It's world breastfeeding week - something I honestly never foresaw marking down on the calendar before life with baby, but it's now such a central part of my everyday, I understand why it deserves a whole week.
I'm not yet ready to get into the public debate about de-sensitizing breastfeeding, but I will say I have a new appreciation for the challenges of breast feeding in public - that being said,I also get that it's a shared space, and you can't make everyone comfortable... Mostly I've just decided to not have a problem with it myself and I'm happy to report that I've had no confrontations with non- supporters to date. It almost makes me wonder if there's anything to be fussing about really, and what it boils down to is, you do your thing and we'll do ours.... Ok I lied, maybe I am ready to get into it publicly...
Here's what I really wanted to say about breastfeeding; it's so hard. It's the hardest thing I've had to deal with since June was born. First of all, it hurts. I had a 1 cm crack on my nipple for 7 weeks- no lie, it JUST went away. I would chew cherry blasters and tears streamed down my face in the first month of her life every time I fed her (the cherry blasters were supposed to be a distraction from the pain). And to be honest, I'm sure that's not even that bad. I've heard complete horror stories from friends and family where it was just absolutely too painful to continue. I get that. I get that toe-curling misery where you think- ok I'm through this feed but I'm going to have to do it again in like 1.5 hours. When will this end!? For the warrior in all mothers who endure this pain for a week, an hour, a day or months, it's absolutely necessary to have a week in honour of this sacrifice we make with our bodies.
It can also be hard for other reasons- not only is it physically exhausting and draining to have that sort of dependence and responsibility, you are constantly aware of what you are putting in your body. I have been anyway. One of the first things they suggest doing to help out babies with reflux is to cut dairy out of your diet. I'm pretty sure before June was born I made a comment about her not being allowed to be lactose intolerant because I love cheese ALMOST as much as I love being a mama. Anyway, what was the first thing to go? Dairy. The next? Caffeine. Quickly followed by chocolate, fried foods, sugar, spicy foods - basically all that is holy and sacred in the foodie world. Sure I'm going to be much healthier but, please. Cheese is like my favourite thing ever - and that list up there ^^^ makes it really hard to find things that are quick and easy to eat on the go.
Aside from the jokes, it's actually a weight that can start to bare on your mind; June's little cries that come out of a dead silent sleep are enough to bring a mother to her knees- and I would do anything to avoid hearing that painful sound. There's a bit of a guilt complex associated with always wondering about your milk and if it's what's making her tummy hurt. And I imagine it's the same thing for women who are struggling with over- under supply; breastfeeding isn't just a magical thing that happens- there's a lot of tweaking that needs to happen to get it right. And when it comes down to it, I'm doing it despite the struggle, because I want to feed June.
And yet, the moment on day three in the hospital; June has jaundice and has been banished to the light therapy tent in her bassinet. I'm instructed to remove her only for feeding, and she screams bloody murder 80% of the rest of the 1.5. Days she's stuck under there. And I'm exhausted and I just want to sleep with her. And a nurse sees what I'm going through and sees that we just want to be together and she plucks June from the incubator, wraps her in a glowing billy blanket, and instructs me to lay on my side. Before I know it were laying together and she's peacefully getting the comfort that she needed. It was a pretty magical moment.
When June was five days old I had a lactation consultant tell me that she had never had a mother tell her after the six week mark that it wasn't worth it. And she was right in my case anyway. By six weeks, despite the nipple crack, we had reached the sweet spot. I've had so many precious moments in the quiet with June, it almost doesn't do them justice to talk about them here. There's a certain feeling of love that can't be replicated outside of this relationship and I'm so happy to have been able to experience this with her.
Note: I understand and respect that not everyone decides to, is able to, or wants to breastfeed. I'm just referencing my own experiences and I completely respect that everyone has their own chosen paths. This isn't to say one is above the other, just that ours has been unique and sacred because it is just that- ours. I hope whatever path you've taken with your children, you feel the same way. <3