I never truly understood the beauty of breastfeeding. Liam never latched and let’s face it—as a first time mom I had no idea what I was doing. We are told breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do, but in reality it takes a lot of work. A lot of guidance. A lot of patience. And often times, a lot of tears. The second time around I was feeling more confident in myself as a mom and was determined to make it work. To finally understand the magic that everyone made breastfeeding out to be.
When Scarlett was born I tried feeding her within minutes of having her in my arms (the photo above is of this exact moment and will always be one of my most favorite captures). I remember feeling so self conscious about it, thinking there was no way I was doing it right. But the nurses nodded their heads in approval, and Scarlett stopped crying, so I kept on.
During the next 48 hours, Scarlett spent probably 40 of them latched on to me. I laid in the hospital bed that first night exhausted from labor and a day full of visitors, wanting nothing more than to go to sleep. But Scarlett was not happy if she was not latched, and so there I sat as tired as could be all night long.
The next day wasn’t any easier. I had tears running down my face. I was in so much pain from the endless feedings. But the lactation specialist said these first days were crucial to good supply + a successful nursing journey. And so there we sat, tears and all.
We got home and the pain and discomfort did not end. My nipples were bleeding. Everything was raw. Everything hurt. I winced every time she cried for food, knowing the pain that was about to follow. I would clench my fists, squeeze the pillows, anything to make the feedings bearable. But Scarlett was content, she was gaining weight, she was nursing well…and so there I sat.
And then one day, two tubes of Lanolin and four greasy lanolin destroyed nursing bras later (why didn’t anyone warn me!?), the clouds cleared and everything was better. There was no more pain. No more tears. She was nursing happily. I was nursing happily. And so there we sat, snuggled up in each other. And finally, I understood the beauty of breastfeeding.
The months went on and our bond continued to grow with every feeding. She would rub her little hands on me as she fed, thanking me in her own baby way for supplying her with the fuel she needed to grow. I was filled with pride for what my body could do. I made it a goal to nurse her for 6 months. And then 6 months turned into 12, and 12 turned into 18. People would ask “are you done breastfeeding yet? Don’t you think you’ve fed her long enough?”. But I knew that she and I were the only two who would know when the time was right… and so there we sat, letting our breastfeeding journey continue for as long as WE chose.
As the weeks went by and my baby wasn’t so much of a baby anymore, my body stopped producing as much milk. Nursing became about comfort and routine rather than food. I’d been conflicted about stopping for months. Part of me wanted my own body back. I’d been experiencing hormonal imbalances and wanted to focus on resolving that. On taking care of myself first, for the first time since Scarlett had been born.. However the other part of me wanted to stay connected to my baby in a way that only her and I could ever be connected.
I think if I’m being completely honest with myself, my biggest fear has been that we will never again be as close as we were in those 18 months. I know it’s ridiculous and I know the bond we created during that time will not just go away, but in the back of my mind I’m scared. Scared that she will no longer need me now that my body isn’t supplying her with liquid gold.
In the last few weeks she began nursing for shorter and shorter periods of time, and my body continued to produce less and less. Naturally we moved our way to the end of our nursing journey until one night, there we sat…and I just knew in my heart that it was the last feed. I held her a little closer and a little longer, knowing that when I put her to bed that night there would be no more “boobie night nights”. It would just be regular night nights from here on out.
The next day I put her down for nap without offering “boobie”. She went down just fine, and never even asked for it. The same happened at bedtime that night. It has now been 48 hours. 2 days without nursing. And only once very briefly did she try tugging at my shirt to feed. Her total ease with this transition has given me comfort, knowing that it truly was time. For both of us. Even if it feels difficult and emotional right now, it was going to be difficult and emotional no matter when this journey ended.
And so here I sit. Crying as I write this. A ball of sad and happy all in one. My body fed my baby for 18 months. It kept her healthy, it kept her happy. For that I am forever grateful.
This was my breastfeeding journey, and a beautiful journey it was.
The Whine Connoisseur.