I breastfed all my four children, but I can't say that I loved breastfeeding right from the start. For me, breastfeeding was one of those non-decisions decisions. I worked in OB and I was in nursing school during my first pregnancy so breastfeeding was just one of those things that was kind of drilled into me. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and fortunately, I didn't have any trouble with the physical act of doing so. My baby latched on right away and it didn't feel strange or uncomfortable to me. I felt like it was a very natural act for both of us. I did however, have some serious problems with mastitis, but that's another story for another day.
I honestly didn't appreciate how easy breastfeeding was for us because that first year was kind of a blur, but there was one aspect of nursing my baby that I felt very frustrated by: I felt like breastfeeding made me miss out on the rest of my life. I was a young, new mom with my first baby and I constantly felt I was missing out on everything because of breastfeeding. I resented leaving parties, for example, to breastfeed. Part of it was because my baby loved to look around while she was eating, causing a spray of milk everywhere, so I never felt comfortable feeding her out in public for risk of a literal fountain springing from my breasts. And the other part of it was also because no one in my family had ever breastfed a baby that I knew of, so I really had no experience with feeding a baby that way.
I felt more comfortable excusing myself from public and feeding my baby in the car or in a quiet corner, but still, I often resented that my life revolved around two-hour spans of time or so when the baby was hungry. It was a strange adjustment to make when no one, not even my husband, could offer me a break because it felt like she was constantly eating. Pumping, as any mom who has breastfed already knows, is not really a "break" and in the middle of the night, your boobs are filling up with milk no matter how much milk you have stored in your freezer.
I looked forward to the quiet of just me and my daughter, that chance to sit down and relax and recharge.
But by the second baby, however, I'd changed my tune. Instead of resenting having to leave a party or church or even on some occasions, a restaurant, I embraced it. I learned to love having that break in my day. I looked forward to the quiet of just me and my daughter, that chance to sit down and relax and recharge. My husband gifted me with a Nook and that changed my life. Breastfeeding went from something that often felt like a chore to something that felt like stolen, secret time all to myself.
I went on to breastfeed my third baby, my first son, and aside from the fact that I felt like superwoman single-handedly growing such a giant human being just from milk from my boobs, I continued to look at breastfeeding as a break in my day. With three kids aged 4 and under by that point, I didn't get a lot of downtime to myself, and I reveled in those moments alone, just me and the baby. And although something would inevitably break down every time I sat down to the feed the baby, or someone would have to pee (potty training an older kid with a newborn is straight-up torture), or someone would knock on the door, I still used breastfeeding as a chance for guilt-free me time. I'd switch on the TV for the older kids or we would all pile down on the couch together and just rest for a minute.
And every chance I could, I'd sneak away to my favorite rocking chair, just me and my boy, so I could leave the big kids to bond with their dad while I took a break from the rest of the chaos. My 4-year-old daughter secretly snapped this photo one afternoon and it's one of the rare pictures I have of me breastfeeding a baby. I treasure it, because it's from a time in my life that feels so familiar and yet fleeting at the same time:
By the time the fourth baby came along, despite frequent problems yet again with mastitis, I still embraced breastfeeding for the bonding time it gave me and my baby. And let me tell you that breastfeeding in the age of smartphones is an entirely different experience than trying to hold a book one-handed. I mean, total game-changer. I embraced reading on my phone like the bookworm that I am. Books and babies = heaven. How many books, blogs, articles, and feeds have I devoured at 2 in the morning? Only my beloved iPhone knows. But I reveled having that time for myself.
As a new mother, I had trouble overcoming the thought that breastfeeding a baby was somehow taking something away from me — my time, my freedom, my ability to take a stress-free shower without rushing through, knowing my baby would be screaming by the end of it. But changing my perspective and focusing on what I gained through that one-on-one time with my baby? Well, that helped me fall completely in love with breastfeeding and that's a gift I'll always be thankful for.