you can do the Hallelujah dance, however sleep deprived it may be :)

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    3. Thanks! We went and saw the lactation consultant yesterday and we have a good latch, just had to figure out that she was emptying me way faster than I thought. We are fixing her bad habits and things are way better today!! I wish people did tell you that it will make you want to die at first!!! :)

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    4. Hi Sara,it's Michelle..I use Randylynn's FB to read your blog!!lol..
      I too didn't get the support with Randylynn and quit quickly. I think women need to be aware of first timers in so many areas and generously offer the support openly. I can so relate with your story. I didn't even know what questions to ask. I didn't know where to turn. And I too was embarrassed because I had hoped I was born with this wiring of bewbie expert from the start..and I wasn't. So I quit. How sometimes long for that intimacy which is lost in the hands of time with Randylynn. BUT it those moments shaped me and influenced bewwbieee heaven with my other little ones. And whenever I see a mom breastfeeding, I always offer a little open cheer to her and encourage to keep going! Thanks for your post Sara! love you!

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    5. Jen, I'm so glad you were able to meet with someone and get encouragement! And yes, it is sooo very painful in the beginning, and it would be helpful to know!
      Michelle, I love you so much and miss you like crazy! When are you guys moving here??? Thanks for responding, I love hearing back! And I love your "bewbie" expertise! :)

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