Friday, March 14, 2014

Breastfeeding is hard. And wonderful. And hard.

I made a promise to my son when he was born: I promised that I would breastfeed him for a year. It was one of the hardest promises I've ever kept.

But I am so glad that I did it.

Before I made that promise, I read up on breastfeeding, I asked mommy friends about it and I had lengthy discussions with my husband to see how he felt about it (he was all for it). When my son was born, I had him latched correctly and feeding before the lactation consultant even visited me.
Background image by Shawn Campbell

And then it got hard. It got hard because everything I had read focused on the benefits for the baby and the bonding experience. There was no real-world truth that I would soon feel tethered to the baby (milk-truck mommy) or that cluster feeding would wipe me out or that I would have to figure out how to center myself at work to get my milk to flow before pumping.

But, I still did it, because even if it turns out that breastfeeding benefits were drastically overstated as we learned earlier this week, I know that there were still plenty of benefits (even if most of them were just for me):
  • Quiet bonding time with my son. No one can take away the memories of having him snuggled up close to me in the middle of the night.
  • The ability to allow my body to provide for my son (because that is what I was built for).
  • Teaching my son my face, voice and smile - holding him so close meant that he was able to look at me up close, so he had plenty of time to memorize my face first.
  • An excuse to stay in my loose comfy clothes. If you have to pop a boob out, you need to have easy access to them.
I can see why people could get carried away with the benefits of breastfeeding - because the women who do it and stick with it really deserve a cheerleading section some days. There are the days when your breasts hurt or you don't have any time or the nights when you don't think you can get by on such little sleep again. Sometimes it really helps to learn that the benefits of what you are doing far outweigh the alternative. Otherwise, a lot of us might have given up.

But, since all the benefits we previously read about aren't as accurate as we thought, to all those breastfeeding sisters of mine, let me just say it now. You are doing an amazing thing for your child and creating a truly special bond between the two of you. Keep it up, Mom. But, when you don't want to do it anymore, go ahead and stop. Breastfeeding shouldn't produce resentment, just love. (And, of course, milk.)

Not to get too personal here, but did you breastfeed your child? Did you do it because you wanted to or because you felt pressured from all the benefits you read beforehand? Tell me in the comments.

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