It’s National Breastfeeding Month and this year is bittersweet for me.
I began breastfeeding my first child 7 years ago. Three children and 66 months of successful breastfeeding later, I am approaching the close of one of the most significant chapters of my life.
I had never considered the possibility of feeding my babies any other way. Breastfeeding seemed so perfectly natural, convenient and simple. My perception of “simple” and “natural” was quickly challenged though, as breastfeeing didn’t come easily for me. Without the support of my nurses, lactation specialists and my mom, I don’t think I would have had the strength or courage to keep pushing forward. The first few weeks involved breast shields, a hospital grade pump, a syringe and some serious nipple balm and gel pads. All modesty went out the window as I felt more like an animal than the neat and tidy 20-something who entered the hospital days before.
Breastfeeding baby # 2 was a dream after dealing with an attached frenulum that interfered with his latch and suck. Once again, an experienced lactation specialist at the hospital helped me identify the issue and soon we were on our way to successful breastfeeding.
Third time was a charm and my baby girl just turned 2. I have been dreading the day she would be done breastfeeding since she was born. There is part of me that refused to let go of the idea she would be our last baby because it was too painful to think about this part of my life being over. And I have been grieving.
Breastfeeding is like magic. Fussy, scared, stressed, anxious, sick, sleepy, hurt…? How about a snuggle and breastmilk? Voila! It worked for both of us. I attribute breastfeeding to helping me cope with PPD and PPA. It was a time out. A sweet reprieve.
Ok, so let’s be real here too. Sometimes, by the end of the day, the last thing I want is to have my nipple pulled and stretched by an active toddler while my hair is pulled and little fingers are stuck up my nose and in my mouth. It’s not all warm and fuzzy.
But even on those really hard days, when I stop to look into the eyes of my precious child gazing up at me and see her break into a brief smile when our eyes meet, and then quickly latch on again, my heart melts in my chest and I don’t mind so much that her scratchy little nails are digging into my side.
We are down to nursing at night and first thing in the morning. We have daily conversations about mommy’s milk going away and her growing up. I’m not sure how much longer this will go on. I guess we will work it out together.
My body has amazed me. Through all of it - three healthy pregnancies, natural child-birth and extended breastfeeding. My body has changed a lot through the years. Nothing is as tight, perky or youthful. But my body has done the miraculous. I wouldn’t trade any of the scars, sleepless nights, sacrifices or the memories for anything. The only things I’ll be trading in over the next few months are my trusty old nursing bras.
*photo courtesy of www.inherimagephoto.com
Heather Hamilton is wife, mother of 3 and founder of Zoe Organics, a lifestyle brand that creates beautifully handcrafted, organic home and body care products for the conscious family. Although Heather has always been passionate about health and wellness, motherhood was a big turning point in her life; causing her to make more educated choices with regard to the health and well-being of her own family. She lives in the northern California countryside and in addition to running her business and caring for her family, she enjoys cooking, gardening, yoga and running.