First off, let's just say it. Fed is best. Breast milk, supplementation, a combination of both. It's all good because feeding hungry babies is best and this site provides amazing resources about that. Head there to learn more because that's the last you'll hear about that from me today.
Second, this isn't an argument against National Breastfeeding Awareness Month (NBAM) either because I actually find it frustratingly relevant and important to continue to normalize breastfeeding because it seems that some folks still haven't gotten the memo that human breasts can serve a biological function.
Sure the Pope gets it, but just a few days ago this museum ended up issuing an (appropriate and lovely) apology after asking a mom to cover up. And they're not the only ones violating the spirit of state (Michigan, for example) and/or federal laws by asking people to cover up while nursing.
I, myself, have been asked to cover up a couple times. Once in a hotel lobby in the middle of the night while waiting for the hotel to find our reservation. And once at a children's museum. So, we can keep doing better. And I hope that with increased awareness and a giant dose of compassion all around, we will.
But there's a special reason I'm telling you that I'm not nursing my baby this year during NBAM. Simply put, it's because this is the first time since 2011 that I can say that!
I have been using my body to grow a human, nurse a human, or to do both at the same time for the past 6 years and 4 months. And now I'm doing none of those things. And I don't have plans to do any of them ever again.
The impact of this truth is big and maybe a little heavy for me but also incredibly freeing and full of wonder! Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.
I'll start with some of the highlights from my breastfeeding journey as well as some of the stumbling blocks I encountered.
Here I am (or at least here part of me is) nursing my first born at the Grand Canyon (2011)
I nursed while cycling and wearing gigantic sunglasses (2013)
I even tandem nursed! (2012-2016)
Of course it wasn't always a breeze. But eventually I was able to nurse through plugged ducts and mastitis like a pro (though how I was able to smile here with a fever, chills, and three small children to care for is beyond me). (2011-2015)
I also remember back to day 3 of my very first nursing experience with my first-born. My nipples were cracking and deeply, painfully bruised. And every time he latched, it felt like electricity was shooting down my arms to my fingertips. It was like nails on a chalkboard. Except that the chalkboard was made of my nipples. I mean, it was bad.
And to make matters worse, I had not tempered my expectations nor had I done more than take a childbirth class. Instead of asking lots of people about what to do, really listening when people told me cautionary tales, etc, I chose to bet all my chips on the idea that "this is normal and natural, it will be normal and natural for me". And then I lost that bet. At least temporarily.
Thankfully, I very quickly sought the help of a lactation consultant in my area. Then my milk supply came in which helped a little. And then I surrendered to my (shocking and super self-judged) need for a nipple shield. And yet, despite the intensity of that situation, my little family and support team banded together and worked through it so my baby and I could establish a much healthier nursing relationship, which is what I wanted. And, whew! talk about gratitude!
Sidenote (continued): If you or someone you know experiences pain in breastfeeding, learn about your options at FedIsBest.org, KellyMom.com, or your own favorite resources. And, by all means, reach out to a lactation specialist if at all possible...they can help! And if they don't, it's okay to move on and keep looking for the one who will. Everybody (and every body) has different needs.
Ultimately, my wish for you is that you will be able to create the space and grace within yourself and your parent-child relationship to learn what each of you needs and then honor that. Stay strong, keep an open mind, and be persistent until you find the resources and solutions that are perfectly suited to you!
Because, guess what, it's true what they say: The days are long but the years are short.
And before you know it, if you're like me, you will wake up one day and nurse your baby for the last time without even knowing it's the last time.
And maybe, also like me, this will happen because you are honoring your inner wisdom in order to meet your own needs and those of your little one, too.
It certainly surprised me when the time came; I'd expected to nurse for another 6 months at least. But it came and I listened and now here we are.
No drama, no tragedy, but an ending all the same.
But also a beginning.
Please stay tuned for my next blog post to learn how I "knew", what I lost in the process, what I gained, and what this means for me now that I am no longer nursing my baby.
And, of course, happy National Breastfeeding Awareness Month to those of you who are not nursing and those of you who are. May each of you be blessed and loved, most of all by your own self.
Krista Cain is a childbirth educator, a doula, a wife, a mother, and much more.