This post is a part of the Adventures in Breastfeeding Project sharing mother’s unique experiences, successes and struggles with Breastfeeding. This post is by Emily. Here’s what she had to share:
When I think of my breastfeeding journey, my first thought is how lucky I am.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed, so I did. Six months later I tend to remember it as if it was always that easy.
But then I sit down to reflect and I recall that it was never that simple. I probably tend to remember it as being easy because I wasn’t in it alone. My husband had a huge hand in making sure I was successful in breastfeeding our son.
My son Chico is still exclusively breast fed (EBF) six months later. This fills me with great pride because breastfeeding has not always the easiest path to take. It can be utterly exhausting to have a baby completely, 100% dependent on you for survival. This was the toughest thing for me to mentally get used to. I found it difficult to learn how to relax and “just be” while Chico nursed. I sat there looking at the mess that was our house – going over a mental checklist of all the things I saw that needed to be done – if only this baby wasn’t attached to me! This in turn, brought on anxiety… until I learned to “just be.” Once I learned to let things go (the dishes can be put away later, the clothes can be transferred to the dryer when you’re done) breastfeeding became my moment of meditation. It is as calming for me as it is for Chico. Breast feeding grounds me, connects me to my child and slows down my fast paced, anxiety driven mind.
Without the support of my husband Adam, especially those first 6 weeks – I don’t know if my breast feeding journey would have gone as well as it has…
The state of California allows men to take six weeks (paid) “Family Leave” to bond with their newborns. Most men either don’t know about this or just don’t do it for whatever reason. Adam took the maximum amount of time when Chico was born instead of splitting it up. Guys at work gave him a hard time and told him to enjoy his “vacation.” They asked him what the hell he was going to do for six weeks and made comments like, “Must be nice – when I had my kids I went to work the next day.” I imagine a lot of men probably hear similar crap like this, which may account for why more of them aren’t taking the leave that they are entitled to.
His six week leave began the day I had our son.
My labor was quick, easy and all natural– I was in active labor for about three hours, became fully dialated within 12 minutes, pushed for 20 minutes and out came my baby. Breastfeeding was a lot like my labor come to think of it! When the nurse placed Chico on my chest for the first time he rooted around looking to nurse. My doula and nurse both agreed that he was latching well and had a “good tongue.” I had no idea what any of this meant but by the sounds of it I knew I should feel proud.
Less than 24 hours after the two of us arrived, we left the hospital as three. I made sure to see a lactation nurse who agreed that things looked great – and home we went! I scoffed at all the women who warned me how difficult breast feeding was – that it was painful, that their babies couldn’t latch properly, that their milk wouldn’t come in, etc.
I really shouldn’t have scoffed…I should know by now that the moment you do that, reality blows up in your face.
So reality didn’t explode in my face, but my boobs pretty much did.
Four days after I went home my milk came in. And for some reason I had the bright idea to try some Mother’s Milk tea my friend had gifted me…two tea bags worth. And on that fourth night I woke up and felt like I was laying on boulders. I took a hot shower and cried as the water hit my breasts. Milk squirted everywhere. Chico was desperate to eat, but I was so engorged he couldn’t latch on. In his sheer desperation to satiate his hunger he tore my nipples apart. I was raw, red and scabby. When he was finally able to latch on it felt like hot knives. I cried silent tears because I didn’t want to startle him.
I remember my husband looking helplessly at me from the other end of the coach. “Babe what can Ido?”
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I cried, completely sleep deprived and in total pain.
This tiny little person was 100% dependent on me for nourishment, but he was hurting me so much with every gulp. I’m telling you right now that if there would have been formula samples somewhere in this house I might have broken down.
“You can do it babe. I know it hurts but there’s gotta be something we can do.” And with that, he got on the computer and started Googling.
And so he found ointments, strategies to relieve engorgement. He texted our doula for suggestions, he asked our friend who had a baby not long ago if she had any suggestions. And we got through it…together.
The first six weeks Adam spent at home were ndescribable and irreplaceable. I truly believe that he and Chico wouldn’t have the same relationship they do if he hadn’t been there day in and day out like that.
I personally cherish those six weeks for my own reasons. That time wasn’t just baby bonding in my eyes…it was the most supportive and loving time of our marriage.
During those six magical weeks Adam was my #1 cheerleader. He made sure I had food before he did. He retrieved countless glasses of ice water during epic breastfeeding sessions that felt like they were taking place in the Sahara desert. He gave me long hugs and kisses when I would cry for no reason (Baby Blues – it’s real and it sucks). As previously mentioned, he Googled the shit out of everything/anything related to post-partum questions, baby issues, breastfeeding – you name it, he Googled it. He helped to complete those feeding/pooping/peeing logs they ask you to do that first week you are home. He went to the drug store repeatedly for adult diapers during my post-partum recovery (and was excited to show me how “bad ass” the ones he picked out were). He swaddled Chico, burped Chico, “shushed” Chico, changed Chico… you name it, Adam did it. And he did it with pride and love and without complaint –because he wanted to be a father as much as I wanted to be a mother and together we were growing into the kind of parents we wished we had.
I don’t know how successful breastfeeding would have been for me without the support of my husband. Before pregnancy I admit I judged women who stopped breastfeeding. I felt like they probably “gave up” or didn’t try hard enough. But like so many other things you realize once you have a baby – it is not as easy as it sounds.
There are so many challenges. I would get really bad anxiety the first few months when Chico would cry that he was hungry and we were in the middle of Target or the mall because that meant I was going to have to breastfeed in public. Adam would puff out his chest, “Who cares just whip ‘em out babe – If anyone says anything I’ll tell them my son can eat wherever he wants to!”
I wasn’t afraid of anyone saying anything to me – as a woman it’s just hard to get used to your breasts being sexual objects and then suddenly they are feeding vessels and you are supposed to be okay with exposing yourself in the middle of a crowded store. This was not an easy transition for me. It took a good four months before I stopped hiding in corners or using my “nursing birka.”
Thank God my husband had the confidence for me before I had it for myself. It would have been easy to become an “EBF Recluse” who stays at home out of fear her baby will need to feed in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
As Adam says – “Happy Boobs, Happy Baby!” Because if the Mama (owner of said boobs) is fed, happy and tended to, then her baby will have the milk she/he needs to be fed, happy and healthy too!
Happy Nursing Mamas!
Emily blogs about her daily adventures as a wife and mama at http://www.9monthsandbeyond.com. She also takes way too many pictures of her and her husband babywearing Chico on her Instagram – http://instagram.com/anita_kill.