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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breastfeeding is a process not a plan (My BF Journey)

In the beginning of my baby journey I decided I was going to breastfeed my child. I know it is absolutely the best option nutritionally I could give my unborn baby. I had no plan for duration, only that I would try my very best to make it to 6 months and that if I was ever bitten I was done. I was naive.

Breastfeeding is a process not a plan. You can't map it out before hand. You can't listen to your friend's and family's experiences as a "How To" manual. There are no two mothers or two babies that are alike and therefore nobody can tell you what it will be like to nurse your baby.

I started off on a mission but quickly wanted to give up and run away after a couple weeks. We actually were lucky, my boy latched well and he fed easily. I had pain and discomfort very quickly on though and no idea why. Breastfeeding isn't supposed to hurt. I pressed on, trying everything I could think of until at 2 months old we finally learned he had thrush. No wonder it was so awful! We treated the thrush and the pain ceased.

At about 4 months I went through another "I'm not gonna make it" phase and wanted to quit. I wasn't in pain anymore and everything was essentially going well but I was just tired of it. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and the energy it takes to feed a baby several times a day and night. I had little birdies telling me I wasn't making enough milk to fill him up and that's why he wasn't sleeping. I felt like I was broken again and sought support in making a decision to quit. Instead I found support to continue, and that's what we did.

At 6 months I was excited and ready to be done. I had drawn the line in the sand two months before, telling myself that was it, I only had so long to go and then I'd be DONE. I could move on. I could be ME again. Then all hell broke loose when we tried to offer formula. I never imagined he would refuse it. It wasn't in the plan for him to go on hunger strikes and scream for hours on end because he hated what I was trying to give him. I tried every idea in the book to get him to take a bottle again, or a sippy cup or anything other than my boob.

He wanted nothing to do with any of it. My husband never wanted to use formula anyways so he was no help although he did try, his attitude was clear to our son. So again, I gave in and continued on.

I feel like I went through the stages of grief at each phase of this journey. I was angry and resentful that nothing was going my way especially at the 6 month mark. I had told myself for so long that was the end of the line and I had looked at it like a light at the end of the tunnel. I started to fall into depression a few times but thankfully was able to see it and deal with it before it got too severe.

Then something changed. I started watching my boy as he grows and learns and I realized that I did that. I gave him the nourishment he needed to thrive. By some miracle of nature it's my body and only my body that can make the milk that is exactly right for him and because of that his body continues to grow. The miracle that is the human brain is developing and learning and turning him into the little man that I love SO much. I became proud of my accomplishment. And that pride somehow turned into acceptance.

Everybody always says it gets better, and if you are struggling with it when you hear those words you probably want to slap the person saying them. I know I did. But it's TRUE. If you can push on and persevere through the hard times it really does get better.

Early on I wouldn't spend much time watching my son nurse, but now when I see his eyes looking up at me, my heart melts just a little.

Breastfeeding is a process, it doesn't just 'work' so if it isn't working for you, seek out support. Friends, LLL groups, websites, or blogs. Even Twitter has been an enormous help to me. If you feel so inclined look me up @Cbearsmamma or leave me a comment. :o)
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