The Global Big Latch On: My Breastfeeding journey
In honor of the global big latch on event this week (an annual event aiming to normalize breastfeeding and bring more resources to nursing mothers) our local hospital asked for stories of mothers in the community who had experiences with breastfeeding to share their stories and struggles. I LOVE that they are hosting this event as well as a health fair to help encourage peer support and promote local businesses for moms. I had my story (posted below) all typed up and thought I sent it over but life got in the way and apparently I never did. 🤦🏻♀️ So I decided to go ahead and write a blog post with my story and a link to where you can find the other moms' stories as well in case any of you missed that amazing post or are not aware of the awesome things Wayne UNC has going on for World Breastfeeding Week.
You can read the other moms' stories here.
You can find a list of all of the vendors that will be at the big event on Saturday as well as other lunch and learn events that the hospital is offering throughout the week on their Facebook page.
My journey with breastfeeding started 4.5 years ago when my first daughter, Sawyer, was born. In case no one has told you yet, being a new mom is HARD. I won't go into detail here about how hard those first months are (although I think it warrants it's own blog post in the future) but just imagine an exhausted, overwhelmed mama in tremendous pain from a C-section who is sitting on the bathroom floor crying because she's afraid if she cries in the bedroom she might wake up the newborn who will then want to nurse again (for the 5,837,656 time that night) and her bleeding, cracked nipples couldn't possibly do it anymore! I remember the night I told myself "I cannot do this. I am not good enough. I don't know how anyone does this." So I am here to tell you, I am a 100% believer in FED IS BEST. Some moms can't breastfeed. Some babies wouldn't be able to survive without formula. And some moms just don't want to breastfeed and that is OKAY. It doesn't make you any more or less of a mom just like having a C-section doesn't mean you didn't give birth. We are all just doing our best, trying to keep these tiny people alive and, hopefully, raising them to be decent human beings.
So, this is where events like The Global Big Latch On and movements aimed at promoting breastfeeding are awesome- I get to tell you how I got up off the bathroom floor when the baby inevitably woke up and started to figure things out. The beginning is clouded with sleep-deprivation and the haze that fills the minds of new parents trying to adjust to their new normal BUT I remember that on the night I mentioned above, I got up and told my husband something for the first time (although I have said it many more times since then): "I can't do it." And you know what? My husband who went to school during the day and worked at night, barely getting any sleep between the two, said "okay" and he took our daughter and walked with her and sung to her while I soothed my aching nipples and got a little MUCH NEEDED rest. And when the weekend came, our moms came over and let us nap. I'll never forget that first 4 hour stretch of sleep I got when my mother-in-law was over and how I literally felt like a completely different person when she came to tell me the baby was hungry. From that nap on, it got so much easier.
My take away: support is EVERYTHING. You know that phrase "it takes a village to raise a baby"? It is so true. So find your resources. Talk to your friends who have already had babies. Have people available to help when you need it AND who will respect your privacy when you just want to rest and bond with your new baby. If you are planning on breastfeeding, try to have a few people you know have done it on standby so they can help you or talk to you when you have questions or it gets hard. Meet with a lactation consultant. They are trained to help you be successful at breastfeeding! And keep an open mind. It's so easy to get disappointed when things don't go the way we imagined so try to be realistic and know that sometimes thats just the way it is and there's nothing wrong with changing your plans or trying things you didn't plan on.
I went on to nurse Sawyer until I was pregnant with Spencer. Almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant, Sawyer weaned which I believe was so easy because my milk most likely dried up from the pregnancy. She was 21 months old. I was very happy when our journey came to an end because I was becoming very touched out from the hormones but I definitely missed the bonding that came from the comfort nursing had provided for her since she was born.
Thankfully, when Spencer was born I was already prepared for what I was going to experience in the beginning and it wasn't nearly as painful as it was with Sawyer. The biggest struggle I had with Spencer was that she was way more attached to me than Sawyer had been and she only wanted me to hold her and nurse her if I was with her. I could never leave her anywhere, even with our moms, for long because she wasn't happy with anyone but me. I didn't mind too much but it did make things a little more difficult with Sawyer because she was only 2 years old and wanted a lot of attention as well. But before long, we figured out how to balance everything out and Spencer outgrew the need to be attached to me as soon as she was able to start chasing around her sister.
By the second time around, nursing was like second nature and things that had given me a lot of anxiety with Sawyer (like nursing in public) were just a normal part of life. Here's a picture of Sawyer feeding her baby doll to illustrate how natural and normal breastfeeding is.
Just like Sawyer, Spencer weaned when I was pregnant with our 3rd and final baby. She was only 14 months when she weaned and I was honestly surprised that she did so easily because she was so much younger than Sawyer and more dependent on me. Again, the pregnancy most likely led to my milk drying up which is why she was ready to be done.
With Benton, things were a little different. He was born just above the threshold for blood sugar testing and he did require some supplementing in the beginning which was brand new to me and terrifying. However, going back to that support system I talked about earlier, I was able to talk to several members of my care team that I trusted and other mamas I knew that had supplemented and knew that even though it wasn't part of the "plan", it was what was needed to help him thrive and it did not impact our breastfeeding relationship in any way. I also developed some postpartum complications that required me being re-admitted to the hospital for several days. My husband knew how important nursing is to me so even when I was really struggling, he and the nurses helped me pump to continue to increase my supply until Benton was able to join me. Between his complications and mine, it is amazing that I was able to maintain my supply and continue to breastfeed him successfully. He is currently 7 months old and has been exclusively breastfed since we were able to stop supplementing at a few days old.
Since he is my last baby, I am curious if and how the weaning process will be different this time. I am also VERY ready to have my body "back" because after 5 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding continuously, I don't even remember what normal feels like. But it is also bittersweet knowing that this season of life is coming to an end and I don't plan on rushing it. One question that nursing moms get asked a lot is how long do you plan on breastfeeding? I've even been told several times that it's "weird" to continue breastfeeding after some period based on no research or personal experience at all (when they have teeth, when they can ask for it, etc.). I have always believed and answered that "breastfeeding is normal for as long as both parties are comfortable". When the baby or mom are ready to stop, that is when it's time and that is personal and individual to each situation. There is no right time or answer. So, at this time, I am just enjoying these snuggles with my last baby who is already growing up way too fast. I don't know when we will be done and I am perfectly okay with that.
That is my story and it is long. My journey has been full of ups and downs but it has been so, so worth it. I am sharing it with you because I want to help normalize breastfeeding. I want new moms, young moms, old moms, all moms to know that if you want to breastfeed there is a TON of support out there to help you be successful. If you need one of those standby "I've been there" moms on your list, I've got you! If you need resources in Goldsboro or Greenville, I know where to send you. Parenting is hard and I hope that by sharing my stories and struggles, MAYBE I can help make it just a little bit easier for someone else.
If you'd like to add your stories, struggles, or advice, please feel free to share this post with your own additions and/or add them to the comments below.