By Katie Moosbrugger
When it came to breastfeeding, I was a total boob. While I nursed my first born three months and then my son five months, I am amazed I even lasted that long. They say it’s the most beautiful gift a mother can give to a child, and believe me I tried! Some may say I did a great job, and some may say I gave up too easily. Just like some people say breastfeeding is extremely difficult, others say it’s natural, effortless and much simpler than bottle feeding. Well, I experienced sentiments on both sides of the aisle, and as a result, I was never fully into the game nor was I completely resigned.
Breastfeeding is a huge task and a major lifestyle change, much like a nine-month pregnancy. And like pregnancies, every woman has different experiences. Today I share my thoughts and trials with breastfeeding and would love for you to share yours.
I have to be honest and say I never thought of my self as a “breastfeeding type.” I don’t know if such a “type” exists, but all along – even up until right before giving birth, I was on the fence as to whether or not I was going to nurse.
As a bottle fed baby from the ‘70s, I never really witnessed anyone nurse their child and I never really gave much thought to it my entire life. The thought seemed foreign to me until my sister-in-law “introduced” the concept in our family with her first born. That was in the late ‘90s. I think at first I was in awe – and frankly a little shocked – that she was actually going to do this. But four kids later – all of whom she breastfed for six consecutive months – and all the while making it seem so effortless and pointless to even question whether or not a mother should nurse. She was nursing her fourth child when I became pregnant with my first, and it was only then that I even started to think about it. Albeit not without some squeamishness.
And then my daughter was born – and I was surrounded by nurses who all assumed of course I would breastfeed, never thought to question me otherwise, and made it seem like there was no other option in the world – and so I gave it a try. To my surprise, everything worked like a charm and it was easier than I thought.
Then I went home with my baby. And without my breastfeeding champions flocking my bedside, I became panicked that I wasn’t doing it correctly. This panic lasted the entire three months I breastfed my daughter. And when you panic, the “let down” reflex for your milk supply doesn’t always work. It was a vicious cycle. I can’t tell you how many times I marched myself to the pediatrician and to lactation consultants to demonstrate my nursing, have them weigh my baby, and then have them tell me she is gaining weight and all is fine. It was exhausting for me, and I know it was for the doctors and specialists too!
Not only was I insecure about the job I was doing, but also how I was doing it. I was never the one who could throw a wrap around my shoulders and nurse my baby no matter where I was in public. I was paranoid about anyone seeing me – and to make matters worse – I could never get my baby to latch on without battling the layers of clothing in between us. So that meant I had to plan my public outings in between my hourly-or-so feedings, and for the most part, I nursed completely topless in the well-lit privacy of my home, car or a bathroom stall. I was a mess.
The need to get my body back
Breastfeeding is a major lifestyle change, much like pregnancy. But with a pregnancy, the changes come on slowly and without much notice at first. Plus you know how long it’s going to last. With breastfeeding, it’s almost the opposite. The change comes on fast but over time you stop noticing a difference, and you can make it last as short or as long as you want.
Of course I wanted to give my children as much as I could for a healthy start to life, but after 13 months giving (pregnancy + nursing) to my daughter, and 15 months giving to my son, I was ready to own my own body again. I am sure many moms can argue otherwise, but being pregnant for me was much easier and much more enjoyable than breastfeeding. Props to all the moms who can nurse for one year or more. That is either amazing dedication or the blessing of nursing come naturally – or both.
I will say nursing my second was a lot easier than my first. And that’s thanks to a number of reasons: 1) I knew what to expect right off the bat, 2) my body seemed more in tune, probably due to less stress, 3) I was confident my child was getting adequate nutrition, 4) I could fumble mouth-to-nipple without having to turn on any light or take off any clothes, 3) I eased up somewhat on my modesty and public promenades…although not that much, and 4) I knew I didn’t have to nurse for anyone’s expectations.
So those are my tales. What about you? Did you experience the same frustrations, or did nursing come naturally to you? What advice can you offer first-time breastfeeding moms – or those who are ready to throw in the towel?