I'm starting this post after a longggg drought... honestly I kind of spread myself pretty thin this past month. I was finally able to allocate some time to myself to sit here and to write but sometimes I find myself thinking something but unable to find the words of what it is that I want to say. I posted about having writer's block on my Facebook. A long time friend of mine suggested that I write about breastfeeding in public. I'm gonna broaden that up and do an update on my breastfeeding experience.
Baby A and I are almost 15 months into this breastfeeding journey. I went from being very shaky (literally) and unsure of my ability to provide nourishment for my son to becoming a resource and a support to my friends, family, and even complete strangers. It's no secret that I support and encourage breastfeeding. I am very open about that. I have thoroughly enjoyed our breastfeeding experience through the ups and the downs. Some things have changed, but some things are still the same. I haven't purchased a new bra in a while because even at 15 months in, I still have leaks. Y'all know I'm a teacher... there's been times when I start leaking at work, in class, in front of a class of 6th graders (yes, awkward). I have lost count on the number of times someone has walked in on me pumping. There's been times when I'm out and about and I start leaking. I can be feeding Baby A from one breast, and be leaking from the other.
It was a pretty tough beginning. Baby A is my first child. I never breastfed before. I wasn't close to anyone who did breastfeed for an extended amount of time. However, I knew prior to giving birth that I wanted to breastfeed. You may recall from my 6th month update that I had two breastfeeding goals:
- Exclusively breastfeed for 6 months
- Breastfeed Baby A for a year
Here we are almost 15 months later and we have accomplished both of our goals. I don't think I've ever been more determined about something in my life. If you know me then you know that I do not play when it comes to what Baby A consumes or really anything concerning Baby A.
This caused some difficulties for me. Baby A and I were, and for the most part still are, attached at the hip. In the first six months of his life he literally went almost everywhere with me. I even took him to tailgate for homecoming. It was easier when he was smaller. He weighed less, was easier to carry (and in turn, easier to feed), didn't move much while feeding, and he even would let me feed him under a cover.
I returned back to work when he was about 4 months old. It was super hard for me to be apart from him. When I started back working, I had no milk stash. I literally had maybe about 2-3 work days worth of milk. This caused me so much stress. You literally don't know stress until you have a breastfed baby and you feel as if you're not producing what you need to for the baby to maintain and to be satisfied. This caused me to be envious and desperate. I googled everything. I read the websites. I read the blogs. I changed the parts to my pump frequently. I had a hands-free pump bra. I took Fenugreek, ate lactation cookies, drank tea, ate lots of oatmeal salmon and spinach. I did everything they told me to do and I still NEVER had a real milk stash. I never understood why I couldn't do what they did. I'm not gonna lie...every milk stash I saw diminished my hope of making it to my goals. I literally hate milk stashes now. They are super misleading. Yes they are helpful to have but do not beat yourself up about it if you do not have one. Don't stress yourself out if you don't have on. Don't depend on "boosters" to try to make one (I'll explain this more later). You can and you will produce enough milk for your child.
But back to the feelings about Baby A and I... At the same time, I needed to be apart from him. We were attached all the time. I recall being out and about and having him get hungry only to realize that I wasn't in a breastfeeding friendly shirt or dress...because that's important. You need to have easy access. I'm going to be honest... there were times when I was frustrated about being attached all the time. Like all moms, I need(ed) a break. I need(ed) a breather. I need(ed) to sleep through the night without interruptions (this never happens by the way...just a dream). I didn't take many personal breaks (no baby no work) because like I said before, I didn't have a milk stash or much of a surplus to supply my baby while I went out and still have enough for work the next day or so. I also didn't like going out much because I knew that meant that I needed to have milk on hand for him. Let me tell you, someone who has never breastfed will not understand how to bottle feed your child your breastmilk. You definitely have to explain it to them. I would even go as far as to recommend that you pre-make your bottles for them. Seriously... do this and save yourself the emotions that you may experience when you find out they gave your baby, for example, 10 oz of milk during about 4 hours of being away. You're not gonna be happy about that. It's not their fault though... they aren't informed.
It wasn't until he was older that I began to be more comfortable being apart from him mostly because he was then eating more than just breastmilk. Also my family and friends began to understand the reasoning behind my breastmilk madness and are now almost pros at watching him and pacing his milk feedings. This alleviated a lot of my concerns.
But new ones arose as they always do. As I surpassed the only peers I knew that breastfed, I needed guidance. I joined online Facebook groups, Le Leche League, Black Mother's Breastfeed, Breastfeeding USA, etc. I turned to these women who I actually didn't know for education, support, and guidance. I learned a lot! Remember the boosters I mentioned in the beginning? There was a time where I would consume them and really think that they were helping me. I had no idea if they really were and I was often disappointed on days when I really needed a surplus of milk and they didn't do it for me. It wasn't until I was on a Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Moms Facebook post that I learned that boosters don't work and can actually have adverse effects. I was introduced to mothers who have been breastfeeding for years...literally. These women had the information that I needed. Not all of it was beneficial but I definitely learned a lot and this helped me to be proactive rather than reactive to a lot of changes that Baby A and I experienced during our journey.
As Baby A grew older, so did his curiosity. He was no longer only entertained by mommy's breast and milk. He was more alert and this caused him to be less focused on breastfeeding. Yes he still latches and feeds, but now he frequently stops at the drop of a dime, the sound of a bird, or pretty much anything. He's been around 20 lbs pretty much since around 6-7 months. That's a lot to carry while breastfeeding. I began to babywear more in public in order to accommodate his mobile feedings because he was pretty heavy in a cross-cradle carry while walking through a grocery store or mall. He always wants to be in the mix... he doesn't let me use a cover anymore. He pulls that thing down. Any attempt at me covering while feeding is straight up shut down. He signs for milk. He will pull on my shirt (or your shirt because he might think you have milk too). He will literally pull my breast out and feed whenever and wherever he wants. And I am completely okay with that. With time, I have become so comfortable with breastfeeding him that it's pretty much second nature. I don't care about people looking or saying things to me. Baby A is my son and I am a provider of nutrients for him. If you don't like it literally gtfo... you don't have to look our way. He still has to eat. Adopting this attitude has been very empowering for me. If he needs it, I provide it and that's the end of the story. There's no debating it. Not with you, his dad (not that he doesn't approve), family, friends, strangers, etc. I do this for him and will continue to until he's ready to wean.
Walk away from this article knowing that if you or a friend ever decided to breastfeed... I'm here for support, advice, tips, whatever you need.