What does breastfeeding mean to you?
To me, breastfeeding is the natural and logical extension of the process of childbirth. He is still my baby and I am his mom, even out of the womb. It is the loving and pleasant reminder that we need each other. It is the development of a relationship that, like pregnancy and childbirth, has its ups and downs but on the whole is pure, honest, raw, and beautiful.
Who (or what) has helped you along this journey?
My husband has been an incredible source of support. He encourages me to breastfeed because he knows how much it means to me and to the baby. He would hold my hand or rub my shoulders when I cried from pain. He would rock my baby when he cried to nurse more and I just couldn’t bear any more. Like my own personal breastfeeding coach, he would encourage me day after day to stay strong. He does not get uncomfortable when I nurse in public. He sat with me on the floor of a Las Vegas casino when our baby needed to be nursed. He defends my choice with family members who disagree. Plus, I think he likes that I don’t hide my breasts quite as much. It's nice bonus for him.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
I am an athlete. I compete in long-distance triathlons, and I play on a women’s ice hockey team. A little bit of pain usually fuels me to power through the challenge. But my first few weeks of breastfeeding dealt me with pain I didn't think I could overcome. My tiny newborn baby latched on beautifully and the hospital lactation consultant walked out of our room, and with a flick of her wrist, told our nurse, “They’ll be fine.” It was painful initially, but that’s what friends had told me might happen. Then little by little and latch by latch the pain became unbearable. Two weeks later, after so many tears, and with nipples so raw I couldn’t touch them to my clothing, I returned to the hospital to learn that I have dimpled (inverted) nipples. The process of evert-ing the nipples using shields, shells, and pumps, was truly a test of my will.
One day after a tearful phone call my father said, “I know we raised you not be a quitter, but sometimes you have to know when to fold ‘em.” Somehow quitting seemed harder than powering through. I prayed. Ten times a day when my baby would latch on, I would breathe through the pain, then look out the window and pray to the sky.
Finally, I couldn’t take the pain and I made the decision to pump and bottle feed. This, of course, presents its own set of challenges. What do you do when you are in the middle of pumping and your baby wakes up from his nap crying for food or comfort, but you need to stay with the pump or risk a drop in your milk supply? How can you get anything done when you have to take care of a baby and pump every two hours? But pumping was exactly what my body needed. I dealt with infections, antibiotics, broken pumps, and washing pump parts in the middle of the night every night, but my torn up nipples healed in five weeks.
Then came my second chance. It was so amazing and almost miraculous to me when after I was completely healed that my baby boy came right back to the breast as if he never skipped a beat.
When breastfeeding is easy, it’s easy. When it’s hard, it is really really hard. But being able to ride the waves of the easy times and overcome the challenges is so rewarding.
I will gladly deal with the leaking and let down issues that I have because of my weeks of pumping. I endured. And I got a second chance. And for that I am so grateful