Everything You Don’t Have To Give Up When You’re Exclusively Nursing

With the birth of my second child just around the corner, breastfeeding has relentlessly been on my mind. Despite the fact that I had some serious struggles nursing my son, I’m trying to remain optimistic that it’ll be smoother experience the second time around. I mean, I learned a lot with my firstborn, and I know there are things you don’t have to sacrifice when exclusively breastfeeding. That learned (and earned) knowledge is bound to come in handy, right?

My son and I ended up breastfeeding for over two years. While it’s totally possible I’m misremembering more than a few moments because, you know, the fog of new motherhood and newborn life clouds everything, I’m feeling hopeful about breastfeeding for a second time. As a new mother with a newborn, I learned that no breastfeeding phase is forever, there are lots of resources and support for breastfeeding moms, and there’s still time in (most) days to take care of myself and keep tabs of other priorities, like self-care and work and streaming episodes of past TV shows I’m embarrassed to admit I haven't watched yet. In fact, some of my closest friends who've also been there have been sending me suggestions for what I should have ready and waiting in the queue (Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl, for the record).

No two breastfeeding experiences are totally alike, so while I am optimistic, I'm also more than well aware that nursing my second baby could be night-and-day different. Still, I know the lessons I learned will aide me in (hopefully) facilitating a long and somewhat-easy breastfeeding relationship with my second baby, especially if I remember I don't have to sacrifice the following things:

Your Sense Of Self

I admit it took me a while after my son arrived to really recognize this. However, I eventually understood that just because I had a standing appointment with him every two to three hours, didn’t mean I wasn’t able to still think and feel for myself, and keep tabs on what was important to me outside of my new role as a mom.

Your Career

It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s totally possible (and legal, in case you find yourself facing any pushback from your employer) to work and breastfeed (or pump) simultaneously. I spent a few months hauling my pump and my inconspicuous black bag of breast milk bottles back and forth, from work to home and all over again.

While it was tricky at times (especially thanks to the woman on the second floor who kept stealing the mother’s room in my building to take naps), it was totally manageable.

Your Favorite Foods

Good news! There are actually very few foods to worry about when you’re breastfeeding. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I’m already looking forward to indulging in some brie and sushi after this baby arrives, because I can.

Heads up, though. It can get more complicated if something in your diet appears to be upsetting your baby, so make sure to be mindful of how your baby is reacting to feeding sessions.

Your Favorite Shirts

I mean, as long as they’re washable and can handle a few leaks here and there, I see no reason why you should avoid your favorite shirts. If anything, it felt really, really good to get back into some of my favorite clothes (some of which I hadn’t worn for the better part of a year).

Your Time (Mostly)

Yes, it takes time to stop and breastfeed a tiny human six or eight or 10 or however many times a day your baby needs you. However, you’d (or your partner) would be putting time toward feeding your baby if you weren’t breastfeeding, too. It’s easy to blame the baby’s constant need for you on the fact that you’re breastfeeding, but really, it’s your baby's small stomach that you should blame.

Your Relationship

In a lot of ways, my partner was very involved in the breastfeeding process. He brought the baby to me, he searched for the nursing pillow when I’d left it in the other room, he handled a lot of meals and brought me drinks, and he accompanied me to lactation appointments so he could learn and help position the baby at home, too. If anything, breastfeeding helped bring us closer.

Your Friendships

I lost count of the number of friends who saw me breastfeed, and I honestly believe that's just the reality of being a new mom who wants to see her friends and still, you know, feed her kid. If your friends are supportive people who accept your new role as mom, they won't have a problem when you live up to that role.