I’m in the midst of breastfeeding my third child. Looking back over the years and months, breastfeeding has been full of highs and lows. I know many mamas can relate.
Sometimes it feels perfectly natural. Without much planning or prepping, all the pieces fit together and it all just works. Other times, it requires educating, learning, curveballs, support, trial and error.
Sometimes it goes smoothly. Baby’s latch is seamless, milk is flowing and so is the oxytocin. We can sit and relax in the moment and drink each other in. It’s as I always hoped.
Other times, it is serious work. I wince in pain from a tight latch or new teeth. Sometimes baby seems frustrated or distracted or unsatisfied for some unknown reason. Maybe all of this is happening at the same time. It’s harder than I ever imagined.
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Some days, breastfeeding is a welcome reprieve. It’s a break from the business of life to just sit and relax and only do one thing. I look forward to it even between feedings.
Other days, it is another thing to get done. I’m surrounded by responsibilities and I put off sitting to feed the baby too long. When I do make the time, I want to rush my little nursling through a nursing session so I can get back to the grind.
Sometimes it’s reliable. Every time baby asks, the milk is there. But without warning, maybe after a diet change or a good workout or an unusually long night of sleep, the supply doesn’t match the demand.
In some seasons, breastfeeding is painless. No pinching, pulling, bleeding or soreness. Other seasons are plagued by cracks or clogged ducts or infection. Thankfully, the latter seasons haven’t lingered.
Breastfeeding can be discreet. Like a secret between the two of us, inside my sling or with a light pulled close, simple and quiet. Other times, it’s a spectacle complete with a baby gymnast tumbling around my lap, unwilling to submit to any kind of cover.
Sometimes I just want to nurse where I am, without feeling uncomfortable. I want to be able to sit in a busy restaurant and still be included in the conversation if my baby needs to eat. Other times, I just wish for a quiet, private place where we could nurse in peace without distraction or scrutiny.
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Breastfeeding can bond mama friends a lot of the time. We can relate to the struggles and elation, the goals and the hurdles. We can sit together, nursing our babies in community. Other times, breastfeeding feels isolating. It can be hard to find a friend who can relate or who can listen and care without judgment, even if they don’t share the same goals or experience.
Sometimes it is super convenient. Right temp, readily available, no equipment required. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to make ready. Pumps, shields, a wardrobe change and a willing caregiver to offer milk in my place.
Other times, baby is asking at the least convenient time. Maybe I’m needing to answer the door, cook and clean for company or help another older child in the bathroom. (The real test is trying to hold and nurse a baby while taking a toddler to a barely sanitary public restaurant and attempting to keep anyone from touch anything. Or so I’ve heard.)
Breastfeeding is a challenge and a privilege.
It’s give and take. Some days I am saddened at the idea that this chapter of my life will come to an end. Other days, the thoughts of eventually wearing a shirt with no milk leaks and being able to complete a task unattached to a nursling are comforting.
Yes, there are hills and valleys and each one is a teacher. I’m thankful to walk through each one.