What Does Breastfeeding Mean to You?
Breastfeeding means life. The bond you create with nursing is the most natural connection you can possibly have and I believe one of the most meaningful.
Breastfeeding has changed who I am as a person as well as my identity as a woman. You learn more about yourself than I ever imagined possible. Your strengths and your weaknesses are brought to the surface. I've found myself extending grace more in situations I may have otherwise become frustrated by. Breastfeeding reaches far beyond the basics of nourishing a child and making sure their dietary needs are met. Breastfeeding builds bonds with not only your child but with other mothers and people in your community; breastfeeding builds a bond like no other with your partner and unites you as a couple. Your partner often becomes your biggest cheerleader. My husband is my rock.
What Has Been Your Biggest Breastfeeding Challenge?
Society has been a major challenge for me. Our culture needs change in regard to breastfeeding and acceptance as something that is normal. I have struggled with our culture relating breastfeeding to sex and restricting when and where women can nurse. Breasts do not have a sole purpose of being used for sexual purposes and we as a whole need to end the stigmas related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not something to be viewed as taboo...we need to be talking about it and helping support new mothers instead of supporting the multi billion dollar formula industry.
As a mom who has been nursing for 7 consecutive years I have faced many challenges with nursing an older child. My daughter, now 3 years 7 months, is still nursing. As proud as I am to have accomplished nursing this long I'm also somewhat saddened because there are not many others I can experience this joy with. To most, the mountain I have climbed, is not seen as success. Nursing an older child is far different then a new baby. Family and friends shun you for doing something outside of what they consider normal. Heck, even total strangers do. You quickly become that weird hippie chic doing those weird hippie things like nursing even though they can talk, babywearing when they could be walking, giving birth in a pool in your bedroom and using herbs and oils over pharmecuticals. Suddenly you're very different than those around you. I took my time in finding my voice and speaking out about nursing beyond infancy. I may not be totally accepted even now but I've gained confidence over the years and believe in what I'm doing so I've found it has gotten easier with time to speak to others about it. .
Who (or what) has offered you the most support?
My biggest supports are my husband and dear friend who is an IBCLC. My husband has supported me 110%. He has never been uncomfortable at all and never has seen nursing as anything but normal. With my last 2 children we have never used a bottle, only ever nursed on demand and he has never felt left out. He understands and is more than gracious when I'm touched out...he gets how demanding, physically and mentally exhausting nursing can be and does so much to support me. I've dealt with many bouts of mastitis, clogged ducts and sleep deprivation over the years and with these things has come lots of tears, mood swings like no other and crazy hormones. Through it all, my husband is understanding, forgiving and remains by my side. He's the first to stand up for me in regards to extended nursing and I'm often amazed when I hear him talking to his friends educating them about breastfeeding. I'm a lucky woman.
My friend Amy, whom is an IBCLC, has been a bigger help than she will ever take credit for. I would not be here, a nursing mother today had I not met Amy through my work at a medical office before becoming a stay at home mom. Amy reached out and offered answers to my questions when I was pregnant with my second child. As a young mother with my first I was clueless without a strong support system. Honestly, I had no support with my first pregnancy. My husband was deployed in Iraq and I had an arrogant OB who told me I shouldn't bother with breastfeeding as it was "too hard and would ruin my boobs". After a 2 week nicu stay, no lactation education and no one to ask for guidance I became another formula feeding mama. I didn't know any better. My gut always told me this wasn't the way it had to be but it wasn't until I was pregnant for the second time and found Amy that I really believed things could be different. Amy was there for me through pregnancy and early infancy of my first breastfed baby and still remains a strong support today in nursing my toddler. I can't tell you how many late night emails we've exchanged, how many questions she's given thorough replies to and how much encouragement she has provided over the years. I didn't know at first when I met Amy that she was dealing with a loss of her own...the stillborn birth of her daughter, her third child. I didn't know she had gotten away from lactation education and working with new mothers. I didn't know she was broken and missing a piece of her heart. I didn't know this in the beginning because she selflessly took me under her wing despite her own pain and current struggles and jumped right in to make breastfeeding become a reality for me and everything she could to ensure I was equipped with all the knowledge I needed and surrounded me with love and support. Amy is one of the strongest women I know as well as one of the smartest. She will never accept the praise she's so worthy of receiving but it is my hope that every woman have their own Amy; without her I wouldn't be here telling my story. Thank you Amy for changing my life in more ways than one.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is the hardest best thing I've ever done. I love that it presents challenges that encourage me to problem solve and shows me I am stronger than I ever knew. I love that breastfeeding helped me find my voice for my body, my babies and brought me together with some amazing mamas. I've built relationships with people that I otherwise may have never formed all because of nursing.