In my quieter, child-free days I had spent some blissful time meditating on the words of Rumi… “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.”
Ahhh… beautiful, pensive, and shockingly apt parenting advice. Unbeknownst to me at the time, for every decision I now consider as a mama there are a thousands ways to progress forward. A thousand valid, worthwhile, and favorable paths to the end destination
There is no one right way to raise a child. And for any one decision we may backtrack, or u-turn, or take a fork, or even cut our own path.
Because for every mother who decides to breastfeed, there is an entirely different breastfeeding story, we continue sharing the experiences of some of our fabulous (outspoken) mama friends.
And for good measure I thought I’d share part of my story as well.
My Story- Nursing in Public
Thank you to Jessica from Bumps to Babies for the lovely photo of Baby N
I always knew I would be a breastfeeding mama. I’ve got enough hippie in me to have never questioned this decision, but I also had enough novice mama in me to have never really considered what being an exclusive breastfeeder means socially. Bottom line? It means nursing in public.
To be perfectly honest, in my eighteenth month of breastfeeding I had even forgotten what it felt like to be consciously aware that I nurse in public until it was brought to my attention in a very tender way by another mother this weekend.
Sunday morning I joined some of our Bump Club mamas for a fitness class at lululemon and Baby N joined me as is our custom on Sunday mornings since that’s when Daddy takes his long runs. As an attachment parent, most of my friends and acquaintances have met me with Baby N either on my hip, at my breast, or running through my legs so most people simply see her as an extension on my presence.
Because N is always with me, it is second nature for me to nurse if needed during a workout while doing squats or in downward dog. It isn’t something I think about. It isn’t something that most people who are around N and I frequently think about.
As class wrapped up and I chatted with some new guests, one of the ladies I had just met told me how cool she thought it was that I was still breastfeeding upon request from my toddler outside of the home. She said it wasn’t something people frequently see demonstrated in an intuitive and natural way.
For the first time in a long time, this made me cognizant of my public breastfeeding relationship with my little girl. Not in a bad way; in a way that brought to mind what it had taken to get to the point that I was unconsciously conscious of my nursing in public.
The early days of exclusive breastfeeding can be bumpy as you learn to navigate a brand new skill- one that you will very soon undertake with expert level execution and very little thought or effort, yet seems so daunting during it’s short sharp learning curve.
You are balancing a baby, trying to accomplish small tasks here and there, recalling which side you nursed on last, and- if you’re lucky- squeezing in a bathroom trip at least once a day when you can set the baby down or pass her off to a second set of hands momentarily. And then one day you wake up and you are nursing while folding and sorting clothes and chatting with your mother to tell her about your most recent diaper saga- You are a pro! (You can even manage a bathroom trip WHILE nursing!)
And then you leave the house… and you have to figure out the nursing cover while you revert back to bumbling over doing multiple things while feeding our child. Everything seems so clumsy and foreign the first time you leave your comfort zone, but- just like at home- you quickly adapt and master the challenge.
I quickly learned that Baby N HATED nursing covers with a passion and fury I thought only existed in soccer hooligans when their club is beaten by a rival. Because of our nursing cover avoidance, I’ve been scowled at and clucked at by the disapproving… and lauded by supporters. I quickly learned that simply not making eye contact goes a long way to communicate your disinterest in public approval ratings for the way you’ve decided to feed your child. And I’m totally not above high-fiving a nursing advocate mid-feeding.
I’ve nursed N on airplanes, in the grocery store, and on the Skydeck of the Willis Tower… and frequently in downward dog.
My dad still leaves the room if I’m nursing, my brother stands with his back to me to create a human shield if he’s around, and my husband adjusts the Ergo hood if we’re in the grocery store to provide a bit more privacy. They do these things not because they are ashamed or embarrassed, but because they want to protect and guard me and the sanctity of the special relationship I share with my growing nursling. They do these things because they are outwardly aware of something that had become second nature to me. They realize the same thing another mama brought to my attention on Sunday; namely, that extended nursing is beautiful, and healthy, and really cool.
And I’m okay sharing that in public.
