New Year's Eve has gotten me thinking about 2013 and what I have accomplished. One main accomplishment that I am proud of is that my son, Liam, is just about 14 months old and I have successfully breastfed him this whole time. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding that make a lot of woman reluctant to try. Was breastfeeding easy? Heck no. It comes with its challenges, but the benefits for me far outweighed any of the challenges.
I know what you're thinking, she must be a stay-at-home mom. I mean, what working woman would have time to breastfeed and pump after she goes back to work? Well, this isn't the case. I am a working mom who works 40-50 hours a week on average. This year I have been to Japan, Mexico (twice) and San Francisco for work, and my breast pump has made all of these journeys with me. I have pumped in an airplane bathroom, in airports and restaurant bathrooms and sitting on floors. Why on earth would I keep doing this?! Because when I get home, the first thing my son wants when he sees me is to nurse and to feel close to me. And that is what I want to. We look into each other's eyes and just have quiet time for a few minutes while snuggling. What can be better than that?
Starting to breastfeed wasn't easy. The nurses in the hospital would help me at first and made it seem so simple, but the second we got home it's like I forgot what to do. That first night at home we were about to throw in the towel and give up. He just wasn't eating! We must be doing something wrong! Is he going to get enough milk? Thankfully I was able to see a lactation specialist the day after we went home from the hospital and that helped a ton.
I think one thing that helped me was my short term goals. I always had it in my head that long term, I would like to nurse until Liam was a year old. But that length of time can seem daunting. My first goal was a week. Then a month. Then six weeks, then until I went back to work (3 months), then 6 months and then a year. I have heard that any length of time breastfeeding is better than nothing at all. So I figured "hey, If I can do it for 6 weeks, at least I tried." But knowing me...Trying isn't trying unless I do my best. So I kept going and in my usual form, I exceeded my expectations. (I don't normally toot my horn, but sometimes you just have to pat yourself on the back).
Our next biggest challenge was the bottle. When Liam was about a month old my husband gave a couple of bottles to Liam for night time feedings to allow me to get more sleep. When that night time feeding went away we stopped feeding Liam with a bottle until I went back to work (he was 3 months old). By this time he hated the bottle and wanted nothing to do with it. It took probably a month for him to start taking a bottle for my husband or day-care. Thankfully his daycare was close to my work so I was able to visit him and feed him during my lunch. To be honest, I was glad that he wasn't taking a bottle because it gave me the excuse to HAVE to leave for lunch to feed him instead of not going if I got too busy at work.
I think the last notable challenge is people not understanding or being uncomfortable with breastfeeding. I was watching Four Christmases the other day, and there were two breastfeeding mom's in the movie; both of these moms are portrayed as trashy or weird. Why does the media have to portray something that is so natural and beautiful as awkward? No wonder people don't understand. I remember one instance when I was at a family gathering and covered myself and Liam up to nurse, and within minutes everyone had left the room. I wasn't showing anything so I'm not sure why I scared everyone away. From that point on I started going to a room with just the two of us. Even when I am at my own house, if people are there I leave the room with him to go nurse. There are a few close friends or family that do not mind and I do it with them in the room. It's such a shame because it is nothing to be ashamed about.
After these challenges though, everything else was pretty easy. Was it all worth it? You betcha. Liam has been sick 2 or 3 times his whole life. The first time was right after he started daycare. One of the other times my husband and I were sick as well. Another benefit is that when you are breastfeeding you get to eat like crazy and still lose weight because of the calories you are burning! My weight is back to what it was before I had Liam. But I think the absolute main thing that I love is the bonding. I love coming home from work or from a trip and holding him and feeling that connection.
Anyway, I just wanted to write this because I know breastfeeding is not easy, however, it is worth all of the struggles. I have had ups and downs with it, but I know it has been worth every minute. I want to encourage any expecting mom's to give it a try. It may not be for everyone, but try to make it past the first challenge and ask yourself: Was it that hard? Can I try it for another day?