As I prepared myself for Lily’s arrival, I knew I wanted exclusive breastfeeding. Come hell or high water, that was my mission. I didn’t have a specific why. It was just how it was going to be. So when we went to a breastfeeding class and she asked “why are you choosing to breastfeed?”
My answer was short and simple: I just knew that’s what I wanted.
But when Lily came, it was not at all like I imagined it. This so-called natural thing was not natural at all. Her latch was weak and my pain was sky-high. It was not a match made in heaven. It was torture for the both of us. I walked out of the hospital uncertain and defeated. Everyone had told me to try a different position, hold her head a different way, do this, don’t do that.
I was lost.
The next few weeks were rough. Cracked, bleeding nipples followed toe-curling (literally) feeding sessions. I cried over and over again, not knowing how I would keep this up for another day, week, or even a month. I was a failure. I was doing everything wrong and she was going to pay the price for it.
My poor husband. I know those days were tough on Lily and me, but I also know he had to helplessly watch my constant struggle.
I don’t know when or how it happened, but one day, it didn’t hurt anymore. One day she latched on like she was a pro and there was no pain. Nothing but a simple feeding session that left us both content. I must have been so caught up in my misery that I didn’t see it happening. I didn’t see the transformation that was very literally happening just right under my nose. But it was magnificent.
Our feeding sessions quickly became one of my favorite moments every day.
She’d hold my thumb and stare up at me while I’d lose myself in her eyes. (Although now she’s turning over a new leaf where kicking and looking at anything but me is more exhilarating, but she still eats well.) And the pain is still non-existent. We bond every feed and I’m quickly forgetting the days where bliss was not a word I would associate with feeding.
I wish someone would have told me that it got easier. Or that it was truly not natural for every woman. Or that some babies just take a little time to get into their groove. Or that I just needed to find what worked for me – not what worked for every nurse.
But I’m here, 160 days later. A little over five months. And I feel lucky, but mostly proud to say one thing:
She has exclusively breastfed her entire life.
She never eats from a bottle. And she never has formula.
I have no qualms with bottles or formula or families that choose these paths whether they have to or out of convenience. But for me, exclusive breastfeeding is an accomplishment. A huge accomplishment.
I could only dream of being able to do this until she was six months when she was six days old. Between the pain and (what I believed to be) impracticality of this, it was just a pie in the sky dream. It was too good to ever be true.
I lose sleep. We skip events. She feeds in places and positions that are sometimes less than ideal. We lose time. I work weird hours. But for every single thing we’ve “missed out on” or lost, I gain so much more.
I am so proud of what I’m doing. I’m so grateful that I pushed through. Because these moments where I’m her only source of sustenance are all too quickly disappearing. It won’t be long before we start baby led weaning and these days will be a thing of the past. And I know I will find myself missing even the most painful of feeds.