By Marnie Jackson
Breastfeeding may be one of the most beautiful experiences in life. The intimacy, the emotions it can produce, the falling in love with your baby. But it doesn’t always begin that way. Padding down the hall exhausted in the middle of the night toward the sound of your crying baby can make you want to cry. The first three months of having a newborn are hard enough for all of the changes you’ve gone through, and many new moms who were determined to breastfeed will just give up — before the magic moment arrives when your infant, satisfied and thriving, is asleep in your arms, head back, lips slightly open, holding in a burp that will eventually bubble up. That’s when you tenderly kiss the tip of his sweet nose. That moment of pure contentment when you stroke his soft little head and hold his teeny baby hand.
Nurses, doctors and well-intentioned family and friends may inadvertently instill fear in your heart with talk of supplementing just as you’re trying to make breastfeeding work. Unless something’s not working (your baby’s not wetting up to eight diapers a day; not latching on; has a medical issue that prevents him from nursing — in which case “they” will tell you to pump, pump, pump, which for many women can be crazy boring), you should fight to stay the course.
Often first-time moms who say they want to breastfeed hear worst-case scenarios even before they start, undermining their confidence and instilling an “out” even before Baby’s born. I’ve read too many articles about defiant women who gave up on breastfeeding, claiming they couldn’t take it anymore; it was just so easy to start making bottles. I hear about their fatigue, nipple soreness, clogged milk ducts and emotional drain, and I feel bad for them. But I always kind of feel they’re slightly “off.” Breastfeeding is not about you. It’s about the baby. You have to learn how to do it, and you can. Once a baby comes into your life, living is no longer the same, but I think lots of women want it to be and spend a great deal of time griping and fussing trying to get things back to “normal.” Having an infant is the new normal, though. New moms have to crawl at first with breastfeeding, then learn to sit up and walk before they can run. It is a massive exercise in patience.
You’ve already heard about why breastfeeding is best. I just want to tell you why breastfeeding is joy.
Once you get it — middle of the night or otherwise — it becomes second nature. Yes, you may feed your little baby 14 times a day and wonder where your own self goes. Yes, you will feel at times like a sacrificial lamb. But for me, around week four with my infant, after nights and days of different struggles, breastfeeding became a pleasure. It became a gift instead of a sacrifice. Loving work instead of burdensome task. Worth your tears, your complaints and worth everything for that little love who belongs to no one else but you.
Marnie Jackson is a mom of two. She breastfed both of her babies for as long as they wanted to.