Breastfeeding: My Most Rewarding AND Challenging Feat
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and the first week marks World Breastfeeding Week. A few years ago, these events would have passed without significance, but after having my son and experiencing a long and rewarding breastfeeding relationship, I feel compelled to encourage and support other breastfeeding mothers and breastfeeding mothers-to-be.
I knew that I wanted to breastfeed before my son arrived, but had so many doubts about myself and my body; these doubts intensified once my midwife told me that my son was breech and I would need to have a caesarean section performed at a hospital. If you've found out that you have a [stubbornly] breech baby, and a c-section is looming over you, do not despair (and try NOT to read all of the negative articles on the Internet), you can have a long and successful breastfeeding relationship after caesarean section.
The beginning of my son and my breastfeeding journey was rocky, and I came very close to giving up that first week. If it wasn't for my incredibly supportive husband and an amazing lactation consultant at our pediatrician's office, I surely would have given up. In my frazzled new mom state, I would not have called upon a lactation consultant to help us, but having one on staff made it incredibly easy for me to get the help I needed. (HUGE kudos and many thanks go out to Ambler Pediatrics, and more specifically, Jo Ann Serota.) In fact, Declan's regular checkups are with our nurse practitioner (my LC wonder-woman); Declan loves Jo Ann SO much that he gave her a hug and a huge kiss at his two year well visit!
If you're having a tough time with breastfeeding, I want to tell you not to give up. Even after the initial stumbling blocks, I continued to suffer from milk blebs and clogged ducts (D had a bad latch on my right side), and continued to nurse through the knife-like pain, knowing that I had to have him "nurse-out" those clogs. I nursed through two short-lived pregnancies, the pain bringing me to tears. We even sailed through sleep training, without interfering with breastfeeding. (Your baby can sleep through the night and still breastfeed exclusively [and successfully].)
I worked with short term goals: three months, then six, and then a year. We blew past each milestone and I celebrated each achievement, remembering how hard-won each goal was. Once past the year marker, I decided to let Declan lead the way and call all of the shots. When he reached 18 months, I began to develop a wry sense of humor about our breastfeeding relationship, wondering if there ever was to be an end in sight. At 21 months, to the day, Declan decided that he was done; no ceremony, no weaning, no crying. I didn't offer my breast, and Declan never asked [again]. I had read many woeful stories about the weaning process and the end of breastfeeding, but Declan and I were both ready to exercise our newfound independence.
Breastfeeding, for my son and myself, had a rocky beginning, definite hurdles throughout, but created an unbelievable bond between us in that first year. (I'd like to think it's an everlasting one, but time will be the judge) While likely the hardest challenge I've ever encountered, breastfeeding my son is one of my greatest accomplishments.
Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. --Theodore Roosevelt