And why we feel we cannot celebrate this accomplishment
I have always been a “fed is best” type of mother. Motherhood is hard for every woman so we should be encouraging and congratulating each other whenever possible. Nevertheless, especially in some internet communities, a woman celebrating her breastfeeding journey can be misconstrued as being “holier than thou”. When in reality, all she wants to do is express her happiness at succeeding at something that is very tough.
I am writing this article to congratulate the women who were able to breastfeed. When talking to other mothers who have nursed their babies, they have felt that they were not able to vocalize their pride in doing so. This is because they were met with defensive statements from some women who were not able to breastfeed. I have even heard of people saying that any mammal can lactate so we shouldn’t be proud of nursing our babies! We want to celebrate our achievement, and we do not do this to make our counterparts feel inadequate. We breastfeeding mothers think mothers who use formula are amazing but we want to toot our own horn too!
I have many friends and family who formula-fed their infants and they have never made me feel this way. I would sometimes notice a longing to be able to do it, or a grimace at how painful it looked. However, I was lucky to be surrounded by strong women who were proud of their own journey in motherhood. They inspired me to keep going and I am forever thankful to them for that.
We should all be proud of what we do as mothers. However, in this piece, I am going to explain the sacrifices nursing mothers have made and why we should be proud of them. I am going to praise us who breastfed our babies, without apology and humility!
I was very lucky to be able to breastfeed my daughter for eleven months. I say lucky, but it wasn’t just luck, it was perseverance. I worked hard every day to make sure I “got it right” in the early weeks of Willow’s life. You have to hold the baby a certain way, make sure their latch is correct, and worry about whether or not they are gaining weight. Since we cannot gauge the amount of milk they are consuming, there is no way to know if your baby is gaining until you weigh them. We feed our babies frequently to make sure they are on the right track. If only breasts were transparent!
We are the women at the party that sit in the corner to feed our babies. Some of us even leave the room to breastfeed. Many women are comfortable nursing in public and I think that’s beautiful. I was never able to do it for some reason. Many times I have felt isolated at family get-togethers because I had to nurse Willow frequently, and nurse in private. However, that alone time does make for some pretty amazing moments!
Breastfeeding mothers also have to give up consuming alcohol and other items that may pass through the breastmilk. In one of my previous articles, “Mothering While Having Post-partum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”, I discussed my mental health issues after Willow’s birth. I asked to be medicated, however, my family doctor would not allow me to take anti-depressants because I was nursing. He gave me the option to stop nursing and take the meds, or continue breastfeeding and not be medicated. I chose to keep nursing Willow until she self-weaned. I was able to handle it, but it wasn’t easy. However, If my condition had been very severe, I would’ve stopped if required. Many women are not able to breastfeed because of medication they have to be on, or they go without to nurse. It is a difficult choice and every mother has their own path.
There are many foods that we cannot consume while nursing. Coffee is limited to a cup a day, fish, chocolate, garlic, and any gassy foods. We can tell by our infant’s reaction when something doesn’t agree with them. Usually, this means giving that food up, but it’s only temporary.
Growth spurts! As all mothers know, in the first two years, there is a lot of growth spurts. For a nursing mother, this can mean nursing every hour! Breastmilk is thinner than other types of milk so the baby needs frequent feeds to keep their little bodies healthy and growing. Growth spurts can last anywhere from twenty-four to seventy-two hours. The more a baby nurses, the more milk a mother produces. Therefore, after a growth spurt, we can get blocked ducts in our nipples, which can be painful and even lead to a hospital visit. We all deserve a medal for surviving those days!
There is something unusual that happens when we breastfeed. Some of us do not want to be touched by anyone after nursing. I didn’t want my beloved dog near me, or even my husband to touch me too much. After doing some research online, I discovered this is an actual phenomenon called “touched out”. It is due to hormones and also the need to have our bodies be constantly available for nursing. There is a level of guilt associated with this feeling. The only word I can use to describe this feeling is: creepy. Sometimes, Willow would latch on and my skin would crawl or I would feel like I was going to be sick. Sometimes, my body didn’t feel like it was mine anymore.
Now, what happens when you stop nursing or your baby self-weans? The hormones are overwhelming. The emotional fall-out is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I was irrationally worried about not being close to my daughter anymore. I missed it so much! My hormones were out of wack, my hair was dry, brittle, and falling out. I felt totally depleted of energy. I thought I would be happy about having my body back but all I wanted was one last session. After a couple of weeks, I felt better. I was also so happy to see my husband and step-daughter having fun feeding her!
I hope every mother feels proud of the sacrifices they have made. We all give our 100 percent to our children daily. Every individual mother has moments of pride, and rightfully so. We should ALL be able to celebrate them without being made to feel that we are alienating anyone. When we express our happiness in being able to nurse, it is not an insult towards the women who can not nurse. We had to give up a lot to breastfeed our children and that deserves praise.
Remember, “Her success is not your failure”- Unknown author