This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Until a few years ago, I had no idea that such a week existed. Breastfeeding is always a hot topic, particularly amongst, well, moms...the people that do the breastfeeding. I used to not really think much of it, until it was my turn to be a mom. With Noel, I decided early on that I wasn't going to breastfeed him, but bottle feed him breast milk. When he was born 4 1/2 weeks early, I became more comfortable with this decision, as he was so sleepy and small that he never really caught on to latching. Since he never spent time in the NICU, he wasn't treated as a preemie while we were in the hospital, and we never got the hang of "real" breastfeeding. In retrospect, had we tried a little more, we probably could have done it...but that's neither here nor there. I gave him pumped milk, and that was that. I produced LOTS and LOTS of milk from the very beginning, and he had plenty to eat. That little baby that weighed only 4 lbs. 9 oz. at birth, quickly turned into Babyzilla and fattened up with all that creamy stuff. The only problem was, I could not stave off the dreaded breast infections. I got mastitis 6 times in the 7 months that I pumped.
I went to the doctor to see if there was ANYTHING I could do to avoid more infections...in a word, she told me "no". She said that women that have had mastitis more than once usually continue to get it. She thought it was hormone induced. I started my period about 6 weeks after Noel was born, and that's when the infections began. Subsequently, every time I started again, I got another infection. LUCKY ME. As I sat there crying, she quietly told me, "It's ok for you to stop." That was all the encouragement I needed. That day, I started weaning off the pump, and by the time Noel was 8 months old, he was drinking formula. I struggled mightily with this decision, but I also could not deal with one more infection. If you've ever had mastitis, you know why I couldn't take it anymore. If you haven't, consider yourself lucky. It's no fun.
When I got pregnant with Lennon, I was determined that we were going to breastfeed. Really, actually nurse. And we did...for a little over a year. The first 3ish months of breastfeeding him were torture. Yes, TORTURE. The child came out of the womb sucking on his hands. He had a mighty latch, and my sensitive skin got pretty abused the first few days of his life. It got to the point where I would cringe when he'd cry, because I knew what was coming: PAIN. I perservered, and continued to nurse him through the agony. I was determined to do this. After the wounds healed (yes, wounds, as in open sores), things got much easier, and I actually enjoyed nursing. I even got brave and did it discreetly in public and in front of people a few times! It was very liberating for me, as I'm pretty private about my body. Nursing just felt different. I never felt like I was being scandalous. I was feeding my baby...using my breasts the way God intended for them to be used. For the first time ever in my life, I was comfortable with my body.
I still pumped, but I didn't have to do it day and night. It was much easier this time around, save the first 12 weeks of his life. Right around the time he turned 13 months, I could tell that he just wasn't into it anymore...screaming and crying are pretty indicititve of "just not that into it". Truthfully, I didn't think that it would end so abruptly, but it did, and that was that.
If you are breastfeeding, or want to breastfeed, and you are struggling, reach out for support. I am so thankful for my husband who was 100% behind my decision. Call friends, find breastfeeding moms on Twitter & through blogs. Locally, look for a La Leche Leauge in your area, or area hospitals that have lacation consultants, and there are resources like KellyMom.com and La Leche Leauge on the web.
You want to know the truth? I am really proud of myself for giving both of my kids breastmilk. Breastfeeding is not easy for everyone. I was one of those people that struggled. I am stubborn, and it's the only reason that I continued to do it. I has set out with a goal, and I'd be damned if I wasn't going to accomplish it. Both of my children have been so healthy, and I attribute it first and foremost to them drinking exactly what they needed: the milk that only I could give them.