I did not expect it to hurt so much in the beginning. Really. I think I cried. It’s amazing how much pregnancy has made me cry. I’ve worked hard in my adult life not to be a crier and here I am crying at the drop of a hat or a pacifier might be more appropriate to say on some nights. But then, breast feeding was important to me and I was not giving up on the health of my daughter because of a little pain. (Side note. I did make it through delivery without tears, screams, profanity, or painkillers/epidural) Lanolin helped while breast feeding. A lot. Ladies if you’re new to nursing invest in lanolin, seriously. Husbands, remember this item and buy it for your nursing wives. Now, my little one can tug, scratch, pinch, and or pull directly on my nipple and I barely raise an eyebrow. Par for the course.
I did not expect it to take so much time. At first more than 50 % of my waking day (let’s be real, it’s all waking and no sleeping in the beginning) was spent breast feeding. She ate every two hours and sometimes took up to an hour to wake up enough to eat. Looking back now it doesn’t seem so bad but that’s the beauty of time, it dulls the exhaustion and frustration and leaves you with the sense of accomplishment over tackling such a feat. After my maternity leave was over, a couple hours a day was spent pumping. It takes twice as long to pump as much as she needs in one feeding. A nursing baby is much more efficient than a breast pump. Which leads me to another thing I did not expect.
I never knew growing up what a breast pump was. That was not in my realm of experiences as my mother was a stay at home mom. So breast pumps. I did not expect breast pumps. But. I’ve learned. You know how in life you can get by with the off brand of cereal, or skip the name brand clothes to save a few dollars? Don’t do that with this. You want to invest in a quality breast pump. It saves you time, frustration, personal doubt and feelings of inadequacy, tears (again) and stress to have a good breast pump. Using a pump you’re at a disadvantage already because a baby is way more efficient at expressing your milk, so it pays to get a quality pump. A double pump I should add, especially if you’re a working mom. I mentioned stress; stress is the anti milk producer. It may sound impossible but you need to do everything possible to eliminate stress for the benefit of increasing your milk supply.
Even with all the time it’s taken, when I’m done feeding her in the morning, when all is quiet before everyone else is up and before bed when I’m exhausted from the day, still, all I want to do is hold her and gaze into her angelic face a little bit longer.
I did not expect the custodian to walk in on me at work. I felt so violated and stripped of my privacy. Use a do not disturb sign. Locking your door is not enough. Have a conversation with staff at work. Make sure your privacy is respected and maintained.
I did not expect to feel pride. I felt a definite sense of accomplishment at pumping enough milk for the next day. Knowing that even though it was difficult, I made it work, brought a deep sense of pride. Being a mom that provides food feels good.
I did not expect to be thirsty. When I first started nursing I was shocked at how thirsty I was as soon as she latched and started to drink. It’s weird, but I NEED a drink of water with me every time I nurse. The body’s a cool thing. It knows what you need and produces cravings accordingly. Listen to your body.
I certainly did not expect to become attached to it, to depend on it, to fear its end and burst out in tears that maybe my baby doesn’t “need” me anymore. Don’t laugh. I know it’s stupid, but I really feel that way. My husband asked as we talk about weaning, “who are we really weaning here?” He, also being he wonderful man that he is, told me in the most gentle voice that I should take as long as I need and he will support me in whatever I want to do.
Flashing forward to a few months later, I’m surprised at how relatively smooth weaning has gone. I did not expect this transition to go well. I expected to be an emotional wreck. Again. It wasn’t as emotionally traumatizing after the initial decision was made and the leap was taken. The first let go was when I stopped pumping at work. We substituted a bottle for those feedings. It felt like a personal failure but I pushed through those feelings because it was a conscious decision I made, not my body saying it couldn’t keep up. Then, I knew she was ready when she became easily distracted and fussy during feedings. We cut out one feeding at home at a time and now we’re down to mornings only. I expect those to fade away soon as well. It’s been a natural progression and I still find the snuggle time I was worried I would lose.
If you are breast feeding or preparing to start, take advantage of the numerous support systems out there. There are many websites and forums to garner information. Two I found really helpful were Babycenter and the La Leche League. Of course fellow moms locally are good for support and helpful tips. I was also told at the hospital that when I left I could call the maternity ward back any time to talk to a nursing specialist. I did once and they were pretty helpful. You are not alone. Don’t forget this. On the other side of support comes knowing what advice to take and what not. Do not feel pressured to stop nursing for any reason other than you and you alone truly feel it is best for your baby. You are the best judge. Do not let anyone tell you different.
Its a special time and now it’s passing, but in the craziness of baby land there is little time to mourn its loss. Instead, I look forward to new adventures and mishaps yet to come. Besides, watching her eat big girl food is way more fun!