A Year Of Breastfeeding Pt. 1

January 24, 2017

I've been thinking about this post for awhile. And coincidently, almost a month to the date after I finished nursing Greer, today feels like the right time to share my breastfeeding journey. My main purpose in sharing my experience is to encourage other mamas who may be on the fence or just have questions. Going into it myself, I was so hesitant and skeptical. So if that's how you're feeling, you are not alone. Honestly, I was a little weirded out by it, but I talked myself into giving it a try. If my newborn latched easily and it all felt natural to me, then I would pursue breastfeeding. If it didn't, then I wouldn't. I absolutely didn't want to put an expectation on myself to only feel like I had failed if it didn't work out. So I made goals instead of expectations for breastfeeding: 1. Give it a try; 2. If I was successful make it to at least six months.

G E T T I N G    S T A R T E D
Like I said, breastfeeding wasn't a must for me. Because I was unsure about how I would feel about it, I refused to push myself to go forward with nursing if it didn't feel right. I wanted to give it a chance so that I wouldn't regret not trying it for both myself and my baby. But, in no way did I want to create pressure to be a breastfeeding mama during a time in my life when everything else was going to be new too.

When I shared Greer's birth story, I shared that she latched right away. With the coaching of my delivery nurse on how to help Greer out and how to position myself, we had no problem. Of course, I wondered if I was doing it all correctly, but the nurse reassured me that all looked great and that we had in fact had a successful latch. That felt phenomenal, and I never expected to feel that way. With each successful latch thereafter, I become more confident in what I was doing and more sure in breastfeeding. I firmly believe this is what sealed the deal for continuing on with nursing.

[[ I understand that this isn't the experience a lot of mamas have, and I can only imagine how discouraging it would feel to not be successful right away. Remember, give it some time, don't beat yourself up, and if it doesn't pan out you will absolutely find the best solution for your little one. In the end, that is the most important thing....what works for both baby + mama. ]]

Ultimately, I breastfeed Greer for one year and four days. Our last time breastfeeding was the morning of Christmas Day, which wasn't planned and kind of just happened. I'll be sharing more about how we weaned in another post. Over the course of her first year, we went from feedings every two hours to just once a day in the early hours of the morning. From beginning to end, I let my body lead the way and I went with what felt natural.

T H E    C H A L L E N G E S
Over the course of Greer's first year, breastfeeding went smoothly, but not without its challenges. The first several weeks were an adjustment for my body as it figured out how much milk to supply. There was also the physical burning I experienced every time Greer latched. It was uncomfortable and lasted for about twenty seconds, but that eventually faded away once my body settled into breastfeeding. Know the soreness and initial discomfort will subside; your body will regulate the milk; and it will become second nature. Just give yourself the time it takes for your body to get used to it; it's different for every woman.

Challenge 1:
While breastfeeding became my new norm, it also became a huge part of my day-to-day. I felt like I did nothing but nurse around the clock. It was overwhelming, and I just wanted my body back to myself, which led me to feel like I was ready to quit just a couple of months in. I couldn't imagine more months ahead full of nursing. Truthfully, it felt like too much mixed with the exhaustion. So I tried shifting my mindset to take breastfeeding one nursing session at a time, instead of thinking just how many times in a single day I would be nursing my baby. That helped in getting me over the hurdle. And onward I moved.

Challenge 2:
Nursing in public was a source of anxiety for me. While I was not ashamed of breastfeeding, I was very certain that I didn't want to share a private aspect of motherhood with the world. It was personal and something that I just wasn't willing to change about myself no matter how many times I saw a meme or strong argument for openly breastfeeding in public. Even with nursing covers, I still felt vulnerable. And it didn't help that Greer rejected being covered up while nursing. She liked open air instead of being inside a tent. Knowing that my baby was going to fight being covered only heightened the anxiety.

There were times I didn't have much of a choice, and thankfully I had my supportive husband there to help make me feel private in a very non-private environment. He would help me get adjusted and make sure I was fully covered. Then he would sit with me until Greer had finished eating. His support with nursing in public was such a crucial part of me feeling okay with it when no other option was available.

So what were my other options when I didn't want to nurse in a crowd? A lot of times I would head out to the backseat of my car. If I was shopping or in a restaurant, I would put everything on hold and head straight to the parking lot. It may sound extreme, but it's what worked for me. I felt safe in the back of my vehicle with tinted windows and liked having a quiet place for Greer to nurse without interruption. This was especially helpful the older she got when distractions would cause her to stop eating and look around, only to return to nursing seconds later. Occasionally, I would nurse in a changing room if that were available. In other instances, if we were visiting in another home I would always ask if there was somewhere private I could nurse. Everyone I asked was more than accommodating.

T H E    S U C C E S S E S 
I can't share my story with breastfeeding if I don't also share how rewarding it was. As I watched my tiny newborn grow, gaining ounce by ounce and pound by pound, I was so proud that my body had been responsible for producing the nutrition she needed to thrive. I loved being able to supply her with exactly what she needed.  I remember feeling a little sad when she started solids because she would be finding her nutrition from something other than just me. So silly, right? But, this is how special breastfeeding had become for us. So much in fact, that I thought I would be so upset when it was time to stop. Spoiler, because I let things take their course naturally when it was time to stop it wasn't sad. Maybe a little bittersweet, but it felt like time and that made all the difference.

In addition to breastfeeding, I also pumped once at night and once in the morning. This allowed me to store up enough milk to get us to the finish line as my supply dropped in the remaining couple of months. I'm so thankful that my body was able to produce enough milk for nursing while also enough for the future. While pumping isn't fun per say, it was so beneficial.

T H E    T A K E A W A Y
My biggest advice for breastfeeding is to not push yourself to do something that doesn't feel right, don't try to fit into a societal norm, and don't be hard on yourself whatever you decide. Not putting yourself in a box is so key to being successful. I'm excited to share the rest of my year of breastfeeding in part two, where I'll write about how we were able to wean in an effectively natural way when the time felt right.

Photo by the super talented Rachel of Rachel Wells Photography.