I will warn you ahead of time there will be breastfeeding photos in this post. If you don't wanna see 'em, theeeen... don't! :)
Breastfeeding is oh so crazy important to me for a great many reasons. Human milk for human babies, ya'll! Easy on their little guts. Full of immune system goodness and germ fighting substances. Helps mama and baby catch that desperately sought after sleep with slumber inducing properties. Makes co-sleeping so much safer. (But of course co-sleeping is it's own lovely can of worms. A can of worms that brought rest back into our home.)
Nursing helps ditch pregnancy weight and lessens a mothers chances of breast cancer.
The list goes on and on. The benefits are indisputably fabulous.
I'm absolutely not here to cast judgement on mothers who can't breastfeed, for whatever reason. Sometimes there are real obstacles that stand squarely in between a mother and her desire to breastfeed and it can happen that there really and truly isn't a thing she can do about it.
I can only speak of my own experience.
So here's how it went (and is still going) down for me.
The little round cheeked child started out nursing like a tiny fiend. It was actually, literally, constant. He would just nurse and nurse and nurse and nurse and NURSE until he would pass out and finally sleep from sheer exhaustion for about 45 minutes and then wake up hungry again.
And Dear God, the pain.
Most people said that if it hurt you were doing it wrong. But I knew what a good latch looked like, and he looked latched properly to me.
Some people said there is a normal period of initial tenderness.
I thought perhaps I was just a huge wuss, and by initial tenderness, they actually meant something more along the lines of bruises and a distinct feeling that I was probably going to pass out and die every time he latched on.
Forget worrying about modesty. I hurt too much to give a rip about that.
Thankfully, we took him to be weighed about a week and a half after he was born.
When my midwife told me to come on back after he finished nursing, and I snorted, "Right. Because nursing ends.", she raised an eyebrow. Wise lady. She knew exactly what was going on.
My little lad had a tongue tie.
That means the muscle that holds the tongue to the bottom of his mouth was too far up on his tongue for him to use it properly. He couldn't even stick his tongue out past his lower gum line.
As a result, he couldn't suck properly, and instead of nursing in a nutritive way, he was chomping. This yielded very little milk for all the work he was doing, and also, I will tell you right now that gums are not soft. Shudder.
I can't even tell you how grateful I am that my midwife knew exactly what to look for. She helped us correct it and then taught us some exercises to teach him how to suck correctly.
I might add that those exercises were terrifying. He was placed belly down in my lap, and then I had to pull his head up/back and put my finger in his mouth to draw the tongue forward to create the action necessary for nutritive sucking. I was certain I was going to break him.
But he didn't break. He learned to nurse.
It still hurt like the dickens, though, for quite some time.
So much so that I had a routine in place to create a diversion for myself and make it as easy as I possibly could. I would sit down with the Boppy (oh glorious breast-feeding pillow) and send my dear and patient hubby to grab me a tall glass of water, which I would then chug like I had just spent the last few hours crawling across the Serengeti.
I would pull up something on Netflix that was just entertaining enough to be distracting, but brainless enough that I didn't have to pay total attention (enter: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy - which, I might add, is old enough now that the fashion advice is adorably out dated), and then I would wince and swear and remind myself to breathe through another nursing session.
When it was over, I would quickly hand the little squisher off to his poppa and head straight for my hippie nipple balm, crying happy tears that it was over for at least another half hour. Then I would plunk the kid into a sling and go for a walk while he napped.
It didn't start to feel better until he was close to twelve weeks old. Yowza, that was intense. But when his third month rolled around, we felt ready to celebrate. And so we bought some cake.
The wee one shared this cake with us via breast milk ;).
But it was like waking up after a hazy dream, that three month mark. My body was finally beginning to feel like it was mine again. And nursing was becoming a normal part of life instead of something that life had to stop for me to participate in.
I was learning to watch my baby and not the clock. Something I believed in, but that I had been nervous about. I didn't schedule this baby. I won't.
But I was using the clock, neurotically, to make sure he kept on nursing and nursing for at least a certain amount of time. Afraid I wouldn't get enough in him. That my supply would diminish.
I had a long list of silly and outrageous fears.
That, for example, when I felt so irate with one of the many crazy people who have infiltrated my life and the lives of my loved ones, my breast milk would simply turn into white hot molten lava.
(I may or may not have daydreamed about shooting the white hot molten lava version of it at said crazy people, but this did not lessen my fear of what it could do to my child in that state.)
Gradually, as my body had healed in it's own time, my fears subsided.
I learned to nurse laying on my side, so that he could just slip into sleep and not need to be moved. Or so that I could get a little more rest, too, on a sleepy day.
And I, as my latest feat, have finally sorted out nursing in not only a mei tai, but also a ring sling.
They say that a ring sling is easier, but it was way more tricky to me. Also, that picture is awkward. I've gotten way better at it since then, and so has the little child. High five, little child!
Incidentally, that's the other thing. As mama gets better at nursing, so does babe.
This thing that was, at first, so wildly difficult became second nature. I have mastered the stretchy-shirt-under-a-tshirt, pull-undershirt-down-and-overshirt-up method, so that nursing in public is a piece of cake.
Well, almost. We are now entering the stage in which there is much unlatching to look about and grin at everyone.
But hey. Challenge accepted. :)