I knew very little about parenting when I first became a mother.
I knew babies cried and burped and needed to eat and they were really cute and you had to do a lot of things for them. But I certainly didn’t understand exhaustion. I had no idea how the dynamics of my marriage would change.
And when I made the decision to breastfeed, I didn’t 1,000,000% understand all of the emotions and feelings involved in that choice.
I didn’t know my baby wouldn’t come out just knowing how to breastfeed. I didn’t know I had to meet with lactation consultants. I hadn’t realized that a perfect latch wasn’t a given, that it was something we learned together. And that it would be painful and humiliating to understand everything.
I hadn’t fully realized that I had to think about whether or not my breasts would be easily accessible in an outfit that I put on because I needed to breastfeed my baby with them. Little did I know that I would be living in nursing bras and tank tops, all day, every day.
Little did I know nursing covers just wouldn’t be my three kids’ cup of tea. And I also didn’t realize that after a while, I wouldn’t care anyway. That I would breastfeed in a restaurant, at a party, in a bathroom stall, in the restroom, walking around Target, in a locker room, at an NBA game, on the floor, at church, in the car, on an airplane. (Oh, the places you go to breastfeed!)
I didn’t fully understand how and when I would need to pump. That I had to have milk available in the freezer if I was going to be away for a few hours or more and that I had to pray that she would take the bottle while I was gone.
I didn’t know I was going to cry over spilled breast milk on the counter. I hadn’t thought about the fact that breastfeeding would sometimes be a bit like a leash and I’d be clinging to my baby on those girls’ weekends that I had to turn down because it was too overwhelming for me to pump enough of milk. for my baby to last all weekend.
I couldn’t fully comprehend how important those first few weeks of breastfeeding would be until I got there. That I would basically have at least one of my boobs at all times. That I would feel connected to my baby in this magical and beautiful way. That I would feel connected to the other mothers who preceded me as well as to those who accompanied me in motherhood.
That my view of my breasts would change dramatically – from something sexual to something purposeful and amazing. My breasts produce food for my baby and my baby eats the food I produce. It’s a bit mind-blowing.
I couldn’t know what it was like to keep a human alive with my body until I had a baby. The responsibility that comes with making sure you give your baby enough milk or taking the right precautions to supplement if you need it is heavy.
I had no idea how every visit to the doctor to check their weight could make me feel like I was being graded or judged in some way. I couldn’t feel the anxiety that came with this part of motherhood until it rested on my chest.
I hadn’t realized that the trio of pregnancy, aging and breastfeeding would change the shape, size and appearance of my breasts. That they would be bigger and fuller than they had ever been in my life for those first few weeks. That they would be unbalanced when my baby suckled from one of my breasts in one session, but not the other. That after a while my breasts would feel and look a little deflated and that I would often miss their perkyness of my pre-mommy self.
I couldn’t understand the relief that comes with weaning when you’re ready to do it. When my two eldest were weaned between 17 and 18 months, it was very bittersweet. I missed the closeness we shared while breastfeeding, but I had my body back, which was a wonderful feeling after going through pregnancy coupled with months and months of breastfeeding.
I was no longer attached to a pump or a baby’s mouth. I was free.
I certainly didn’t know how many hours I was going to breastfeed. I didn’t know babies could eat for 40 minutes per breast in ONE SESSION. I remember sitting on the couch breastfeeding, breastfeeding, breastfeeding all day with my firstborn. (That’s why I binged so many shows while breastfeeding!)
Little did I know that even as they grew and spaced out their breastfeeding sessions, they would go through phases where they wanted to breastfeed (which seems like) a hundred times a day. Dentition? More boobs, please. Go through a jump? More boobs, please. To have a cold? More boobs, please. Sleep regression? More boobs, please.
I’m breastfeeding my baby right now as I type this on my phone. She falls asleep for the night and I realize it’s something else I didn’t expect to happen. I didn’t think I would breastfeed each of my babies to sleep. I didn’t realize that I would come to love this little crutch to lean on and look forward to being the special someone who could do that for them. How grateful I would be to finally be sitting after a long, busy day, in a quiet room, with my calm baby, doing something that would make me as happy as my baby.
I hadn’t realized how much of a sacrifice breastfeeding would be.
I hadn’t realized how much of a commitment breastfeeding would be.
And, in truth? I didn’t know how much I would like to breastfeed.
No matter what it did to the look of my breasts, no matter how it affected my social calendar, and no matter how hard I had to put in to make it work, I loved breastfeeding each of my three babies. . It brought me joy, pride and comfort.
Our journey has not been perfect. And breastfeeding isn’t always the solution for everyone. Both of these things are correct.
What I to have realized in the last 4.5 years that I have breastfed (from time to time) is that it is part of the story of we. Part of me, part of my children, part of our family.
What I do understand now is that it is something that taught me so much and gave so much to my children. It is a step on my path to motherhood that I will honor and cherish for the rest of my days.
Pro Tip: Do what you can for breastfeeding success. The right products, classes, and support systems can go a long way.
baby food, breastfeeding help, breastfeeding