What does Breastfeeding mean to you?
For me—at the beginning—breastfeeding was mainly about good nutrition and economics. As someone who believes that what we put into our bodies is one of the most important factors in our life, I knew that breastfeeding my daughter was the only option I was going to consider. I couldn't fathom feeding her something made in a factory, and I knew I wouldn't unless it was absolutely the last resort I was left with. (Plus, breastfeeding is cheaper than the alternative!) What began, however, as a simple desire to feed my baby well turned into astonishment and pride over the fact that my body has the ability to fully sustain a human being. This body—the one that I have complained about being inadequate and imperfect for the vast majority of my life—was created by God with the ability to nourish my child in the exact way she needs to be nourished. I have been empowered and humbled by this realization.
Now, almost eight months in, it's mainly about the connection it creates between my daughter and me. One of my biggest fears in life has been the fear that I wouldn't be able connect to my child once he or she was here. I'm sure every mother-to-be worries about that at some point, but I had never been the maternal type, and I was terrified that I wouldn't feel that life-altering surge of love that everyone says you feel when your child arrives. I did feel it, thank goodness, but as you know, life is stressful, and it's easy to get caught up in and focused on the little things that shouldn't really matter. It’s easy to forget what all this is about. Our nursing sessions give me the opportunity to re-center my focus on and connect to what is most important at this moment in my life: her.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
We had challenges right from the start. While in the hospital, I was so engorged that E couldn't latch. The lactation consultant threw a nipple shield at me after only a ten-minute visit but didn't offer any information the problems the shield might cause. We used the it with no problems for five months, but then Ellie started sleeping through the night and almost simultaneously rejected the nipple shield. Because of habits she developed while using the shield, we both were struggling. It all came to a head when we discovered that Ellie had put on no weight between her four and six month appointment. Despite wanting to give up, I knew that there had to be a way to push through it. I went to see the LC again, and while she reassured me that Ellie was transferring well, after a few sessions she told me that at this age, there wasn't much that could be done to fix Ellie’s latch. I wasn't willing to accept that. We found a nursing position that reduced my pain and her fidgetiness, and I made sure to pop her off and re-latch her whenever I saw her slip into old habits, even at four o’clock in the morning. It's been exhausting, but we're finally seeing some improvement in her feedings and the pain has significantly decreased. It's inconvenient to have to go up to the bedroom whenever we need to feed, but it does offer me multiple chances during the day to just stop and be with her. I'm trying to truly appreciate every moment we spend together, because I worry that once her teeth come in, we may not be able to keep it going. Right now we're making it, though, and I'm trying to embrace each moment as it comes and not worry too much about the future
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
I wouldn't call our feeding sessions 'idyllic', simply because there is often a lot of adjusting, fidgeting, and now—due to her age—distraction. But there are those rare moments when she's calm and looking right at me, and I'm able to concentrate on the curve of her nose, the color of her eyes, the smell of her head, the cleft in her chin, her hand around my finger, and her little feet tucked up against me--instead of worrying whether her latch is good or if she's in the right position. It's those moments that I want to imprint into my memory forever, as I know the time that we share in this season of our relationship is short. It's those sweet minutes that remind me that I am doing the most important thing in the world, and it will help connect us to each other forever.
What (or who) offers you the most support?
My husband has gone above and beyond to support Ellie and me in our breastfeeding journey. I really can't say enough about how wonderful he's been. I mean it when I say that the only way that I have been able to cope with these struggles has been through his help. He has dried my tears, fetched me water, cooked dozens of meals, rubbed the knots out of my neck and shoulders, and offered more words of encouragement than I can count. He gets up with me at night when the baby wants to eat, and he takes her to run errands when I need a break to take a shower or a nap. But what makes me love him even more is not just that he does these things. It's that he does these things enthusiastically. He does them because he wants to do them. He wants to be a help to me, and he wants to be an active participant in all aspects of parenting our daughter. It's a true partnership, and I know how rare a gift it is. I'm incredibly grateful. And it makes me love him more and more each day.
I feel so blessed to have gone through my first pregnancy here in Colorado Springs. I cannot imagine finding a place with a more supportive network of women who believe in the power of birth and breastfeeding. I had two amazing nurses--Tasha and Elaine--who were kind and patient as we worked to get the hang of breastfeeding during our stay in the hospital. My doula, Sarah, was amazingly encouraging and reassuring in those first postpartum days we spent at home. When we started to struggle, our Child Birth Educator, Candace McCollett, came to our house to help Ellie and I get on the same page. Laura from our local La Leche League was so lovely when I called her with questions and was quick to offer advice on anything I needed. Every where I turned I found a supportive community, and it has made all the difference in our breastfeeding journey.