What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Breastfeeding feels like home, and it creates a kind of bond that I’ve never experienced before. I cherish our quiet moments together and the way he looks up at me – so satisfied and happy. Breastfeeding allows me to express my love to Olin before he understands my words. It feels like what I’m meant to do, and it’s an absolute privilege.
Who (or what) has offered you the most support in this journey?
So many people have helped me along the way – friends, family, lactation consultants, and my sweet, supportive husband. Attending the Mama’hood’s breastfeeding support groups was the single most helpful thing I did during my first few months postpartum. Being around other new moms kept me sane, allowed me to hear stories similar to my own, and helped me understand that I wasn’t alone. Their strength inspired me. A few of the moms who attended were breastfeeding veterans who had come simply to encourage the new moms. During one of the groups, a veteran who was listening to all of our struggles sat up straight and with an encouraging tone said, “but, it’s worth it.” Amanda Ogden, who was leading the group that day, asked her to repeat what she’d said so we could all hear it again. She said again, “It’s worth it.” Those words stuck with me and became my new mantra. During a particularly painful latch, I remember sitting next to Amanda, and as I began to sob, she looked me square in the eye and said, “It will get better. I promise.” I held on to that promise.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Pain. Oh, the pain. In the first few days, I knew pain was normal and I was more than willing to muscle through it. But when days turned into weeks turned into months, I began to hear a small voice in my head asking if it was really worth it. Not just a little pain – excruciating pain. Pain that brought tears with every latch. Pain that made me resent my partner for not having to go through it. Pain that I thought would never go away. I saw doctors, engaged lactation consultants, attended support groups, talked to friends, talked to family. I received so much support but so many different hypotheses: Vasospasms, thrush, poor latch. I allowed myself for one day to consider quitting. I empathized wholeheartedly with all the mothers who were unable or unwilling to breastfeed and wiped all judgment from my mind of their circumstance or decision. I was humbled. At the end of that day, I decided to hold tight to the stories I’d heard of women with similar early struggles, and I repeated those three little words from the wise woman in the support group during each and every painful latch: “It’s worth it.” I had trouble believing it sometimes, but I made a very conscious decision to accept the pain as part of the process. I was more determined than ever to get to the other side. Then, one day in early December when Olin was about 2.5 months old, I realized that the pain was beginning to subside. It wasn’t more than a few days later that the pain was completely gone. Bliss. And, it was worth it. So incredibly worth it.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is therapeutic. After a long day, I so look forward to cuddling with my little man, stroking his chubby cheeks and hearing him sigh in sweet relief as the milk starts to flow. Nursing nourishes and comforts him in way that nothing else can. To be the source of that makes me happy.
Any advice for pregnant moms who want to embark on the breastfeeding journey?
Connect with other moms. The best thing I ever did during my struggles with breastfeeding was to find a safe place to share my thoughts, experiences and emotions with moms going through the same thing. I found that in the breastfeeding support groups at the “Mama’hood” in the Highlands (Denver). Being with that community of women, if only for an hour or two a week, gave me the energy I needed not to give up.