You might not want to read any further if you are creeped out by breast feeding...or maybe you should read further...it is up to you...
I always knew that I wanted to give breast feeding a whirl when I had kids, but I thought I would do it for 6 months or so max. For some reason that all changed as soon as I found out I was pregnant with MacKenzie. I wanted to breast feed for as long as we could with my goal being a year. I knew it would be better for her and it would be an incredible way for us to bond. I was scared of it all going wrong though. I hated the idea of being attached to an idea like breast feeding and then failing at it. So I read a lot of different websites and books on the subject and told myself that we were simply going to give it our best effort. I was crushed when they had to take MacKenzie to the NICU right away to get her breathing under control. I was, of course, super thankful that they had her best interests in mind and that they were going to be able to help her, but I wanted to nurse as soon as possible after birth. I had read that it was a great way to get things started off right. Her waiting on nursing was not the end of the world and they soon brought her back to me to give it a try. I cannot tell you what I thought it would feel like, but it wasn't what I thought. The first time or two it didn't hurt (we will get to that later), but it was definitely a new experience. We knew that the first few days were really about trying to nurse as much as possible and we were happy when the pediatrician on staff told us that as long as we were trying to nurse every few hours not to worry if she was sleepy or didn't latch on for long. Heartened by this, we went with the flow, knowing that being relaxed was better for the overall nursing experience. Until "That Nurse" came in... She asked how long we had nursed for and got really mad at us for only nursing a few minutes before MacKenzie fell back asleep. I, being rich with pregnancy hormones and worry about not being a good enough mother, immediately began to cry and bawled that the pediatrician said we were doing fine and not to worry about it. I must have been forceful enough that we were fine because the nurse was really nice and very complimentary the rest of our time there. We went home armed with an assurance from the Lactation consultant on staff that everything looked fine and we just needed more time (practice and experience basically) and that it would all fall into place...just keep nursing.
We took MacKenzie in to the pediatrician that week and they were worried about her jaundice levels (I tried not to freak out and kept telling myself "You are a good mother" repeatedly). They informed us that this was perfectly normal and that the best solution was to nurse as much as we could. Matt and I immediately went home, I settled on the couch with my shirt up, he brought me water and snacks, and we let MacKenzie nurse to her hearts desire. If she so much as made a peep in protest, I offered nursing to her. She frequently fell asleep while nursing for the next few days (as did I), but her jaundice levels were down a few days later. Having not discovered how wonderful a nursing cover was at this point, I struggled to cover up with a blanket when company was over. I was thankful when it was just my mom who came over to visit because I didn't have to worry. Over a year later, I would tell new moms not to stress about covering up in addition to learning about breast feeding, but I am (and was) modest too, so I totally understand!
Weeks later I was still in pain. I wondered if it would ever get better. I cracked and cried and struggled with even showering because of how much pain I was in. I told myself I had to make it to four weeks. If, at the end of four weeks I wanted to give up I could, otherwise I had to keep going another four weeks. In the midst of this we kept nursing. MacKenzie nursed every two to three hours for at least 30 minutes. The couch had a permanent indention where I sat to nurse her. I enjoyed giving her nourishment, but wondered if the pain would ever go away. One day I looked at her tiny little mouth and realized that it was, in fact, a tiny little mouth. Not just a baby mouth, but literally a smaller mouth. The next time I nursed her I held her with one arm and used my free hand to drop her jaw as she rooted to latch on. That one little motion of dropping her jaw for her made all the difference. Within a day, my pain was gone and I felt great about breast feeding. Until Thanksgiving that is...
My bout with Mastitis was one of the worst sicknesses I have ever had. This is the only time in my life that I felt like I wanted to die. I thought I was dying. I couldn't stop shaking, I was freezing cold even with three or four blankets in a warm house, I couldn't keep my eyes open, I merely wanted to pass out and for it all to end. Through this...we kept nursing. I knew from reading that the best thing to do was to keep nursing, so we did. Poor MacKenzie didn't cause my infection, I couldn't punish her! Within two doses of antibiotics I began to feel alive again. The next day I felt like I was a whole new person. Mastitis was the worst...nursing her is so worth it though.
Going back to work presented a whole different set of challenges. I had to pump before leaving for work and twice at work. One of those times I knew I could use my classroom, the other time presented a challenge. I asked about gaining access to my room during an off period (I had someone who "floated" into my room). The administrator tried to find a way to switch it around, but was unable to, she sweetly and naively asked if I could use a faculty restroom...silly woman was obviously unaware of how much work and how disgusting that sounded every day. I ended up using a side room (and sometimes the supply closet) in the nurses office. It was a lot of work going down there and pumping, washing the parts, storing the milk, pumping again during lunch (with students knocking on my door), washing again, storing again... but it was worth it. MacKenzie might not have me during the day, but I could at least give her that. It was never an option for me to stop...I knew it was something I had to do. It was tiring, but I didn't become a mother so that I could rest. By the end of the school year I had a deep freeze full of milk and happily donated 450+ ounces of milk to the Mother's Milk Bank in Austin.
I was surprised when my cycle returned while I was breast feeding. I was less surprised when we found out we were expecting another baby despite MacKenzie's nursing schedule. I knew (and hoped) it was possible and that it would happen. I knew that my Doctor would want me to wean, but she merely wanted us to be working on weaning and would like us to be done by 20 weeks. That was right around MacKenzie's birthday so I was fine with that, plus (even with donating 450+ oz) I had plenty of frozen milk for Mac. I was dismayed when I began contracting pretty hard during MacKenzie's nursing sessions. I wanted to wean on a less aggressive schedule, but Baby Trike needed me to stop sooner. We weaned her to once in the am and at night, then dropped the am, then two weeks before her birthday dropped the night nursing. I was a bit sad that I didn't officially make it to one year, but I did the best I could.
The purpose of this post was to write a lot about how difficult nursing could be...but despite it all...we kept doing it. Despite these difficulties, it was absolutely, 100%, in all ways worth it. When she would snuggle up to me while nursing and slowly stroke her tiny hand across my chest or would reach out to touch my hair or face, I knew that I was a happy Mommy doing the best for my kid. When she would be so happy that she would start signing to herself as she nursed or when she would grin mid way through nursing...I knew that this was right. I hope any Mommy out there that reads this gets encouragement for nursing. I know that there are circumstances that feel overwhelming and that sometimes you can't control, but before you give up...just keep nursing and see what happens...
A few websites:
One of our first nursing sessions, one of our last nursing sessions, and taking the milk away!