I have been breast-feeding my son for 19-months. No, I did not plan to breast-feed this long. No, it’s not easy. Yes, it is wonderful and hard all at the same time.
Like many expectant mothers, I researched and read about breast-feeding before the birth of my first child, but I thought “how hard can it be?” Well, it can be hard. For something as natural as breast-feeding, it certainly doesn’t always feel natural.
When your child is born, someone places this beautiful little person on your body and all of sudden you’re a mom. And your body is now the food source for this new little human. You are supposed to know how to care for, feed and nourish this little being and it isn’t exactly instinct. When I first held my son he latched on immediately and fed for an hour and a half. I thought, “Oh, that was easy! This is going to be cake!”
We experience pain.
But it wasn’t. Cracked and sore nipples are a horrifying reality in those early weeks (and sometimes months!). Applying various nipple creams becomes a daily ritual. Every time my son needed to nurse in the first few weeks of his life I was cringe as I unsnapped my nursing bra. I remember whipping my boob out for every nurse that came into my room after his birth and asking if it was normal for my nipples to look the way they did. It is normal, and I was totally unprepared for it.
We love it.
But as painful and awkward as it was in the beginning, it was also beautiful. Looking down at my sweet son as he drifts off to sleep on my chest is still one of the most precious moments of my day. I have never felt so connected to my son as when I’m breast-feeding him to sleep.
Breast-feeding is very different now that my son is a toddler. When he was a newborn I would sit propped up in bed for half the day just breast-feeding. I watched countless t.v. shows in that bed while nursing my son. Now my son will just walk up to me several times a day and pull my shirt down for all the world to see and begin to breast-feed. I call this kamikaze nursing. It simultaneously embarrasses me and makes me laugh.
We learn new skills.
I vividly remember the first time I tried to pump. Going from a sweet, cuddly little baby suckling at my breast to a cold awkward plastic machine was not a pleasant change. I stared so anxiously at the bottles as milk slowly dripped into them. “You can’t think about.” My friend advised. How can I not think about the plastic, whirring machine that is sucking at my chest?! I even tried to devise a make-shift pump holder by cutting holes in the chest of an old tank top so I could pump “hands-free”. It didn’t make the process less awkward, but I did eventually figure out how to make it work.
While breast-feeding is challenging in the beginning, at some point it becomes second nature. I remember being surprised at how easy it was to breast-feed while using a public restroom. Gross, but sometimes necessary.
Also, the first time I realized that I could breast-feed while wearing my son in the front carry was a super convenient discovery. No more stopping to nurse while we were running errands! I could just put him in the carrier and put the little sun-cover up for some privacy. These were skills I never thought I would acquire.
We don’t regret it.
Sometimes my friends who don’t have children will gasp when I tell them I’m still breast-feeding.
“Still!?” they exclaim. “But, why!?”
Well, there are plenty of reasons I could list. My son loves it. It’s almost more inconvenient to quit right now. It’s a part of my mothering experience. I usually just say “It’s cheaper than formula or milk!” and laugh off their exasperation.
Some mom’s aren’t able to breast-feed so even when it was painful I was grateful for the opportunity to nourish my precious son in that way. I won’t ever regret the hard work I put into figuring out the right positions that worked for us. I won’t regret the times my son woke up in the middle of the night and my husband couldn’t care for him because my son needed to nurse. I won’t regret all of the pain, work and sacrifice that breast-feeding requires, because it is a unique and beautiful bond that my son and I will have forever—and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Featured photo credit: Chris Alban Hansenlife via flickr.com