As of this week I have been breast feeding my little for almost 2 years. And during those 22 months I have learned so much. Becoming a mother in general is a huge learning experience but one I am no where near ready to try to lay out. Breastfeeding is more focused area of learning so I’ll start there. These are a few things I have picked up and taken with me during this incredible time with my daughter.
1. Trust your body. This one is huge. When you’re exclusively breastfeeding in particular, you have major concerns when you’re first starting out. Is the baby eating enough? Why is she always falling asleep? Is my body making the right milk? Is my body making enough milk? That last one was the one that kept creeping back in during those million feeds in the small hours of the night. But I quickly learned that not only was she full and happy, but that my body definitely knew what to do for her. When a baby is first born their tummy is suuuuper tiny, like the size of a cherry. So they really don’t need that much to begin with. As my daughter’s tummy grew so did my supply. And pumping helped me to see just how much I was able to get in one pumping session. This was great to help ease my mind because I could get a solid understanding of just how much my little was eating. This is always a great option if your concerned. As long as the baby is gaining weight, and having enough wet and dirty diapers, there isn’t much else to worry about.
2. Trust your baby. When we were still in the hospital the lactation consultant was teaching my husband and I all these “tips and tricks” to keep my daughter awake long enough to eat. Looking back now, I wish I had been more firm with both her and my husband on this. But my daughter would not have been falling asleep while nursing if she was still hungry! I mean have you ever seen a hungry baby? They don’t just peacefully drift off in your arms. They’re more like an angry bee! Screaming and crying and turning red from being so mad that you haven’t put a boob/bottle in their mouth quickly enough. And let’s face it, that early in the game, my daughter waking up every two hours to eat anyways. That is precious time lost if while the baby is sleeping, you’re trying to wake them and force feed them. You could be sleeping. And putting a cold wash cloth on my naked sleeping infant just felt mean.
3. Regardless what you do, someone will disagree. It doesn’t matter if you breastfeed for a week, a year, two years, or not at all, someone will always have opinion about it. I had multiple people turn their noses up at me on the entire topic. I think because of their own failure to stuck with it, but I don’t know that for sure. I have also had, recently, people give me looks and make comments like “you’re STILL breastfeeding her?!” So if you’re a mom who couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed and you’re reading this, cut yourself some slack. Even breastfeeding moms get judged. You’re not alone. As long as you’re feeding your little, that’s all that really matters.
4. Slow down and put the phone down. This was another big one for me. I am not one to sit down and just relax. If I’m sitting it’s either because I have to, or because I’ve exhausted myself so much that I can’t stand. But breastfeeding has taught me to slow down and enjoy quiet moments without the bustle, and without the screen. I cherish those moments of calm with my mini all warm and snuggled up in my arms. In the stillness of the night, by light of her small nightlight in the corner of her room, and the quiet back and forth of the glider. And now that she’s older, I cherish it even more. She’s running laps around my house all day, never slowing for snuggles anymore. So those couple times of day we can curl up together are some of my favorite times of day. And I have always done this without the phone in my face. It’s extremely rewarding and I suggest all moms do it. There’s a reason your baby stares at you while they’re eating and it’s not because they like the case you have on your phone.
5. Stress affects your body more than you will ever know. I have had my fair share of stress over the past year and believe me, I have seen first hand what it does to your body. If I am overly stressed out, even now, my boobs will NOT let down. Which means no food for the baby. Keep this in mind when you are on your breastfeeding journey and every day for that matter.
6. Appreciate the journey. Especially when it’s hard. We went from being completely unsure to playing and laughing during feedings. It has been a beautifully bonding experience and I couldn’t be more happy. Even with all the pain of cracked nipples, clogged milk ducts, and the fear and uncertainty. I watched my daughter go from this tiny little thing that fit in one arm to this gorgeous fiery toddler with sass and personality for days. Who’s feet now hang off my lap when I’m feeding her. Everything I went through to get here, makes the good times that much sweeter. I refused to give up when I hurt, I refused to give up when I was scared, and I refused to give up when the people around me were promising me I would never make it to a year. Now my toddler sticks her finger in my nose and looks up with me with the sweetest most mischievous smile, and I can’t help but appreciate everything that got us to this place.