Friday, August 7, 2015

What Breastfeeding Means to Me

Happy World Breastfeeding Week

What? You didn’t know that was a thing? You and me both.

But, it is, and I can’t let the week go by without writing about something that has impacted my life in so many ways. 

When I was pregnant with Ina, I knew I wanted to nurse her. I had read and heard countless accounts of how difficult nursing could be. The only real life experience I had with breastfeeding was what I saw from my sister nursing my niece and nephew. Not taking the first few weeks into account, she made nursing look so easy and so awesome. Then, Dan and I took the nursing classes and I became even more determined to make it work. 

When Ina was born and sent directly to the NICU, things became a little more complicated. We didn’t have that initial skin to skin contact. I wasn’t allowed to nurse her for the first few days. The hospital had a shortage of pumps. The pediatrician started to threaten the “F” word when my milk hadn’t come in.  However, Dan and I worked pumping and then eventually nursing every 1.5 hours around the clock to make sure I would make enough milk to support our little baby. I will never forget when I woke up with a soaked tank top in the middle of the night and Dan and I danced and cheered. For milk. Oh how your life changes with a baby.

Then, it became easier. A lot easier. And not just easier. Amazing. 

Our nursing sessions quickly became our bonding time. I sometimes find it difficult to sit still, but the need to feed Ina forced me to sit a lot and do nothing but stare into her eyes. (Or, let’s be real, fall asleep while staring into her eyes.) Study her face. Hold her tiny fingers. Memorize the sounds of her breathing.

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[Ina as a newborn - doesn’t Cora look exactly like her?]

Also, it wasn’t just bonding. Nursing gave me a confidence in myself that I had never had before. My body was completely sustaining my child. I cannot explain what an empowering feeling that was. My arms felt so strong, even though they were only holding 7 pounds. I felt like I was doing what God designed my body to do. 

I nursed Ina for a year, and stopping was pretty hard on me. I would see new moms nursing and feel jealous. I didn’t realize how much I truly loved my experience until I stopped. I have to admit that when I found out I was pregnant again, I was most looking forward to nursing another baby.

Then Cora was born via a successful VBAC and she was placed directly on my chest and nursed immediately. However, we still had some complications. She didn’t like one side. My supply started to tank (which I think was because I wasn’t drinking enough water). Despite these, we are making it work, and I am blessed again to do this thing I love so much with my baby. 

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[Photography credit: Stag and Bird Photography]

I completely understand that breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone and I am so thankful it worked for us. It is true, it isn’t always easy. The pumping, the leaking, the hormones, the hunger, the need to find a comfortable place to nurse in public, being the ONLY person who can feed the baby, etc.. It can all start to weigh on us.

I think the most important way to get through the hard parts is to find other mommas for support. Surprisingly, support can be hard to find in our healthcare system and was hard for me while Ina was in the NICU. I will be honest and say that my experience probably wouldn’t have been the same if I didn’t have my sister to guide me through and Dan’s persistence in establishing my supply.

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[Photography credit: Stag and Bird Photography]

If you are a new momma and need that support, I would be happy to provide it. Just email me. <3 

One of the most difficult things about nursing today is the stigma around it. My friend Courtney, who took the above pictures with Cora (and also ran my 2nd half marathon and first triathlon with me) is working to remove that. Check out her news interview here. I now know a celebrity! She also started a photography business - stay tuned for all of Cora’s newborn pictures next week.

I hope you have a blessed weekend!

 

1 comment:

  1. Breastfeeding is beautiful. I have PCOS and I was unable to nurse for longer than 2 weeks with my baby. We had to supplement with formula from the start. It was heartbreaking but when I saw how dehydrated my baby was, there was no doubt that we just had to go with what was best for her. I miss the bonding breastfeeding provides. Cherish it!! :)

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