Let’s sing it together (think Rent’s Seasons of Love)… Two hundred sixty four thousand four hundred minutes. This is the time I’ve spent breastfeeding.
Okay, so the number is a guesstimate and may be hard to understand so to further break it down: I’ve spent 2 years and 5 months breastfeeding my 2 children over the past 4 years, for a total of around 4,408 hours of having another human attached to me (and this does not include the 18+ months of being pregnant). So I’m going to go ahead and give myself a high five while realizing the CRAZY amount of time I’ve given to these amazing little humans of mine. They’re worth it, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
A Rough Start
There was never a question for me as to whether or not I would breastfeed, I just really hoped my body would allow for it. The good news is that my body did allow for it, but my experience with each of my children has been quite different. My breastfeeding journey with my daughter was tough. I was under-producing milk, had frequent plugged ducts and a few bouts of mastitis. Each week I was pumping just barely enough milk for the days that she was with my parents.
There were so many tears, so many teas and cookies and supplements, but with her, none of that changed my production. Many days I fought through those tears, I never gave up and somehow barely had to supplement. We made it just 2 days shy of 15 months when my body told us our journey was over.
The days following were filled with more tears, but as the days turned to weeks, the stress and sadness went away and I was welcomed with a sense of bodily freedom that I hadn’t felt for 2 years.
The Experience Was Totally Different
When I was pregnant with my son, I had a lot of fear about what his breastfeeding journey would be like. It caused me a lot of unnecessary stress. We can’t predict what will come and it’s easy to have fear from past experiences that caused us trauma. I suggest trying to allow each experience to unfold naturally without creating any expectations or watching out for disappointments. I was so wrong about my second round with breastfeeding.
My breastfeeding journey with my son has been a breeze. I have always produced enough milk–maybe I’m still not a super producer–but I can usually keep a few weeks stash in the freezer. I also haven’t experienced plugged ducts or mastitis. Our only downfall is that, in the wake of Covid, we started being together all day every day and I stopped pumping. Now after 4 months of getting his milk straight from the tap, he has a tough time taking a bottle. It could partly be because it’s cow’s milk in the bottle or because the bottle isn’t me, but as we transition him into daycare this fall, I may have to blow the dust off my pump to see if it makes a difference.
My son is 16 months old with a mouth full of teeth and he’s old enough and smart enough that when he wants milk, he lifts up my shirt. We have no timeline for stopping and unless something major happens, like those teeth starting to get a little too chomp happy, we’ll continue to let nature lead us down this breastfeeding path.
Speaking of nature, I can’t write about breastfeeding and not touch on the fact that it is still incredibly frowned upon in this country. There is nothing more natural than a mother feeding her baby so why should any woman feel insecure about doing it? When I was a new mom, I definitely felt the need to cover my daughter while feeding her and on a few occasions when I didn’t, I received disapproving looks. I understand we all have discomforts and I’ve never been one to fully expose myself, but I’ve also never found myself in a place where I didn’t think it was okay to breastfeed (i.e. restaurant, church, park… ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE).
I’ve become a better advocate of breastfeeding since having my son because I won’t allow anyone to make me feel bad for the amazing ways my body is showing up for him (and let’s be honest, he hates being covered).
Breastfeeding is hard and messy and beautiful; it calls for a lot of time and patience. The photos in this post do not represent what a typical day of a breastfeeding mother looks like, however, these photos were taken as a way for me to celebrate all my body has done and all it continues to do.
The photo I wish I had was the time my husband and I were making a long car trip with our children–2 hours down, 1 hour to go–and our son woke up and started crying. We didn’t have any pumped milk in bottles and our daughter was still sleeping so we didn’t want to stop and risk her waking. To get our son to stop crying, I crawled in the back of our car, propped myself over my son’s carseat, whipped out my boob and breastfed him while going 70 mph down the freeway. Was it safe? Uh, not really. But did it do the trick?You bet and it’s been added to my list of super powers!
I’ve never frowned upon a woman who bottle fed, whether by choice or nature, so shouldn’t it be the same for breastfeeding women? Reminder, a fed baby is a happy baby. Let’s sing it out now (think These Boots Are Made for Walking)… These boobs are made for feeding and that’s just what they’ll do, let’s hope the milk just doesn’t leak all over you.