This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
As a new mother nursing my first child, I have become increasingly aware that my enjoyment and success of this new skill is not one that I have gained singlehandedly. No, the amazing breastfeeding relationship that I have with my daughter is directly affected by my relationship with others , my relationship to myself, and my relationship to God.
My mother did nurse both my sister and I, but neither of us nursed for longer than a month for one reason or another. I believed for most of my life that formula was normal, and that all babies drank from bottles. Imagine my surprise when the father of my child told me that he was breastfed for more than one year! He even had a special name for nursing that he made up as a child! I was shocked and to be honest a bit weirded out, I wondered, was he one of those hippy kids you hear about who nurse until obscene ages when it has zero nutritional value? Nursing a child who could talk or walk was so foreign to me, I really had never thought about it.
I spent a lot of time living in California near his family and adjusting to new and different ideas about child rearing. Not all children went to public schools, not all children slept in cribs, and not all children drank formula from bottles, I learned.
This new way seemed liberating, although I still hesitated to buy into every aspect of the “natural” childrearing culture. I find myself caught between the “normal” and the “natural” getting in fights on all my internet mothering forums because I do believe in baby led weaning but do not believe that vaccines are evil. I sought out these forums and devoured any and all information on motherhood that I could while I was pregnant. I wanted to do this thing right. I decided that I wanted to try exclusively breastfeeding, and though I was unsure how long we would make it, I wanted to try to do it for as long as my daughter needed my milk, at least until she was a year old.
I really didn’t read books on breastfeeding or pay much attention to internet posts about it until after my baby was born. They seemed irrelevant to me, and I was very focused reading up on pregnancy and childbirth. I did however, read that it was a good idea to bring the baby to your breast immediately after she was born, and that she would latch immediately and that would form the beginnings of your mother-baby bond and be the start of your breastfeeding relationship.
I had planned for a natural, drug-free hospital birth with a long birth plan including my desire to begin breastfeeding immediately after my daughters birth. My birth did not go as planned however, and we needed a few interventions. This was alright, we still had a normal vaginal birth, but following her birth I was in so much pain and still contracting that I could not focus on beginning to breastfeed. I believe that the hospital staff was checking my daughter for infection (I developed a quickly rising fever and needed IV antibiotics) and I had a very large gush of blood with the birth of my placenta requiring extra pitocin to make sure that I did not bleed out.
Despite this, I asked for my daughter right away and asked to try to feed her. The hospital staff said, “Hold on, she doesn’t know how to eat yet” and continued to check her I assume, and wiped her down. The details are fuzzy since I was in so much pain and on so many medications (epidural, pitocin, IV antibiotics) but I think what happened is that they let me hold her and then when I was delivering the placenta they took her back and cleaned and weighed her, and I don’t think that I was able to nurse her until after all of this.
When I finally did nurse her she nursed for two hours, and latched beautifully by herself. She knew how to nurse even if I had no clue what I was doing. Our attendants had wonderful nursing advice, for which I am very thankful. One of them showed me how to use my nipple to open her mouth and that she would then latch on well.
I worried, and still worry, that our delay in beginning breastfeeding after birth means that we missed out on those early bonding moments. It sounds silly, we have an amazing relationship, I care for her day and night and find so much joy in doing so and love her so much… but still I fear that our relationship and her trust in me may have been impacted by that delay.
The days following in the hospital she was a wonderful eater and we had few problems. The nurses were wonderfully supportive and never once offered me formula or asked about supplementing. They taught me new tips and tricks – each had her own ones, and she and I learned together how to navigate the physics of positioning, latching, and eating. She wanted to sleep through the night, at least four hours at times, but the nurses forced me to wake her up every three hours and try to feed her so that she would be sure to gain back her birth weight quickly. She ate at these times, but often fell asleep at the breast, something she still loves to do today.
I did have one negative experience however. A European nurse who seemed to me a bit harsher than the others, told me that breastfeeding might be difficult for me because I have inverted nipples. Inverted nipples! What were they? Who had heard of such a thing, and CERTAINLY I did not have those. I scoffed in my head, glad that I had yet experienced none of the difficulty she was describing, and ignored her harsh sentiment.
Later, when telling the story to my mother who is also a doctor, she informed me that I did in fact have the dreaded nipple inversion. I had no idea, my whole life, and never cared about it or thought my nipples were any different. I think if I had known ahead of time, I would have worried about breastfeeding more, and perhaps even made it harder for myself, but since I did not know it could cause problems I carried on like any other woman would and we had no issues to this day.
Another service the hospital provided was a meeting with the lactation consultant. By the time I met with this amazing woman, I had no questions or issues and I was afraid we would have little to talk about. The consultant was a beautiful and kind woman from Africa, her name was Zee, and instead of pestering me about latching and inverted nipples, she chatted and laughed with me and my family and helped us to choose a name for our daughter. We were pretty sure we knew what we were going to name her, but she took our list and looked it over, knocking off every other name and complimenting us on the name we were almost decided on. She shared stories of her daughters, other mothers, and the things to look out for when naming a baby.
