I write this with the understanding that not all mothers have chosen to breastfeed and knowing that some mothers tried desperately to do so and just could not make it work. I write it with the understanding that breastfeeding is a daily gift I could never deserve. It has humbled me. Motherhood, in all of its facets, is a sacrifice. These are my reflections on one of many such sacrifices.
I can very clearly remember that first night in the hospital, learning how to nurse my first child. He was what they refer to as a barracuda eater. And he wanted to eat every single hour. I went into breastfeeding as confident as I think I possibly could have. But as they say with so many things in life, nothing could have truly prepared me for nursing a baby. And that’s because you can never predict what nursing that individual baby is going to be like. They are all so different!
I took a really helpful and super informative breastfeeding class before he was born. If I could give a single piece of advice to a mom planning to breastfeed, besides to surround yourself with as many nursing moms as you can, it would be to take a class and then get the phone number of the lactation consultant who teaches it. You will have questions once the baby arrives, I promise.
You’ll also be desperate for encouragement and that’s where the other mommas come in. They want to cheer you on. I guarantee it.
For the first three weeks of breastfeeding that sweet little barracuda, I needed all the encouragement I could get. Besides the fact that he wanted to nurse around the clock (and so sleep was non-existent in our home), his latch was less than great. There were days I’d see spots of blood in his spit up because my nipples were so cracked and raw.
But we kept at it. Learning to breastfeed a first child is the most challenging because you’re both figuring it all out. With the next one(s) you already know, you just have to guide and direct them.
Today, I have the wonderful honor and privilege of nursing our fourth child. If I think about that too much it brings me to tears. I mean, how incredibly humbling. Recently I was thinking about how I have been pregnant or nursing or both for the past 6 years straight. No break. And while at many, many, many times it has been exhausting, oh how it has been immeasurably more rewarding. My children are 4 of the greatest joys in my life and whatever sacrifice they require of me, I’ll give it.
I’ll be honest, it’s not always gladly because motherhood is hard and I am only human. But I’m working on that part, day by day. I want to give with a glad heart.
Ultimately breastfeeding, much like childbirth, is a beautiful and messy picture of sacrifice. We give for our children because it’s what they need, it’s what they require of us and it’s what motherhood is. It can be challenging to be needed so often by so many people, but specifically by that nursing babe who is depending on me for constant nourishment and comfort, day in and day out.
My desire is to breastfeed, and mother, with patience and gentleness and kindness rather than it just being something else I have to do. My desire is for my children to see that I give, that I sacrifice, out of love rather than obligation. Because love sacrifices. That’s what love does. And that’s what mothers do.