Happy World Breastfeeding Week! Breastfeeding is the absolute hardest, best, and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I know that millions of mothers across the world breastfeed with more challenging circumstances and less support and as it can be one of the most natural things in the world (not for me for a long old time), it feels like it needs little fanfare.
I also know that many mothers can’t breastfeed or choose not to for any myriad of reasons and so to hear breastfeeding doted on can be painful, frustrating or annoying.
But as I generally feel the only way we find connection with others is to be open about our experiences, I am here to wax poetic about the joy I have found in nursing my wild creature Malcolm.
This is my story and as it’s only mine, it has no bearing whatsoever on yours. I would never want any mother to read this and feel like I’m saying anything negative about the different choices she made. We all do what works for us and we all have insecurities, doubts and (unnecessary) guilt about the choices we make. Unfortunately, it seems that is a critical part of parenthood.
Here is my breastfeeding journey.
I am remarkably stubborn. If you were trying to compliment me, you could say I’m determined.
Going into new parenthood, I was dead set on breastfeeding and also convinced I wouldn’t face any challenges. And it’s not that once Malcolm was born breastfeeding went horribly. It’s more like, kind of all the doctors are conspiring to scare the shit out of you and they don’t really care how much you want to breastfeed?
Malcolm lost a normal amount of weight his first few days in the world and a doctor subbing for ours really didn’t read the room and tried to make me think that if I didn’t use formula, I was going to send my baby back to the hospital.
I was not about to hurt my angel, but I knew that supplementing with formula was the surest way to end breastfeeding earlier than I wanted to, so instead, I pumped and nursed and after Malcolm nursed, forced more breastmilk down his throat with a…. SYRINGE.
After a few days of this nonsense, I said I know my baby best and he is fine and I’m not doing that anymore. (Okay also we bought a baby scale that I used religiously to make sure Malcolm was gaining weight lol #psycho.)
But that week really scarred my neurotic little brain to the very core. And I decided that the only way for me to stop being so panicky about breastfeeding was to remove the pressure of adding in bottles.
I was terrified that Malcolm would decide bottles were the way to go and that just wasn’t cool with me. So here I am, 12 months and one week into breastfeeding and I haven’t missed a single feeding.
It seems like I am bragging to you about this, and while I do sometimes think about the dedication it has taken to breastfeed anywhere from four to twelve times a day for this long, I, of course, have worried about if it was best for Malcolm.
I often felt selfish, like I was keeping the joy of feeding him all to myself (I was). Or I worried that I was going to make Malcolm a weirdo (I don’t think I have yet). And most of all I thought about other people judging me for my unwillingness to spend more than three daytime hours apart from my baby.
I never really imagined myself to be quite so clingy of a mom and my deepest desire is to strike the right balance and give Malcolm all the joy of independence, stability, and exploration.
But despite all of these doubts, breast has been best for us.
This isn’t to say that exclusively nursing was always the easiest. I probably didn’t sleep more than four consecutive hours for three full months and that was not good for anyone. Every time I do anything for myself (as all mothers need to), I’m on a ticking clock to get back and nurse (but this did help me run my half marathon faster).
We went through multiple biting phases! When Malcolm first got his top teeth, he broke my skin and then each subsequent time he nursed It would make the cut deeper and it took weeks to heal. He’s used me as a pacifier far too often and we’ll often fight to get past distractions and timing issues and all number of issues that come with baby independence (god bless it!).
Some unexpected challenges of breastfeeding:
- Finding clothes (dresses) I can nurse in that don’t make me look pregnant or Mormon (no offense).
- Still can’t sleep on my stomach, still miss it every day.
- There is no end to the amount of water I need to consume.
- Allergy season with no medicine—I am basically a Christian scientist now, let God heal me PLEASE (JK JK science for everyone).
But overall, breastfeeding has been one of the greatest joys of my life.
I love my quiet time with Malcolm to reconnect. I love getting to hold his sleeping little body. I love when he asks to nurse. I love (and sometimes hate) all the weird things he does while nursing, most often flailing around in the oddest ways. I love how often I get to sit down and zone out. I love the ease and convenience of always having his milk along with me. I love that he loves it.
Some of my favorite unexpected perks of breastfeeding:
- I eat ALL. THE. TIME. I mostly eat healthily, but I get to eat so, so much and the only other time I’ve weighed as little as I do now as an adult was when I was 19 right before I started working for Obama.
- I barely drink alcohol! That may seem like a negative to you, but I’ve loved not really feeling the need to drink, I don’t deal with hangovers, and hello, I have more calories to eat, thank you very much.
- I basically DNGAF who sees my boobs. Is this weird? Yes, but I’ll take it.
- I’ve got a secret weapon to calm a crying babe down in like 30 seconds. It is a miracle, I employ it often, I am magic.
I remember last year thinking to myself something along the lines of, “Okay, you only have to do this for 50 more weeks. You can do anything for 50 weeks. Wait, Jesus Christ 50 weeks is SO LONG.”
And then after a couple months, we found our groove and I would think, “I can’t believe I only get to do this for 10 more months.” With each passing month, I would extend just exactly how long I planned to nurse. At this point, I don’t have a set end date because I can’t bear to think about losing our special time. I assume he’ll tell me and I promise to listen.
Like all of the best things in life, breastfeeding has taken great sacrifice and hard work –hard work I could have put into other priorities (took me 11 whole months to get back to client work).
It is not for everyone. Do I wish I could help more people think it’s for them? Absolutely. But really, moms just have to do what makes mom-ing best for them and breastfeeding makes mom-ing best for me.
Breastfeeding is by far my most favorite magic. Thanks, sweet Malcolm, for the joy of sharing it with you.