It has been 1176 consecutive days that I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding. My two daughters are exactly 18 months apart and I was fortunate to be able to breastfeed each of them up to their first birthdays. That being said, three years is a long time to have your body not be entirely your own. Growing and nourishing two babies back-to-back has felt like a part-time job. Breastfeeding definitely has its highs and lows, it’s been a journey and this Mama needs a break.
Before I go on, I do want to note how incredibly lucky I feel to have reached my goal of breastfeeding both of my daughters through their first year of life. I know many people who have been completely heartbroken over not being able to breastfeed or not being able to breastfeed for as long as they wanted. In the end, however you fed your child(ren) doesn’t matter, but those who did choose (and were able) to breastfeed might understand the emotions I’m going through as I attempt to wean my second daughter.
The Uphill Climb
Breastfeeding is harder than it looks. After giving birth, many of us naively thought that we’d lift our precious newborn to our chest and instinct would kick in. For me (and for many I know), that wasn’t the case.
Cracked and bleeding nipples, improper latch, a baby that wouldn’t stay awake – these are just a few struggles a lot of women go through when first attempting to breastfeed.
With my first daughter, she had such difficulty latching that I had to go to the lactation consultants every day for a week. The appointments started off with the professionals warning me to stop using a nipple shield immediately. The nipple shield – a little piece of plastic that was saving my life! To take away the only tool that was keeping me from quitting was not the news I wanted to hear. Everyone agreed I had a very challenging baby but the consultants stressed that if I was able to persevere with breastfeeding it would all be worth it in the end.
During night feedings, my husband allowed me to bite his hand while my daughter latched so I wouldn’t scream out in pain thus startling her and having to begin the whole process over again.
I knew initial breastfeeding pain is common. But I didn’t realize how painful it could be. I even know a woman who has permanent damage to her nipples because of breastfeeding. PERMANENT DAMAGE!!
Even after the first few weeks, breastfeeding is not always the mother goddess image it’s often portrayed as. I’ve been grabbed, pinched, had my hair pulled, and slapped during feeding sessions. Who knew feeding a baby could be such a violent and painful experience?
Even once you get the hang of it, breastfeeding can rule your life. It dictates what you can wear, the supplies you need to have on hand, where you can go and when.
If you work outside the home or are ever away from your baby, you still need to be thinking about breastmilk frequently. When do I need to pump again to keep my supply up? Do I have an extra shirt if I leak through this one? How will I transport the milk? Where will I be able to pump?
Why do we put ourselves through this?
We endure the challenges because breastfeeding can be an amazing experience. Knowing that you are providing nourishment for your child can be an extremely rewarding feeling. As you bond through nightly feedings smelling that perfect baby smell you’re reminded of why you chose this path.
Within a short amount of time latching becomes a piece of cake and you feel confident breastfeeding in public. When your baby looks up at you and smiles with milk dribbling out of his/her mouth as if to say “thank you for this deliciousness”, your heart grows even larger. These are the moments that make it all worth it.
Everyone knows the benefits of breastmilk are numerous and the cost savings are nothing to laugh at. But before getting pregnant I never considered other fantastic bonuses of breastfeeding.
For instance, the speed at which I can comfort my baby is priceless. The convenience of whipping out a boob in the middle of the night versus making and heating a bottle cannot be underestimated. Plus, I never had to worry about running out of milk, it replenishes itself.
Breastfeeding forces you to take breaks throughout the day. I was able to get so much reading in throughout my children’s first years of life thanks to my Kindle and breastfeeding.
How the weight flew off my body nursing my first daughter was worth the enormous amount of pain in the initial stages.
For me, the benefits of breastfeeding absolutely outweighed the negatives though I know that is not the case for many women.
Although I’ll miss the closeness, the bonding, and the immune system protection (my kids always get sick when I start to wean), I am so ready to have my body back.
I’m ready to spend a day in which I never have to think about my boobs once. A day in which I can wear any outfit I want and not have to consider how I will nurse or pump in it. Plus, it’s time to buy a bra I actually like and fits correctly.
I can’t wait to go on a weekend away and not have to bring my pump, cooler, ice packs, etc.
The time has come to be able to sleep through the night (ha!) or at least take equal turns getting up in the middle of the night with my husband. No longer will I glare at him and his worthless nipples every time the baby wakes up crying.
My body has been voluntarily held captive by my two babies for the last three years and I want it back. I’m so glad I went through this breastfeeding journey but I’m ready to be done . . . at least for now.