Tiffany's Breastfeeding Journey
Breastfeeding my little one has been such a journey already and we are only at 3 months. I couldn’t have anticipated how emotional this journey would be.
While pregnant and asked how I would feed my child, I would always answer as breastfeeding being my first choice, but being flexible if for some reason it didn’t work out. I smile thinking about this response now, being in the throws of fighting so hard for something, reminding me I never knew how important that choice was going to be.
I say to friends now; “I wish I had known how hard it was going to be, I wish I knew about all the challenges I might face.” Not because I regret deciding this route but only to prepare myself for how emotional it would be. When I decided how I would ‘feed’ my child, I never realized I was choosing so much more than that. I was choosing a special connection, that would require a lot of flexibility, sacrifice and oh so many beautiful moments of love.
I read a quote recently:
“Breastfeeding is an unsentimental metaphor for how love works, in a way. You don’t decide how much and how deeply to love, you respond to the beloved and give with joy exactly as they want (Marni Jackson).”
That’s exactly how I feel the relationship plays out. It is so beautiful to learn and respond to my little one’s needs, not just hunger but comfort, love, and so much more. As beautiful as it is, this type of relationship is full of unknowns. So many waves of thoughts, wondering if I am doing enough, or too much. It takes faith, faith in both of our bodies, and love. Trusting that I am pouring out what is needed and trusting my little one’s cues, learning day by day what she needs.
The challenges, oh the challenges. I was so naïve before. I read so much about the ‘golden hour’ and thought if I kept that sacred, I would have a carefree, easy breastfeeding journey. Obviously I’m not taking away from the importance of this, I know it is but there is SO much more beyond that. I did have a beautiful golden hour and I cherish it so much. I never thought I’d fall in love with breastfeeding the way I did. I honestly thought it’d feel weird and I wouldn’t like it. Oh I was wrong. My little one latched so quickly and with such ease during that first hour. The moment it happened, as my doula guided me into letting my LO latch on her own, my husband and I were in awe, watching her crawl and root around to get herself to my breast. We both thought it was the coolest thing. And the weird feeling I thought I would have? None. It felt so natural. This was perfect I thought. Smooth sailing from here. Even the lactation consultant at the hospital visited and told me we looked so natural, like we had been doing this forever. She suspected no issues.
I loved that we had that experience, I truly do. But, it definitely was not smooth sailing from there. The weeks following were full of worries about weight loss, jaundice causing my baby to be sleepy, and trouble latching. The support was unwavering though. My husband helped as much as he could, holding pumping bottles to me while I tried to get my LO to stay awake long enough to eat, and getting me all the things, food, water etc. My doula spent what felt like an entire Saturday helping me figure out how to latch, using nipple guards to assist, teaching me how to supplement, little tricks to keep baby awake and much more. The pediatrician loaned us a scale to do weighted feeds and monitor weight. I can say that without this support I in no way would have made it over that hump, still breastfeeding on the other side.
Things did get easier. And then they got harder. After weeks of having a hard time getting my babe to stay latched, it quickly turned into NEVER wanting to let go. Cluster feeding? Maybe. But it would last all day sometimes, or literally two hours non stop. I often felt touched out. The pure bliss feelings were replaced with skin crawling feelings when she latched. My mind raced with questions of why and not knowing if it was normal. Mastitis hit me and was just a blimp in the radar to what would come next. I quickly realized my LO was not doing well when mucous and blood was present in her stools. Allergies. So now in order to continue breastfeeding I would need to cut out foods. I cut all the top allergens with no relief. Doctors started throwing around the word formula. I was horrified. How could I stop breastfeeding? Not only did I not want to, but I knew it would be challenging at this point. I nurse to sleep most nights. Comfort nursing when babe gets overwhelmed. Not to mention that I felt like I was giving her what was best. But then I started to doubt myself. Was I hurting my baby every time I fed her? I felt so bad.
It’s more beautiful than I ever imagined and the challenges just add to the beauty as I am that much more in awe of what we have accomplished, together, further strengthening our bond.
Thankfully after I started taking out more foods we saw some progress. It’s still a battle. We mess up and eat the wrong foods but we have such a good support system helping us now. Awesome lactation consultants, continued support from an amazing doula, and now a physical therapist who is doing wonders to make things more comfortable.
Through all of this, when I look down at my little babe, she pauses suckling to look up and smile back it me, my heart melts. Those moments pick me up and remind me why I fight so hard to continue breastfeeding.