Just to get it out of the way – this post is gonna talk about my boobs a lot. I’ll probably use the word “nipple” at least a dozen times. So if that makes you uncomfortable then #bye ✌️
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to breastfeed my children. It was years ago – I was probably 19 or so when I first started researching breastfeeding seriously. Over the next nearly five years I romanticized breastfeeding and read story after beautiful story of the type of relationship breastfeeding fostered between mother and child.
Breastfeeding was a great fit for our family. It was free, I didn’t have to wash a million bottles, I firmly believed it was the best form of nutrition available, it was free, it would create an amazing bond between my baby and I, and it was free. Oh, did I mention it was free? Because in case you haven’t checked, formula is ridiculously expensive these days and we’re on a tight budget, so the fact that we wouldn’t have to spend a dime on feeding our child for the first six months was incredible.
Clementine was just minutes old for her first latch, and it was immediately then that I realized we had a problem. Two problems, actually. Not only was the latch painful, but it was a struggle to not suffocate her. It’s really hard to not suffocate your child when your boobs are larger than her head before your milk even comes in.
From there, the painful latch only got worse and caused more damage. My nipples were quickly cracked and bleeding. At less than a week old we had her latch and mouth evaluated for a cause to the pain and everything seemed to be normal. Apparently the anatomy of our bodies didn’t mesh well – the size of my nipple in ratio to the size of her mouth just wasn’t a good combination.
After suffering severe damage within the first few days of Clementine’s life, my milk came in at day four. However, four days of around the clock cluster feeding with a poor latch had taken its toll. Not only were my nipples completely raw and bleeding, but my back was in agonizing pain from the very specific position I had to nurse in, in order to not suffocate Clementine. I was also beyond tired. To be honest, I don’t think there is a word that appropriately describes how tired I was. By the time I had Clementine, I had already been awake for nearly 48 hours and then over the next four days I had slept maybe eight hours.
By this point, I was dreading every feeding. More than dreading – is there even a word for that?! Crying, clenched teeth, and white knuckles got me through. I was still waking every two hours to nurse and Derek was waking due to me crying from the pain.
In case you’re curious, it wasn’t until about 12 weeks where I had my first nursing session without any pain.
On top of physical complications, the weight of the responsibility that I had on my shoulders crushed me sometimes. I was Clementine’s sole source of food. And because of the delicate nature of breast milk and establishing a supply, you pretty much need to breastfeed on demand. Unfortunately, that becomes a cop out all too easily – “Baby’s crying, she must want boobies!”
Then there was the loneliness and the isolation. For various reasons, I chose not to breastfeed in front of male friends and relatives, which meant I had to retreat in order to nurse. I felt like I missed out on a lot. It’s very weird to be alone in the quiet while the social gathering you would love to be taking part in continues on without you. Listening to your friends laugh and joke, praying they don’t eat without you, and that if they do they’ll be considerate enough to leave you some. I also missed months worth of church sermons because Clementine always needed to be nursed during service. And when church is your guaranteed one time out of the house per week, being trapped in a small, dimly lit, ill-equipped room is less than thrilling.
After reading this, you’re probably thinking one of two things:
1) Why the fudge didn’t you just quit and give formula??
Remember how breastfeeding is free and we’re on a tight budget? I don’t use the word “tight” loosely (😂). I figured that my nipples hadn’t fallen off and I, therefore, didn’t have a good enough reason to quit and couldn’t justify spending the money. The fact that I was in what can only be described as excruciating pain and experiencing intense loneliness wasn’t good enough for me to call it quits. Why? #momguilt. Simple.
2) I’m never breastfeeding my own child!
That’s your choice. 100%. But let me tell you about breastfeeding now.
Clementine is now 15.5 months as I write this and we’re still going strong. The fact that I overcame all of those hurdles gives me immense pride. I persevered through a lot of steep valleys and overcame with God. With Him as my strength, I pushed through and one of my favorite times of the day is when Clementine first wakes up and nurses. We spend the first 20 minutes in bed nursing, cuddling, playing, and praying. These moments are so precious to me and I know I will miss them.
At a year old, I stopped taking nursing into consideration when getting dressed for the day. That simple freedom felt like such a huge milestone.
I also fully intend on breastfeeding our next child, despite the fact that I very well may face these same struggles again.
For the sake of saying it, it was worth it. Well worth it.