To read more about what breastfeeding means to me, check out one of my recent blogs.
Jennifer’s Story- Magic Boob Juice
Four months into this whole breastfeeding thing, my husband and I easily joke about all that goes with it. No matter what’s wrong with our son, giving him a little magic boob juice straight from the tap, and all becomes right with his world.
I prefer to feed him with the aid of a My Brest Friend pillow while sitting in bed, but I’m comfortable doing it anywhere–at the dining room table, in the backseat of the car (while parked), on an airplane, at the mall, or even sitting on the toilet with my son strapped into the BabyBjorn. But it was not always that easy. There was definitely no abracadabra, no waving of a wand that made me a pro at dispensing the magic boob juice. It took a lot of work. Especially those first few days.
The very first time I fed my son was immediately after his birth. There I was, lying in a hospital bed, exhausted, legs still in stirrups, a brand new baby placed on my chest for the first time, and the nurse says, “okay, why don’t you try breastfeeding now.”
At that point, I didn’t think at all about the process, proper positioning, or even what it feels like, I just put my son to my breast, he latched, sucked a few times, and then the nurse came back to bring him over to the scale to measure his weight and length.
“Wow! That was a lot easier than I thought it would be,” I thought to myself. But like the rest of what happened during those first few days, I quickly realized how little I really knew.
Breastfeeding soon became a very painful experience. Between my chronic back problems and the sore nipples due to my son not latching well, I began to dread every feeding. And with the dread came guilt, because I desperately wanted to breastfeed my son. I had even gone so far as to get rid of all the free formula samples I had been given because I didn’t want the temptation of formula in my house.
But there I was, not even home from the hospital yet and the pediatrician was suggesting that I might have to give my son formula for a couple days before his first check-up. I was devastated.
Of course the devastation, the guilt, and all the other emotions I was feeling due to the post-pregnancy hormone-palooza just added to the physical stress my body was going through, making it even more difficult to comfortably breastfeed.
It took longer than average for my milk to come in, so as the pediatrician suggested I did need to supplement with formula once I got home. This was a battle in and of itself. My husband tried to reason with me using logic and medical advice. Like that’s gonna work with an emotional and hormonal new mother!
In reality, I was really scared to start using formula. I was afraid that giving my son a bottle would make it harder for me to breastfeed. Both physically and mentally. That if we started using formula, even just a little bit, that due to ease it would become our default method of feeding. And I feared that giving him a bottle too soon would lead to the dreaded nipple confusion.
But less than 24 hours after leaving the hospital, when my son’s cries of hunger became far louder than my tears of worry, my husband gave my son his first bottle of formula. Though even my husband being the dispenser of formula didn’t ease my nerves any. If anything it made me feel even worse, thinking that I wasn’t able to provide properly for my son.
Four months later and my milk supply still isn’t great, no matter how much I did it, pumping just didn’t work for me. All it produced was more sore nipples, not more milk. So I’m still supplementing with about four ounces of formula per day.
I estimate that my son eats about 80-90% breastmilk and 10-20% formula, but I’ve come to realize that I really have the best of both worlds. I’m able to give my son almost all the nutrition he needs while participating in a bonding experience that no bottle could ever replace. Yet I have the flexibility to give him a bottle of formula when breastfeeding isn’t convenient.
Yes, being able to breastfeed him while sitting on the toilet is helpful, but being able to give him a bottle while pushing his stroller through Target is even better.
For the most part, I’ve been able to breastfeed wherever and whenever I need. Or I should say, wherever and whenever my son needs. Sometimes it may not be because he’s hungry, just that he’s in need of the healing powers of the magic boob juice. All the pain and troubles I experienced in learning to breastfeed properly are more than worth it knowing that now, whenever he needs, I can put my son to my breast and make him feel better. Like magic, it takes away my worries too.
Jennifer Rubin is a new mom and recent Austin transplant; she is currently a BCB Super Mom. To read more of Jennifer’s adventures in motherhood, visit her new blog NeuroticMama.
Have you read Nicole and JC or Kristin and Jennifer’s stories? Please take a moment to hear their breastfeeding perspectives.