I've struggled with whether or not to write about breastfeeding. It can be an extremely polarizing topic, and while I don't want to berate others with "breast is best" thinking, I would be shortchanging myself by not writing about my experience since it's been such a huge part of motherhood for me.
Maggie is more than six months old and has been solely breastfed (with the exception of solid foods that have been introduced in the last month) and my hope is that this brief series will be a source of encouragement. I understand there are various reasons women do not or cannot breastfeed their infants, but I believe some challenges in breastfeeding can be overcome.
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when it came to breastfeeding. I knew my mother breastfed, but since she passed away 12 years ago I was unable to ask her advice in the months leading up to Maggie's birth or cry on her shoulder when things got difficult in the early weeks of Maggie's life. I honestly felt pretty alone in terms of preparedness.
Since I'd planned to go the natural childbirth route, I also ran into a lot of reading about the benefits of breastfeeding (it's tough to avoid in natural childbirth books). Once the baby arrived, I quickly learned reading about breastfeeding isn't like preparing for an exam and no amount of reading was going to make it happen.
The first month or so was a blur. There were so many tears from painful and improper latching, I think the only thing that kept me going was my stubborn nature (finally a blessing?!). Before Maggie was born, I had told myself there were no other options for us as long as the baby was not allergic and gaining weight. Once she was born I realized I'd have to stick to my guns, even if it meant toe-curling pain in the form of nipple damage (TMI, I know).
After countless painful nursing sessions that brought tears, a lot of encouragement from my husband, and a pep-talk from my neighbor we met with a lactation consultant. Initially, I had been reluctant because during our hospital stay, each nurse and lactation consultant had her own suggestions for how to nurse. Thankfully, meeting with the LC on three separate occasions allowed Maggie and I to reach a successful situation and one that led to proper latching and painless nursing sessions.
Looking back on the beginning of my journey, I can honestly say I'm thankful for the struggle that led to a now healthy nursing relationship and truly special bond. If you're a new mom or soon-to-be mom, take heart. It may be difficult and take a lot of work, but perseverance pays off.