This week is World Breastfeeding Week and a quick stomp around the internet will show you news about “Latch On NYC,” a myriad of Mother’s tales of breastfeeding woes, 100 ways breastfeeding is great, and (of course) nursing bra sales. I’ve shied away from blogging about the topic because my husband and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the importance. As quick as he was to support cloth diapering because that’s how he was raised, he’s also holding onto his lingering support of formula because he “turned out fine.” It’s not my intention to share this to bad-mouth my husband, but rather to let other mothers who may encounter the same resistance know that they are not alone. If you’d rather read about David Beckham literally supporting VB while breastfeeding, I would encourage you to do that here. The story (and image) got me through many wee hours.
I imagine that my DH loves breasts just as much as the average man, but he cannot wrap his head around the value of their intended purpose. Unfortunately for my cause, the nurses at the hospital chose to immediately offer my daughter a bottle due to her early delivery. It’s questionable whether this was necessary, and it is absolutely the route cause of many of my early difficulties with nursing and post-partum recovery. However, my husband relished the opportunity to feed our daughter her bottles in the early days since I was often hooked up to a breast pump. Who was I to take that bonding experience away from them? When we got home, my days were ruled by the cycle of nursing, pumping, feeding Hannah a bottle of formula, feeding Hannah expressed milk, and then the general newborn care. It was insanity and I can understand now why my husband pleaded with me to just give her the bottle time and again. Throughout the months I nursed, I spewed off La Leche League facts by the dozens and reminded him how quickly I lost the baby weight, but he countered all of them with support of the powdered alternative. The same man who glared at me each time I asked for a glass of water while stationed in my nursing chair, handwashed bottle after bottle so that I’d never be able to complain that I didn’t have a clean set.
It took over a month to begin exclusively breastfeeding Hannah, and then several more months to find “our groove.” Almost as quickly as I joined a support group and began to really enjoy nursing Hannah and feeling its benefits, I got pregnant again and everything changed. The physical demands of both babies resulted in me being constantly tired and hungry. It didn’t help that Hannah wasn’t sleeping through the night either. When I began to notice weight loss towards the end of my first trimester I started to wean her. Let me tell you, that pro-bottle husband of mine was the first person to run to the grocery store to buy formula, but the last person to hold our squirming, howling daughter as she fought the transition to a new meal. In general, weaning was awful. Although I did get my energy back, my breasts hurt to the point that I could barely lift Hannah for the first week after her last meal. On top of that, I felt guilty about weaning and I was no longer getting the reassuring oxytocin high from my body that I apparently really needed. Plus, Hannah didn’t sleep through the night any easier in the long run. I finally understood PPD and learned that many Moms experience similar symptoms when they wean even if it didn’t affect them post partum. Shortly after all this, the breastfeeding cover on the Times rocked the world and I immediately sided with the AP parents. Had I known earlier what I know now, I would have tried everything imaginable to continue nursing Hannah through this pregnancy and into the next years.
If you’re lucky enough to have a husband that pampers you while nursing, offers continuous support through the nighttime feedings, and rubs your back to ease the pain in the early days, I salute you. But if you don’t, you can still find success in nursing. Seek out a nursing mothers group or hang out at the Mother’s Room in Toys R Us or Nordstrom until another woman arrives with her baby so you can talk to someone else. Just being in the presence of others who share their bodies with their babies can be a true comfort. Most importantly, as Mothers, we should never judge others for the way they choose to nourish their children. The people who breastfeed for 3 days deserve just as much respect as those who breastfeed for 3 years and everything in between. By supporting one another, we’ll make a more welcoming environment for nursing.