Before becoming a mom, I heard plenty of things about breastfeeding, including positive health benefits and negative challenges. However, like so many parenting experiences, I didn't quite understand what it would really be like until I did it myself. Over the course of my own breastfeeding relationship with my son, I discovered there were lots of little moments no one ever talks about; breastfeeding moments I wish I could relive over and over again, that have made this whole experience far more worthwhile than I could ever have imagined.
People talk a lot about the close bond they feel with their child when breastfeeding, or the sense of accomplishment they feel when they successfully overcome a breastfeeding challenge. That all seemed so abstract, though, or just a side effect of hormones. It never occurred to me, while looking at pamphlets of perfectly still moms and babies, that babies and moms are doing so much together when we breastfeed. Nursing babies and toddlers make faces, and play games, and express their gratitude, and so many other things while nursing. Honestly, it's hard to convey in words just how adorable, charming, and amazing it can be. (Also amazing: the feeling of relief when you finally find a bra you like, in your newly-enormous size.)
The following are the kinds of moments I'll miss so much when we finish weaning. They've definitely sustained me at times when breastfeeding was tough, and will always be fond memories of this early time in my life together with my son.
The First Time We Successfully Latched
The first few times my son tried to latch right after being born felt anything but “natural.” Like every mom in history, I started to worry about him not getting enough to eat. So when he finally latched well, and I could hear him swallowing and knew he was getting what he needed, that felt amazing.
The First Time We Successfully Latched On Purpose
Our earliest breastfeeding sessions were very hit or miss. Sometimes he'd latch perfectly, other times? Yeah, other times not so much. On day five, I made an appointment to see a lactation consultant, who helped me learn some tricks to get the latch right every time. I felt like we could accomplish anything after that.
The Day I Found Bras That Actually Fit
The same day I saw the lactation consultation, who saved our nursing experience, I also got fitted for good nursing bras and finally walked out with comfortable, supportive, well-fitting bras for the first time since my boobs got on the size rollercoaster that is pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.
The First Time I Realized We’d Nursed Pain-Free For A Whole Day
Once we figured out how to latch well consistently, my nipples started to heal for good. All of a sudden, I realized that I was looking forward to nursing sessions instead of dreading them. I can't even describe the sense of joy and accomplishment I felt at that moment.
The First Time He Drifted Off To Sleep On My Breast
Seeing my tiny guy looking relaxed and satisfied enough to drift off to sleep? Watching his little eyelashes rest gently on his impossibly soft, new cheeks? Yeah, that's what perfection looks like. Absolute perfection.
The Time We Finally Mastered The Side-Lying Position…
Otherwise known as the time one of my midwives saved my family by making it possible for me to sleep on occasion. “Wait, I don't have to sit up to nurse? Tell me more!”
...And The First Time I Woke Up In The Morning With No Memory Of Nursing All Night
“I know you nursed ‘cause your diaper is super full. But we must have slept the entire time. Score!”
The First Time I Successfully Hand-Expressed Milk
Realizing that I could fill a bottle without dealing with a breast pump (more power to breast pumps, but I haven't had much success or comfort with them) made the prospect of expressing milk a little less dread-filled for me. I never ended up needing to on a regular basis, but it was very empowering to have the capability.
When My Son Unlatched Just To Smile Right At Me
This moment ranks as one of the happiest moments of my whole life, not just of my breastfeeding life. Around a month and a half to two months in, I was lounging on some pillows in his nursery and holding him in my arms, when he signaled that he needed to eat. I let him latch, and a minute or so in, he pulled off, stared right into my eyes, and gave me the brightest, warmest, sincerest, sweetest smile I've ever seen in my life.
It was one of the most loving gestures I've ever received in my life. I'd already decided that pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding had been worthwhile choices, but that moment totally melted and permanently changed my heart.
When I Discovered My Son Had Created His Own Word To Ask To Nurse
After a few weeks of my then 9-month-old son making this sound at me, then frantically grabbing at my shirt to nurse, it dawned on me that he was consistently saying the same thing: “nae-nae.” I asked him, “Does ‘nae-nae’ mean you want mama’s milk?” and he nodded affirmatively, happily exclaiming, “Nae-nae! Nae-nae!” I was so excited to finally figure that out, and so charmed by how adorable and smart he was (and still is), and his visible relief and pride at finally being understood.
The Time A Security Guard Stood Up For Me While Nursing In Public
That moment of solidarity between us as women, while standing up to a would-be bully challenging my and my son’s rights, was priceless.
When My Son Started Making Up Little Games To Play While Breastfeeding
When he was close to a year old, my son started making a game of breastfeeding by making little faces at me for me to repeat back, playing with each other's fingers, booping each other’s noses, and lots of other little moves. Adorable.
Every Time I've Nursed With Other Moms
Whether at breastfeeding support group meetings, in mother’s rooms at stores, airports, and my favorite team’s stadium, after story time at the library, or while over a mom friend’s house; I'm a big fan of nursing with other nursing moms. Motherhood can feel really lonely at times, and breastfeeding can feel challenging and isolating. Breastfeeding with other moms makes me feel connected to all the other moms who know this same experience (in their own unique ways), and feel much less weird and alone.