I can remember the first time I breastfed my oldest child almost 15 years ago. Unlike many, breastfeeding was the norm in my family so it wasn’t really a big decision for me. After seeing it done so often, I fully expected it to be natural and easy. I didn’t get what I expected.
The lactation consultant came into my hospital room shortly after birth to help me through feeding my baby for the first time. I was almost annoyed by the fact that she was there. “My body was made for this,” I thought. “What do I need her for?” Then I started breastfeeding my child.
It hurt! The consultant came over and adjusted my daughter’s bottom lip and told me that I need make sure my baby’s bottom lip is out. That will help her latch better. It still hurt! She told me that it would get better.
It did get better, kind of. But before it got better it got much worse. After the engorgement that made me feel like someone had stuffed my breasts full of bricks, I endured my baby’s weird latch, weeks of cracked, bloody nipples, lots of tears, restless nights and a battle with mastitis.
By the time the two of us finally got into the swing of things, I was working and commuting back and forth from school which made feedings hard and pumping often impossible. Right around three months I switched her entirely to formula.
So with my second baby, I knew what to expect and was prepared. When I put my son to my breast for the first time, I winced in preparation for the pain. But the pain didn’t come.
At home I had stocked up on heating pads for the engorgement and nipple creams for the cracking and bleeding that I never used because the pain didn’t come. Breastfeeding my son ended up being an uneventful experience.
It wasn’t the painful one that I had prepared for, nor was it the magical that I heard so much about. It was just feeding my baby, and I was okay with that.
Soon, I will give birth to my third child and I plan to breastfeed this one as well, but one thing I’ve learned from the previous two is that when it comes to breastfeeding, and everything else involved with parenting for that matter, the best way to prepare is to ready yourself to be surprised.
You may read other women’s experiences and determine from those what you are supposed to feel. Some women will tell you about what’s natural, and the experience that you are supposed to have.
But much like pregnancy and childbirth, your breastfeeding experience is just that: yours.
It’s okay if it makes you feel like Superwoman. It’s okay if it makes you feel like a cow. It’s okay to love it. It’s even okay to hate it. I’ve learned not to count myself a failure for my feelings. I now understand breastfeeding for what it is: one of the first unique experiences you will have along this motherhood journey, and there will be countless more along your path. So, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of breastfeeding. I will remember them all!
Aja Dorsey Jackson is a freelance business writer in Baltimore, Maryland and author of the blog and book, Making Love in the Microwave. She is a wife and mother of two, ages 5 and 14, whom she breastfed for a combined 10 months, and will welcome her third child (Note: She since had her third child since submitting her blog post! Congrats! Visit her website at Making Love in the Microwave and follow her on Facebook ,Twitter and Pinterest.
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