As soon as I got out of bed, my older son started playfully pummeling me, socking me right in the ribs. And just when I sat down to drink my tea, the two-year-old decided to marathon-nurse for 30 minutes. My tea got cold. Then, as…
Breastfeeding is normal, natural, and instinctual, but it’s also a learned process for both moms and babies. It’s to be expected that new moms will have questions, and need information as breastfeeding unfolds after birth. Along with some loving care and guidance, and a good…
Maybe your baby never latched.
Maybe it hurt so damn much and nothing made it better.
Maybe you were given bad advice in the hospital, or by your pediatrician, your obstetrician, your midwife, your mother, your friend.
Maybe you just didn’t want to breastfeed.
Maybe something happened that is none of my business that made the idea of breastfeeding frightening or repulsive to you.
Maybe you couldn’t produce enough milk and you never figured out why.
Maybe your baby was adopted and adoptive breastfeeding wasn’t in the cards for you for whatever reason.
Maybe you tried all kinds of gadgets or interventions to get breastfeeding to work, and it made you feel inadequate and disconnected from your body and you needed to stop trying.
Maybe you couldn’t nurse because of a medical condition, or a medication you needed to take that was incompatible with breastfeeding.
Maybe the things that went wrong with breastfeeding crushed you so hard you needed to stop trying for your own sanity.
Maybe you just didn’t like breastfeeding.
You don’t need a reason.
You don’t need to explain what happened.
(But I will listen if you want.)
You don’t need to figure out why breastfeeding didn’t work out.
(But I will help you figure it out if you want.)
Maybe sometimes you go through all the possibilities in your head:
if only you’d gotten help from a lactation consultant;
if only you’d gotten a second opinion;
if only you’d had an easier birth;
if only your postpartum depression had been treated sooner;
if only you had waited for the storm of the first few weeks of new motherhood to end . . .
I want you to know that if you feel a hole in your heart because breastfeeding did not work out, I understand. After birth, it is a mother’s instinct to breastfeed. It is an ancient, primal longing. That is part of why it can feel so traumatic when it doesn’t work out.
I want you to know that you are not alone in that feeling.
But maybe you have no regrets and feel at peace with not breastfeeding.
I want you to know that it’s OK if you made a clear decision not to breastfeed and you enjoyed the conveniences and freedom of bottle feeding.
Whatever it is—whatever your reasons, your feelings, your regrets, your peace—I want you to know this: Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.
It’s true that breastmilk is full of antibodies, antiviral agents, perfect nutrition, and life-long protections. Any amount of it that you gave your baby was a gift. But if you gave your baby none of it, you did not fail. You found ways to keep your baby healthy. You are a mother. You do anything for your children.
Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.
It’s about feeding your baby against your body, the two of you gazing at each other in wonder.
It is connection. It is touch. It is two souls who spent ages looking for one another and are now earthbound, nestled together.
Breastfeeding is about the relief of holding your child safe in your arms.
You can do that no matter how you feed your baby.
I am tired of the judgment and shame over not breastfeeding.
Love is what’s important.
So let’s choose love over fear. Connection over division.
And let’s talk to one another. Let’s ask for help if we need it.
Let’s hold our children against our beating hearts. Let’s inhale their perfect baby scents. Let’s breathe together. Let’s rest awhile.
* * *
It’s ok that you’re the only one who can get your child to take a nap. It’s ok that you’re the only one who can put your child to sleep at night. It’s ok that you can’t imagine a night away from your child. It’s…
Most mothers make plenty of milk for their babies — nature designed breastfeeding to be a very hearty system. But by virtue of the work I do, I see my fair share of low milk supply cases (I see the babies who are having issues…
I wrote about it when he was six, a kindergartener. Now he’s seven-and-a-half, the summer before second grade. And I still lie with him until he falls asleep.
I sometimes call him a “live wire.” He is always thinking, lost in thought. His body, too, moving along with his mind. He isn’t the most physically affectionate child. He’ll let you cuddle him plenty, but he won’t always cuddle back. He is stiff in your arms, doesn’t melt like my younger son does. And has never, ever fallen asleep easily. As a baby, a toddler, a young child. Just never. It takes a lot for him to unwind. And he needs help. Always has, still does.
And he needs ME to put him to sleep. Daddy will do sometimes, but I’m the favored one, and I end up doing it almost every night. Why only me? Because I nursed him to sleep for all those years? Because we slept nestled together for hundreds of nights? Because he’s just used it it? Yep. Probably all those things. And also — despite how long it sometimes takes, and how tired I sometimes am — I love it too.
As soon as he turns the lights out, he unwinds. Sometimes his voice starts to crack as he tells me something that has been worrying him. Sometimes it’s something from weeks ago that has been living inside of him and is now ready to come out. Sometimes he just wants to tell me all about Minecraft or whatever video game / tv show he’s currently obsessed with (he is easily obsessed). Whatever it is feels important, sacred, hushed. To both of us.
