Hey there! I’m Andrea, a fifth grade teacher turned stay at home mom. I live in the great Pacific Northwest with my husband and son. I’m kind of a hippie in the making and blog about motherhood and life in between over at Hand and the Heart. From the moment those two pink lines appeared I knew I would be breastfeeding my baby, but what I didn’t know was how difficult it was going to be.
When I was eight months pregnant and sitting on the floor of our childbirth educator’s home, holding a yellow-haired cabbage patch doll to my breast for practice, I remember thinking how silly it all was… because of course nursing my son would be incredibly easy and would work out just the way nature intended with no issues.
But of course, that’s not how this story goes. We struggled as a new family, and I especially as a new mother. After an incredibly traumatic birth experience which resulted in an unwanted and unnecessary cesarean surgery, breastfeeding was rough from the get-go. My son entered the world strong-willed and feisty, and learning how to nurse proved difficult for both of us. I was dealing with a lot of pain from the surgery and couldn’t care for Benjamin the way I wanted to. I would try and latch him, he would nurse for a minute and pull off the breast screaming. I felt like he was rejecting me as his mother. I laid in bed naked with him, trying to make a connection and encourage him to nurse. He lost a lot of his ten pound birth weight and even though we refused, formula was being pushed down our throats. I pumped like crazy. We met with a fabulous lactation consultant for weeks on end. We used nipple shields. My husband created a tube feeding system that ran down my breast and for weeks on end he sat by my side and used a syringe to push pumped breast milk into Ben’s mouth.
I struggled with post partum depression, and didn’t leave the house for months, because every nursing session was a huge and stressful ordeal. Between him screaming, spitting up, and my having to pump after every time he nursed, leaving the home simply wasn’t an option. I pumped following feedings until my son was nearly 9 months old, and was able to donate nearly 600 ounces of breast milk to other mamas in need. I know our hard work was worth it because Ben thrived on exclusively breast milk for the first eight months of his life before we introduced solid foods. He remained in the upper 90th percentiles until just recently.
I could have never made this breastfeeding journey a successful one without my husband. He never once indicated I should give up, and he always told me how much he appreciated the sacrifices I was making to nurse our baby and give him the best start to life. I look back on all of those long and difficult months and I feel nothing but pride. I am so incredibly proud of myself for persevering through what was an incredibly demanding journey. I think a lot of times in life we give up on things because they aren’t easy, and we end up missing out on the redemptive power of it all. Being a mother is hard work. The things most worth it in life are often the ones that prove most difficult.
There were many, many, many days and nights I was on the verge of giving up and I could just as easily be the mom giving formula or donor breast milk. I was vigilant about reminding myself why breastfeeding was so important for us, and that was the driving force that kept me going.
All that to say, that I don’t regret a single moment I spent crying, or the hours I spent nursing and pumping. My son is now a toddler, and we are an incredible nursing team. It is such a beautiful way to be bonded to another soul. Nursing him from 12 months and beyond has been an absolute joy and my favorite age to breastfeed so far. He can sit in odd positions with a foot smashed on my arm, a finger shoved near my eye. He can sign for milk. He can stop nursing to give me a toothy smile and a giggle, and then go back about his business. Nursing feels comfortable, and right. I’m finally confident in my body and its abilities to nourish this little life.
My son is almost 17 months old and our nursing journey continues. I hope that all mothers are able to find a support team who truly believes in them and gives them the courage to nurse their babies, but also remember the most important thing a baby needs is his mother’s love.