“I just love breastfeeding my baby.” I couldn't understand the statement when I would hear my friends who were moms rave about how much they loved breastfeeding. I couldn't understand because I hadn't experienced motherhood yet, much less the potential for breastfeeding. Even before I got pregnant, I actually knew I wanted to give breastfeeding a chance, and I knew it was an awesome thing — insomuch as providing sustenance for your infant child is an awesome and needed thing. But I didn't realize that loving breastfeeding was going to be a byproduct of doing it. I suppose all those times my friends would talk about it like it was the best. thing. ever. intrigued me.
The night my baby was born, after the c-section and things had settled down, she and I gave it our first try. My nipples were as flat as ever since my body had been through so much the past 30 hours or so. My tiny newborn and I fumbled through latching, but I could tell she was eager to suckle. My nurse gave me a nipple shield to help, and we continued switching breasts back and forth as much as we could hoping she could get any amount of colostrum that would come out. In the course of her first 24 hours, the nurses and her doctor were concerned about her breathing as she started showing signs of occasional trouble.
We were sent to a bigger hospital with a NICU, and in the process of it all, my baby needed to supplement with formula. We didn't have our own hospital room, but we were put up in a room for our baby's time in the NICU. I was given all the attachments to a breast pump by a lactation specialist with instructions to use it that night while my husband and I were away from our daughter. While I pumped in a secluded room of the house reserved for pumping mothers, in my special night gown my mom had bought me for our first days after birth, still incredibly sore from the incision on my abdomen, on more pain medication than I would've liked to be, and really just wanting to be with my newborn daughter, my milk came in. I watched as the semi-clear substance being pumped turned into a creamy white, and the fresh liquid began filling up the bottle. It wasn't much, an ounce or so, but I walked back to our room feeling like a queen.
It reminds of how special and miraculous this whole motherhood thing is. It forces me to slow down and take it all in. It's like this designated pause throughout the day — a welcomed break in the busyness of life.
I kept the tiny bit of milk cold to keep it for the morning when I could take it to my daughter. I don't think I knew how excited I was until I walked into the NICU where my daughter lay in the baby warmer and exclaimed to our nurse with bottle raised in my hand, “My milk came in!” She was sweet and smiled and congratulated me. The lactation specialist, thrilled all the same for me, taught me how to use that milk in a baby dropper to keep my daughter's interest. Slowly but surely, we got the hang of it, and by the time we were able to go home the next day, healthy baby in tow, I felt confident we could successfully nurse our way into exclusive breastfeeding without the need for the supplemental formula.
Sure enough, during those first few days home, my baby seemed to breastfeed almost constantly as we secured our breastfeeding bond. She fed exclusively from me and after a few weeks, we got into a pretty good feeding routine. It was a consuming and grueling cycle, but as the weeks went by, I relished her feeding times. They served as moments to get away in a quiet setting on our own. I felt blessed that it was going so well, and that it was a relaxing, loving, and intimate time for us.
Going into motherhood, I wasn't fully sure I'd absolutely love the newborn stage, having never spent that much time with babies and feeling slightly intimidated by the task. I've also never been a super touchy-feely person, often wanting my personal space, but now I can say that the act of breastfeeding is the one thing that has helped me cope with my new life with a baby. It reminds of how special and miraculous this whole motherhood thing is. It forces me to slow down and take it all in. It's like this designated pause throughout the day — a welcomed break in the busyness of life.
Along with costing us nothing, this is the reason I've continued breastfeeding into my daughter's 10 month. She's only having milk three times a day now and seemingly weening herself while I follow her cues and my instincts on that matter. I know that after a year, she can transition to cow's milk, but I see us still breastfeeding at night once she turns 1. We'll be moving right after her birthday, and breastfeeding has this amazing comforting quality to it — for both me and her — and it may be that we'll both want that time together in the evenings during our big life change.
I used to wonder why my peers raved about breastfeeding like they did. I almost thought it was a negative thing to have that level of attachment to your baby. But now that I see that it can be a healthy and unique experience, I've become a advocate for at least the potential of breastfeeding for anyone I know who becomes a mother. It can't always happen, I know, and there's no shame if it doesn't or isn't possible. But that is why I cherish my breastfeeding experience even more. Who knew an I-need-my-space kind of person could love such an intimate affair? Becoming a mother is a process, but loving things I didn't know I would or could, I now know, comes much more naturally than I thought.