Since we moved there has been some extra worry, and what used to take twenty minutes has sometimes been taking much more time. He’ll say, his voice choking, “I can’t fall asleep.” And I’ll say, “I know you will. Your body needs sleep so it will come.” In the past, I would be able to get away if it was taking that long. I would tell him I needed to go get a snack and Daddy would come and take my place. But that hasn’t been as possible lately.
Recently, it was taking a very long time, and I was starting to get restless and annoyed. I was trying not to show it, but it was just one of those long days with kids, it was almost 10pm, and I was DONE. I was starting to resent that I was the only one who could put him to sleep, and that my day of being “on” as a parent was that much longer than my husband’s.
Finally, I heard a muffled sleep sigh, and I snuck out of the room. A minute later, my son came into the kitchen, squinting in the bright light. “I just really need you to stay,” he said, his voice breaking up, a few tears coming. All the frustration and anger I had been feeling welled up in my throat and turned to regret. “I’m sorry, baby,” I said, folding him up into my arms. I wasn’t sure if he had picked up on my frustration or not, but I felt genuinely sorry.
And I was so incredibly moved in that moment, to see how simply and honestly he could tell me what he needed. My boy is highly intelligent, super advanced, but like most kids — and maybe especially very “brainy” kids — it isn’t always easy for him to tell me his needs in a clear, non-whiny, no-strings-attached kind of way.
I hope that somehow, in these many hours I have spent — first with him at my breast, then in my arms, and now, mostly just with my presence and my listening ear — I hope I have taught him that his needs and feelings are important. And that there are places in this world safe enough to share them.
Most moms and babies, if given time, good info, and tons of support, can overcome breastfeeding obstacles they might encounter in the first few weeks. In very rare cases, breastfeeding doesn’t work out despite a mom’s best efforts (reasons may include a medical condition for either mom…
For many women, making it to a year of nursing is a milestone. And it is, especially on our world, where there are so many roadblocks to making it past the first week! And even after a mom finds her groove with nursing, making it…
For (almost) every day in August, I took a picture of myself nursing my baby, and shared it here on my blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram. It was National Breastfeeding Month, and it seemed like something interesting to do. At first, I did have some reservations about sharing such an intimate act with the world (here are some of my thoughts on that), but soon it just became part of life. I received a lot of positive feedback from friends and strangers. Some people were inspired to do the same, and shared their photos with me privately and on Facebook. Some were just inspired in general about breastfeeding. One mom told me these pictures made her want to try harder to nurse her next child. That alone felt like it was all worth it.
One interesting thing that happened during this month of photo-taking was that I started to have a certain self-consciousness any time I was nursing the baby. I started to wonder if that particular nursing session would be a good photo. On the one hand, this wasn’t entirely positive for me. I felt a little bit of pressure to come up with something different each day. How many pictures can we take nursing on the couch, in bed, in the armchair, etc.? It occurred to me that I don’t get out a lot, as so many of the pictures were taken at home. Mommy guilt set in: Should I be taking my children on more outings? Am I really that boring? Do they spend too much time indoors? You know the drill.
And I felt a little like I wasn’t always “living in the now” while I nursed him. I felt like there was a spotlight on us, even when we weren’t being photographed, because I was viewing us like we were in a picture.
At the same time, there was something eye-opening about this. I thought about just how very ordinary breastfeeding is, how much of a mindless activity it is, and is meant to be. At 10 months old (now 11 months!), my baby nurses numerous times each day. The nursing sessions just fit into the daily routines of life. Nursing isn’t “special” — it’s as essential as breathing, sleeping, walking, getting dressed, answering the phone, etc. There is nothing “picturesque” about it. It’s just life. And in a way, that is what I loved about capturing these moments with the baby — the two of us nursing on the kitchen floor, against a pile of laundry. Nursing is normal, and normal is beautiful.
And then, of course, there was the intimate, personal aspect of all this. When the light shone on our moments together, these very simple, necessary times that I stopped what I was doing, cradled the baby in my lap, and fed and soothed him — well, I began to get very sentimental! In this month of photographs, this boy of mine perfected his walking skills, pointing skills, and dancing moves. He is edging closer than ever to toddlerhood, and soon we will be celebrating his first birthday. These days of cradling him in my lap in this exact way, with his legs tucked in precisely this much, his hands reaching up to grab my nose, his fingers fiddling with the moles near my shoulder — these days are numbered. Nursing him will continue for quite some time still, but it will never be just like this. So I am glad I caught some of those moments on film, and doing so made me focus on them even more, and soak it in.
I have very few photos of nursing my first son (though I think I would have had more if I’d had an iPhone then!). This month of nursing photos inspired me to continue, not every day, but often. I will share some of the good ones with you 🙂
In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, I am posting a daily photo of me and my baby nursing. The more positive images of breastfeeding out there the better! If you have any pictures to share, please post a link to them in the comments of…