We did not talk much about breastfeeding, but if I ever had any question I know that there is a friend to call. My other support came in the form of books that I devoured, kind neighbors and family members encouraging me to continue to breastfeed, my wonderful, wonderful partner who has never once complained that he cannot give our daughter a bottle, and the communities of mommies on the internet who I chat with about breastfeeding.
My daughter is nearly 8 weeks old and she is still nursing strong. I hope to let her nurse as long as she needs to, like her father’s mother did. It seems to me to be the most kind and gentle way. My daughter has never had pumped milk or formula, we are doing something called “ecological nursing” where I feed her from my breasts, on demand, the most natural way that I know how and I believe the way God intended, at least for us. I bear no grudge against women who pump or use formula, they must do what is best for them, but this is what is good for us, and I am so thankful for the gift of breastfeeding.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 1 with all the carnival links.)
- If You’re Worried About Your Kid Seeing Me Breastfeeding, You’re Doing It Wrong — Dionna at Code Name: Mama is living the breastfeeding-as-a-cultural-norm dream. She has first-hand experience that kids, teens & adults who see breastfeeding accept breastfeeding.
- Supporting Breastfeeding Online — Wendy at Breastfeeding Utah reaches out to birth and breastfeeding support professionals who are interested in knowing more about supporting their clients online.
- Breast Friends — Mama Bree, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center, shares a baby’s journey to blissful breastfeeding with a little help.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Online Breastfeeding Support — Other than buying and reading up on books, Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy finds that it is useful to read up on other mums’ breastfeeding experiences and how they deal with their obstacles.
- It Takes a Village… — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am talks about the support she got from her family, especially from her own mom, who is a lactation consultant.
- Community Support — Ashley at ModerationMama tells about her supportive community surrounding her breastfeeding journey, and she talks about the importance of the breastfeeding class she took while still pregnant.
- Finding a Nanny to Be Part of My Village — Before returning to work, Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen, posting at Natural Parents Network, needed to find a trusted caregiver for her daughter. Someone who supported her parenting goals and was ready to become part of a family.
- A Nursey Love Letter — When asked about her nursing support group, KassK of Get Born Tribe surprised herself with the answer: her husband!
- We are mammals. — To be a mammal . . . what does that mean? Practicing Mammal educates us.
- Building a Solid Foundation for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey — Tia at Tia’s Sweeps Go ‘Round shares how she built a strong support network to help her successfully breastfeed her newborn daughter.
- Stubbornness and Support: My Breastfeeding Journey — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her breastfeeding journey, from unhelpful nurses to a gentle guide, and her sheer stubbornness.
- Looking online for breastfeeding support — The author at “Just” A Mom has found many ways to use the internet to support her mothering and breastfeeding journey, and she has learned how to keep her online experiences positive.
- The Village that didn’t feed — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life explains how our communities influence our choices. She explains how she came to breastfeed and how it was taken away.
- Nursing By Example — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births decided to nurse through a pregnancy and to try tandem nursing thanks to the support from her La Leche League leader and another mother in her community. Read about the resources that were helpful and the lessons she learned on her journey into tandem nursing.
- A Burden Shared: How my IBCLC Lightened my Load — My IBCLC rocks!! smscott at In All Things…One Step at a Time‘s journey would not be possible without a huge contribution of time and energy from her IBCLC. Her difficult times were measured in weeks and months instead of moments.
- Fathers Need Breastfeeding Support Too — Destany at They Are All of Me recalls that the biggest detriment to her breastfeeding success was her husband’s strong disapproval.
- Breastfeeding Support Over the Years — Valerie at Momma in Progress discusses the range of support she received over her seven-year breastfeeding journey.
- Uncharted Territory: Breastfeeding — Michelle at Oh, The Simple Joys describes her change of heart regarding breastfeeding and the kind souls who helped along the way. From thinking formula was the norm to extended ecological breastfeeding, this is her story. Her story also includes breastfeeding after a hospital birth, dealing with inverted nipples, and the lactation consultant who helped to name her daughter.
- Online Breastfeeding Support: Finding Success, Acceptance and Friendships — Author and CLEC Lara Audelo of Virtual Breastfeeding Culture shares how online breastfeeding support changed her entire life, and why so many mothers are drawn to it, rely upon it, and place such value on their virtual mother-to-mother connections.
- Staying Connected—Online Breastfeeding Support for AD Military Moms — Breastfeeding in Combat Boots shares how important online support is to the success of breastfeeding for mothers serving in the military.
- Breastfeeding and Community — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work discusses ways in which community affects breastfeeding dyads and makes suggestions for accepting and supporting nursing as normal and necessary.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Community Support — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has been breastfeeding NON-STOP since 4th March 2009, the day her first child Benjamin was born. Jenny shares who has been in her community of breastfeeding supporters.
- Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing — Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, tells how she ended up donating breastmilk and wet nursing several babies. She shares the benefits from both a recipient and a donor.