Breastfeeding: Our Story

As this chapter of life comes to a close, it's important to me to document this milestone. Breastfeeding surprised me in a lot of ways. Given I've spent nearly 500 hours of my life with a little one attached to me, I think its own blog post is merited. 

So, I clearly know millions of women have breastfed their babies -- many longer than I did and most with more children. I'm by no means an expert on the topic, but I thought if this encouraged another mama in a tough spot or provided insight for a mom-to-be then it's worth it. 

Surprise #1
It changed my prayer life dramatically. I was forced to sit still. To be quiet. To relax. Breastfeeding opened the possibility of clearing my mind (which normally races) and seeking out The Lord at all times of day. For this I am forever grateful and this is one of the reasons I'm sad to see this season pass us by. 

Surprise #2
Babies adapt. With every milestone related to feeding -- sleeping through the night, adding baby food, dropping a feeding, etc. I was always very anxious. Was she hungry? Will it mess up her napping? There may have been a couple of odd days mixed in, but by and large she just figured it out on her own. It was always harder on me than her.

Surprise #3
God did, in fact, equip me with motherly instincts and I learned to trust them. The first few weeks after Carson was born were tough on me -- I think I may have even had some PPD. I didn't ever feel sad, but I definitely felt unreasonably anxious. I remember texting Sean that I was sick to my stomach about giving Carson and paci (which she never took anyways) -- how silly! After God delivered me from that anxiety, my confidence grew tenfold and I just started to "feel" what was right. Trust those instincts, parents -- God gives them to you for a reason.

When pregnant with Carson I was armed with the facts: breastfeeding is good for both baby and mommy. There are lots of studies out there -- from higher test scores to improved bonding, but I'm sure you've heard all of that before (I'm also sure there are probably other variables connecting those correlations). I also had a lot of concerns -- would I hate it? Will it hurt? I can't sit still for 5 minutes, how will I do this? I have to go back to work! 

Some things that really helped me along the way include:
  1. My pump. This helped my return to work easier. Most insurance plans are now required to offer a pump free of charge to members -- I encourage you to check it out. 
  2. My husband. When things were tough, he encouraged. Heck -- when things were great, he encouraged. A good support system is important. 
  3. My baby. She really was a good eater. She picked up nursing well early on and put herself on a very manageable schedule. 
  4. My job. I did go back to work after two months of maternity leave, but with a flexible schedule -- starting out just 3 days in the office. I would still come home at lunch to feed Carson and being around her instead of pumping as much as possible was important to me. Even when she started daycare the ladies were incredibly supportive and would have the nursing station all set up for me when I dropped by.
Breastfeeding brought out a lot of emotions {and sin!} I didn't know were there before. I was so thankful to have the physical ability to feed Carson. I was grateful that it came easily and that I enjoyed the time with her. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make breastfeeding work -- probably too much pressure. I felt like if it didn't work out it would be my fault and a failure, which is crazy -- not once have I ever looked at another mom giving their baby formula and thought they loved their baby any less. That was for sure silly. 

Carson started sleeping through the night at 11 weeks -- I continued to get up in the middle of the night once until she was 7 months old to pump. I could pump so much and was pretty quick, so I didn't mind getting up. That helped me build my freezer stock, which provided peace of mind for me. As I kept doing it, Sean pointed out that he thought I was becoming prideful about still waking up to pump -- he was right. Although I didn't really realize it, it was a source of control for me and not healthy, so I stopped and enjoyed a good nights sleep, but not without some internal struggles and confessions about my desire for control. 

As I look back over the past 13 months I have an overwhelming joy, with a twinge of sadness. How awesome that God created our bodies to help care for a baby from conception through breastfeeding! The decision to stop is multifaceted -- she doesn't seem very interested anymore, needs to learn to drink milk out of a sippy better and we have some upcoming travel. 

Yesterday -- on what I thought would be the last nursing session, I put Carson in my lap. She looked me straight in the eye, grabbed my cheeks with both of her hands, puckered up and gave me a big kiss on the lips -- as if to say, "You did great, mommy!" I teared up, fed her and knew that was that last memory I needed for our breastfeeding journey. 

I'll end with this -- moms need cheerleaders. Husbands need to encourage their wives and support them through the crazy. Raising little ones isn't easy and forming a community of support instead of judgement is so important and just one little way we can show Jesus to others. What works for me might not work for you and vis versa, but we can still understand that we all have a deep desire to do the best things for our babies and families and offer up kind words to build one another up.