How old is your nursling? How long have you been breastfeeding?
Emmanuel is 21 months old. I have been breastfeeding him for his whole 21 months, and I also breastfed my daughter for about 8 months, so I am up to 29 months of breastfeeding over my lifetime.
What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Breastfeeding for me means health, closeness, and comfort. It means always having a breast "band-aid" on hand.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
I didn't feel very successful breastfeeding my first child, although I was just as dedicated and motivated. I had a very demanding work schedule and was away from my baby 12 hours straight each day, with time to pump only once during the day. I also always wondered if I was starving my children by exclusively breastfeeding. The self doubt was a big challenge the first time around, but it lightened up a lot the second time around. The biggest challenge that I had breastfeeding this nursling was when he was teething around 10-12 months and started to bite a lot. I was able to figure out when he had a tendency to bite (usually when I was lower on milk or when he was getting bored), and was able to prevent a lot of bites, but it wasn't fun!
What do you love most about breastfeeding?
I love the closeness and one-on-one time. I had the tendency to be an on-the-go person, and I love that breastfeeding has changed who I am in that area. It has forced me to sit down for sometimes hours a day and connect in a significant way with my child. While I've done a lot of breastfeeding-multi-tasking, like breastfeeding and grocery shopping, or breastfeeding and reading a story to my preschooler, I've spent more time planted on a couch than I ever had. Human touch is beautiful and essential to well-being, and to have the opportunity to embrace my child multiple times a day while breastfeeding has been a significant way for me to rest physically, mentally, and spiritually. The advice to "stop and smell the roses" is essential for those accustomed to a hectic lifestyle, and the biological command to "stop and breastfeed the baby" is the mom-equivalent in my life.
Who (or what) has offered you the most support?
I feel incredibly blessed to have felt 100% supported in all of my breastfeeding experience. I have never encountered a negative comment while breastfeeding in public. My husband supported me in many ways, from helping me latch a newborn, to massaging my neck during the excruciating pain while learning to breastfeed, to washing pump parts, to allowing me to step away in social situations when the baby wanted to feed in a quiet place, to cheering me on to breastfeeding confidently and unashamed whenever and wherever nature called. My entire family, as well as my husband's family, are, and always have been, supportive. They never expected me to hide in a room or cover up while nursing during family visits.
Any advice for mamas who want to breastfeed?
First, don't give up. Prepare for some pain and obstacles. A few days, weeks, or even months of difficulty will fade away once you are years into your breastfeeding relationship. Second, for moms-to-be that aren't 100% convinced about breastfeeding, or that encounter an obstacle after baby has arrived, breastfeeding doesn't have to all or nothing. I have met many moms that made the "switch" to formula due to lack of weight gain or fear of not producing enough milk. Your breastfeeding relationship does not have to abruptly end. If it helps, think of breastfeeding as a recreational activity. Lastly, if you do encounter an issue while breastfeeding, consult a lactation consultant. It is their job to help you troubleshoot.