The Broken + the Beautiful: Our Breastfeeding Story
This week is World Breastfeeding Week, and I've been thinking a lot about our experience because of it. I wanted to share our story to encourage anyone who may be going through a rough patch in their nursing relationship.
We are not at the end of our breastfeeding journey, and it's been rough. In saying that I know there are many mama's out there who have had it much worse than I have. Things like infection, acid reflux and having to quit altogether because of circumstances outside of their control. Because of that, I am so grateful to be able to continue nursing my daughter even through the difficulties.
Like every new mom, I pushed through the agonizing physical pain of the first month. But for me the deeper pain has been emotional. She has pushed me away, screamed and has been disinterested from day one. I had hoped that nursing would be bonding, and there are some moments that provide that, but there have also been many times that I have felt rejected by my sweet daughter, and it has hurt.
As a newborn she sucked in more air than milk which caused a lot of frustration for both of us, sleeplessness and pain for her. She had a misdiagnosed tongue and lip tie that went unchecked until she was 2 months old, when we finally saw a dentist in Dallas who helped us. The procedure to laser her ties was a huge blessing for us, and allowed her to make many improvements. I cried every day for those two months leading up to the procedure. I knew I wanted to nurse for a year, but it seemed impossible and each feeding was a fight.
After the procedure, her latch was deeper and she seemed to be improving. But it wasn't long before things weren't right again. She seemed to slowly begin to revert back to her old habits. It's like she never really learned the proper way to latch because of her lip/tongue tie. I would talk with friends and hear stories about how nursing was so easy now that they "got the hang of it" that they felt they could go on forever. My heart was crushed. When will I get the hang of it?
When lactation consultants and nurses at the local hospital told me she was weaning herself at 7 months and shrugged their shoulders because she's a healthy weight, I felt completely deflated. There have been countless times I've wanted to quit. Thoughts flooded my mind like "how is my daughter 8 months old and still pushing me away almost every time I nurse her? I must be doing something wrong!" The pendulum then swings to the other side because I know I've followed all the LLL rules and advice from the professionals, so no, there's nothing I'm doing wrong. (Which happens to be even more frustrating). My days are filled with highs and lows, wondering if it's really worth it. No matter how hard it's been, I keep coming back to the answer "yes." This is worth it.
Our journey is not over. For now we're sticking with it, and I do hope we make it to a year. What may seem so normal and small to some, would feel like a huge accomplishment for me. It doesn't look perfect, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a sacrifice. Any mom (breastfeeding or not) knows the daily death to self required to provide for their little one.
Breastfeeding remains the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. I am incredibly blessed to have an amazing husband who has supported me and coached me through many tearful nights, as well as women in my city who care deeply about helping me continue if I can. If you are struggling and having a hard time, please reach out and share your story. There is most likely another nursing mom out there who wants to help.
Motherhood has been the single most humbling experience of my life, and I realize (and appreciate) that there are so many different stories out there. I'd love to hear yours as we celebrate the broken and the beautiful in motherhood this week.