What does Breastfeeding mean to you?
In both the simplest and most amazing terms, breastfeeding means providing not only milk, but a lifetime of health benefits to my son, Oliver. For me, however, it is so much more than that. What has surprised me most throughout our breastfeeding journey is the incredible gift that it has been for me. I went into it thinking about all the amazing benefits I would be providing him. Before he was born, it never occurred to me the amazing benefits I would be giving myself too. I could never have imagined just how special that time together would be and how much I would come to love bonding with Oliver in such a special way.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
I have struggled with recurrent clogs, which has added ongoing stress and frustration to an experience that should be anything but. It took a couple months of trial and error, not to mention eight very painful clogs, before finally determining that an over-supply was contributing to the problem. Now I still have the occasional clog, but they tend to be less severe and the emotional turmoil is much more manageable. I am so grateful for the support I received and that we stuck it out through that really challenging phase.
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
I absolutely love that moment when Oliver is nursing and turns his head up toward mine... when I see those big blue eyes gaze up at me and then a great big smile follows (often followed by milk dribbling out of the corners of his tiny little smile). It's like he reaches right in and hugs my heart.
Who (or what) has offered you the most support?
Hands down, my husband, Ryan, has been my biggest breast feeding advocate! In the early days, he would bring me water and snacks while I nursed or come over and adjust my pillows to make sure we were comfortable and that baby had a good latch. Now he stands by us when nursing in public, seeking out a comfortable chair and always at the ready just in case anyone should dare object (thankfully no one ever has!).
When it came to my recurrent clog issues, my girlfriends who are fellow moms themselves have been amazing with commiserating, and the most productive & helpful support came from my Doula & Certified Lactation Consultant, Kristy, from Trinity Birth Care in Denver. Kristy took the time to chat with me via phone & email on multiple occasions, heard all my concerns, offered advice and helped me map out a plan to successfully reduce my over-supply issue. A lactation consultant once told me, "If breastfeeding were easy, I wouldn't have a job!" I can't speak to the value of these women, and their expertise, enough!
Any advice for other mothers who want to breastfeed?
The most valuable thing I can offer: Do not quit on your hardest day (or week). There were times when I wasn't sure I could keep going because the pain and emotional stress from the clogs was unbearable. But something always kept me going and for that, I am incredibly grateful. I know I would have regretted it had we stopped before meeting our breastfeeding goals of at least one year. For me, the connection we continue to develop while nursing is definitely worth the struggles we have overcome! So, keep going, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard! Seek support. Ask for help. Don't be afraid to have a bad day with it because the good days will outnumber the bad ones and before you know it, you'll be six months in and in complete awe at how far you've come. It does get easier, I promise!