I have been breastfeeding Ellis for 14 months now. Its been a beautiful journey! We still enjoy snuggling up together to breastfeed morning, afternoon, and night. And honestly, I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon.
From the very beginning of my pregnancy I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. My mom had breastfed me and my four siblings and other women in my immediate family had done the same. It was familiar to me and I knew I had a good support team of other mamas surrounding me.
Liquid Gold — The First Drops of Colostrum
I started producing colostrum the day before I entered my third trimester. It took me by surprise! But I was so grateful that my body had already started producing food for my son.
I wondered if I would have a good milk supply since I started producing colostrum so early, but I tried not to place any expectations on myself and my body. I had started reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding per my midwife’s suggestion, so I felt like I knew a decent amount about breastfeeding. Still, I don’t think a book fully prepared me for just what to expect.
The First Latch
I gave birth in the comfort of my own bedroom and was blessed to have skin-to-skin for the first few hours with Ellis before his newborn exam.
Sadly, I don’t clearly remember the first time Ellis latched on. I know it was within the first couple of hours after he was born, but that’s about all I can recollect. Both my midwife and doula helped me with getting Ellis to latch and showing me which positions I could try for nursing.
The next day when my midwife came back to do our 24 hour check, she asked how many times Ellis had eaten the day before. I don’t remember the number of times he fed, but I remember my midwife encouraging me to try and get him to eat more often. I felt so guilty when I heard her say that — I was worried that I was failing my baby and not feeding him enough.
The Early Weeks
Right from the start, Ellis was a cluster feeder and loved to be held. And I chose to feed him on demand — no measuring or fretting about the time on the clock. When he was hungry, I nursed him. When he needed to be consoled, I nursed him. When he just wanted to be held close, I nursed him.
This worked really well for us and I enjoyed it. The thought of measuring and feeding on a scheduled time stressed me out. It was much more convenient for me to just nurse him whenever he wanted and not worry about pumping or feeding him at a specific time.
That’s not to say that breastfeeding was a breeze.
The first few weeks were actually pretty uncomfortable and painful for me. My nipples were so raw and sore that it hurt when Ellis latched on. And since he was feeding so often, I felt like I never got a break to let my nipples heal. Both my midwife and my mom tried to help me work on getting Ellis to latch properly, but it just took us awhile to find our rhythm.
I was a little discouraged at first because the books I had read about breastfeeding basically said that if it hurt you were doing it wrong or baby wasn’t latching properly. But honestly, I just think my body needed time to get used to this new uncharted territory. I was hopeful after talking to my mom about it and seeing a few posts on social media where other mamas said to just give it a few months.
For me quitting wasn’t an option. Yes it was a bit painful those first few weeks, but I knew that there was a light at the end of that tunnel. And sure enough, around the 3 month mark breastfeeding became a lot easier and more enjoyable for the both of us. And at that point I was so grateful that I had pushed through and stuck with it.
Long Days and Late Nights
I think the hardest part of breastfeeding for me has been being needed so much. For the first couple months, I felt like I lived on the couch in the living room nursing Ellis and holding him while he napped. I watched so much Netflix that I became sick of looking at the TV.
The late night feedings were especially lonely for me. Even with Brendan asleep in bed right beside me, there was nothing to keep me company besides silly puzzle games on my phone and the low hum of the radio in the background. I would try telling myself that I would miss these moments with my baby once he was grown, but that brought me little to no comfort. All I wanted was somebody there with me, somebody to talk to.
Those lonely nights broke me. I would hold Ellis close and sob from shear exhaustion. There were times when I really thought I couldn’t carry on feeling the way I did (this was because of postpartum depression and anxiety, not just breastfeeding. But that’s a story for another time). But in those weary times, God was there with me and I grew closer to Him than I had in years.
While those nights were extremely difficult for me physically and emotionally, we eventually found our rhythm. And then I learned to nurse Ellis while lying down (game changer) and we all got a little bit more sleep at night. Those first few months were challenging, but we made it and I absolutely love breastfeeding now.
Breastfeeding for us has changed quite a bit over the past several months. What started out as being a time to cuddle close and nourish Ellis with my milk, has turned into times of playful giggles and acrobatics while he nurses. Even though Ellis still nurses throughout the day and nurses to fall asleep just about every night, its nice to have shorter feedings and longer stretches of time between feedings.
Now that I have been nursing Ellis for 14 months, I can say that all of the time, effort, and tears have been a million times worth it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and I am so grateful that I have been able to nourish my baby this way.
However, I understand that breastfeeding is difficult for many women. Mamas, I want you to know that no matter what your journey looks like, you are not alone and you are no less of a mother for feeding your baby differently than I have done with my baby.
Support is one of the most helpful things we can give breastfeeding mamas! So if you have friends, family, or know of new mamas in your community that are starting out on their breastfeeding journey, reach out to them and offer them your love, support, and encouragement.
I will touch on breastfeeding tips, advice, and resources in another post soon. But for now I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite breastfeeding photos from the past year!