Chicago mom: Breastfeeding success comes from willingness to try

We hear it every day: breast is best. We’re told all babies should be breastfed until at least a year old, as the formula samples and coupons pile up on our doorstep.

Resources that helped me:

These resources have been invaluable to me in my
nursing journey:

The Nursing Mother’s Companion
by Kathleen
Huggins – This was my bible through every child. It has information
on anything and everything you could need and walks you through the
first weeks and months with care and information. – Full of tons
of information and links on anything and everything breastfeeding.
Their boards (moderated by lactation consultants) were a lifesaver
when my second was having problems.

A IBCLC – My hospital has them on call and they visit all
new moms. Ask to see yours immediately. They sent me home with
information, the ability to call them and a schedule of regular
meetings and help sessions.

In the eight years since becoming a parent, I have seen every argument, battle and discussion on what, why and how when it comes to breastfeeding. I don’t want to add to the fighting voices. I don’t want to add shame or guilt to anyone’s decision. I just want to tell you what I know. What I feel in my heart.

Every mom should try to breastfeed in the hospital, with the support of lactation and without any interference from formula samples or bottles. I truly believe every mom should try for at least those first few hours while they are surrounded by help. I think the experience of successfully nursing can change someone’s opinion on breastfeeding. I know this to be true because it was for me.

I didn’t want to breastfeed. I was a medical professional and a biology major that knew all the facts and all the benefits, and even then I was still kind of grossed out and not interested in breastfeeding.

When I had my first child I only knew two other mothers. One was the full time-breadwinner with a husband who was a stay-at-home dad. She chose to formula feed from the beginning. The other was an acquaintance who had also just had her first baby. When she visited, she strapped this contraption to her (My Brest Friend) and appeared to have the baby attached the whole visit. I didn’t like either option. My husband was actually the one that encouraged me to try and we agreed I would try for six weeks.

I headed to the hospital with the intent to nurse only for six weeks. A funny thing happened to those plans. Aside from that first night at home that was filled with crying, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it.

Six weeks became six months, seven months, eight months. I nursed my first for 10 months which was when he self-weaned. I generally felt good about our experience, until I started hanging around moms and the internet.

It’s really easy to get hung up on what success is supposed to look like. On what we perceive is the socially acceptable amount of time, or how often, or just about anything. Since I didn’t make it to one year, I kind of felt like I failed.

Here is the thing though, I didn’t fail. My son was alive and thriving.

I’ve had three more children and each brought a different nursing experience.

My second had lots of trouble in the beginning and abruptly stopped as a strike at 11 months. My third refused any and all bottles except for one while I was in surgery when she was six weeks. She got formula in the hospital because of blood sugar issues at birth but exclusively nursed until 16 months. My fourth is still nursing strong at one year. He is the only one that would be a textbook success story. We fell into an easy rhythm, he’s never had formula and never had a bottle. I’ve also never gone this long without a night out. So there is a give and take.

Nursing my children has been one of the hardest and most amazing experiences of motherhood. I have cried more tears over and while breastfeeding then just about anything else. What I have learned is that taking that trial period and setting that small goal is what got me through. A supportive husband and care providers (my hospital has lactation in-room and on-call for new moms) got me through when other family members scoffed or didn’t understand.

I believe I was so successful with my fourth because I simply had the practice, the time to get comfortable and had to deal with just about every complication I could have. With my first, I would go nurse in the bathroom when we were out. By choice.

Flash forward to my fourth and I have nursed while grocery shopping in Target with my toddler, while wearing him and pushing a shopping cart. Confidence comes with practice and you can’t practice if you don’t even start.

I have had some of my lowest low and my highest highs with a baby at the breast and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Each one, as varied as they are, is a success story just as much as the mom who . . .

. . . only breastfeed until her child’s teeth came in.

. . . exclusively breastfeed until age two.

 . . . only nursed in the hospital. . . . nurses at home but gives formula at daycare or when they're out. 

. . . exclusively pumps.

As long as mom and baby are happy, and baby is thriving, they are all successes and we should applaud everyone that tries. We should cheer on all the successes even if it’s not the same definition as our own.

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