Yesterday was the end of an era. It sounds so dramatic, but it really was! After just about 16 months of a successful breastfeeding journey, I nursed Ryan for the very last time. I am feeling all kinds of emotions right now – sadness, relief, victory, excitement, doubt, anxiousness.
- Sadness because breastfeeding was “our thing” for such a long time.
- Relief, because I feel like I’m getting a part of myself back! Literally and figuratively speaking 😉
- Victory, because not only did we make it to our 1 year goal, but we made it almost 4 months past that goal!
- Excitement, because now I can share the task of feeding with others!
- Doubt, because I can’t help but wonder if I am being selfish for ending and not continuing.
- Anxiousness, because I don’t know how he’ll respond to it being over and once it’s over, there’s no coming back!
As a first time mother, I was planning on breastfeeding my child. I bought the pump and all of the nursing gadgets and thought I would be well on my way. All I needed was for baby to get here. Wrong! Baby got here and I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into. Breastfeeding was hard. Heck, it was painful, frustrating, time-consuming and hard! Did I say hard already? I was not prepared. And because of that, I only nursed Noah for about 3 weeks and then continued to exclusively pump for an additional 5 months. My plan for a successful breastfeeding journey ended before I could even start!
When I was pregnant with Ryan, I decided that this time would be different. This time, I would go into it knowing exactly what to expect. My successful breastfeeding journey would happen this time around! The challenges wouldn’t come as a surprise this time around. I read books, I prepared myself mentally for the challenges to come, and I surrounded myself with like-minded people. And guess what, it was still hard the second time around! However, I think there are a few things I could pinpoint that helped me succeed.
I am a firm believer that fed is best. As long as your child is receiving his nutrients, it shouldn’t matter if it comes from a breast or a bottle. That being said, I am also a firm believer in breastfeeding – meaning, if you choose to breastfeed, then the world should stand behind you! And for that reason, I’d love to share with you all a few things that I believe made a difference for me this time around.
Manage Your Expectations
Breastfeeding is beautiful, but for most, it doesn’t start off that way. It starts off as confusing, painful, and challenging. I would say it’s painful on some level or another for the first 4 weeks (some even say up to 6 weeks). It’s going to take some time for you and baby to get to know one another and establish a groove. But it gets better! It gets beautiful! And messy, but mostly beautiful!
I have countless beautiful memories of breastfeeding my boy. I’ve nursed him to sleep while watching his peaceful face doze off. I have nursed him in the early mornings when it was just he and I and the rest of the house was quiet. I’ve nursed him during shots to provide him comfort. I’ve nursed him when he’s been sick and needed that extra boost. I’ve nursed him on the beach, at Disney World, and in the fitting room at Target! I’ve nursed him for sixteen months and although it was hard, it was beautiful.
Find a Support System
It’s sad to say, but not everyone is going to support your decision to breastfeed. I wish I knew why that was, but it’s a fact. Maybe it’s because they don’t get it. Who knows! The important thing is that you surround yourself with people who will encourage you and support your decision. This can be other breastfeeding mamas who are your friends, a local support group, or an online community.
Once you find your support system, make sure to rely on them. Share your concerns and frustrations with them because they will totally get it! Without the encouragement of my friends and the online community I was a part of, I don’t know how successful my breastfeeding journey would have been!
Find things that will make nursing easier for you. And not just the act of nursing, but everything that comes along with it! Pumping, nursing in public, relieving engorgement or mastitis, etc. For me, one of those things was a haakaa. The Haakaa is a silicone, portable, breast pump that really serves many purposes.
Another great one is a hands-free pumping bra! Just as it sounds, this bra allows you to pump while multitasking – playing with baby, cleaning, cooking, or simply just browsing on your phone!
The last accessory I’ll talk about is a nursing cover! I’m not saying you have to cover up when nursing in public, but if you are like me and feel more comfortable doing so, then a nursing cover is the way to go. There are so many options out there! There are ones with open backs, ones that double as a car seat cover, ones that you can wear as a scarf. There are options galore! Do what works for you, mama!
Give yourself Grace
There will be times when you will want to give up. Especially right in the beginning, it will seem like all you are doing is nursing baby. And that’s probably exactly all you are doing. You may start to think that it would be so much easier if you could just hand off the feedings to someone else. Here’s what I recommend, do just that. Let someone else take a feeding or two so that you can rest. Once baby has a well established latch, it’s ok to introduce a bottle. Make sure you practice paced feeding so as not to cause nipple confusion. ( You can read my post on paced bottled feeding here). Practice grace, you are not perfect and that’s ok! You are doing an amazing job and however long your successful breastfeeding journey lasts is an amazing feat!
Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is slightly different than the next. Some mama’s will breastfeed from both sides in one nursing, others will only use one. Some will nurse on demand, and others will keep a schedule. You may feel very comfortable nursing in public with out a cover, while another mama prefers the privacy. However you choose to breastfeed, and for however long your journey is, I only hope that you appreciate the significance of what you are doing. Especially, the beauty behind it. Even if you can’t see the beauty, I hope you can appreciate just how amazing your body is – you have nourished your baby with your own body! Just one of the many special powers we super moms have! <3