Some days you feel empowered, valuable, and unstoppable. Other days you feel defeated, frustrated, and worn out. These are the natural ebbs and flows of breastfeeding. At least for me it was. Go ahead and take a seat while I take you on my breastfeeding journey.
If you read my blog To The NICU And Beyond, you know that my breastfeeding journey did not start out the way I had planned or hoped it would. If you have not read it, you should. It gives context to why I am the type of Mama Bear that I am. Anywho, long story short, my son’s health prohibited him from being able to eat when he was born. So my breastfeeding journey actually started off as a cow milking journey. Oops! I meant to say a breast pumping journey. It was difficult for me to accept and embrace this little detour because I had been so ready and excited about nursing my son and being his source of nourishment. Nevertheless, I did what I needed to do in order to get my supply up and running. And once he was able to eat, I was ready for him! Or so I thought…
I was NOT ready!!! Ok, let me not skip steps. Everything started off amazing. My baby boy latched on with absolutely no problems on the first try. We were moving and grooving, and this Mommi was feeling super empowered! But when Third was unable to eat again, I went back to pumping and my boobs slowly began to fall apart. I’ll save the details for a little later, but know that your girl was ready to remove her boobs and have them surgically attached to my husband so that he could be responsible for nursing our son. I had been through enough. The least HE could do was take over from here, right? Well…that was not an option, and I had to make a decision. Either I was going to quit and get off this train before it even got going or suck it up and push through.
While crying and complaining to my husband about the difficulties that came with nursing, he said something to me that he says often. “Coatneys don’t quit!” In my head, I was thinking, “Well technically I’m only a Coatney by marriage sooooo…I can still quit if I want to, right???” But I kept my internal thoughts internal and continued on with the conversation. My husband was right though. Some mommies actually HAVE to stop breastfeeding because they encounter real stumbling blocks like my sis Latrese shared in her latest blog. However, that was not my story so I could not quit on my son. I wanted to breastfeed him for his benefit, not my own. No, it was not the most convenient decision for me to make, but it was the best decision I could have ever made for my son.
Just like most things in life, breastfeeding comes with both pros and cons. Everyone’s journey, feelings, and opinions are different so I did not attempt to create an all-inclusive list here. These are just things that I personally felt were pros and cons for me and my son.
My number one reason for breastfeeding my son was the fact that there are many health benefits that come along with being a breastfed baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases and conditions in the baby. Children who are breastfed are also sick less often.
There are also a variety of health benefits for the breastfeeding mommi. Did you know that breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer? It also helps the uterus shrink back down more rapidly. My personal favorite of all of the benefits is the fact that I was able to lose all of the extra baby weight quickly. Call me vain or whatever, I do not care. Show me a mom who has no desire to get her pre-baby body back and I will show you a liar.
Another great benefit of breastfeeding that I experienced and am still experiencing is the bond that has been created between me and my baby boy. There is absolutely no feeling that compares to the feeling I had when my son would look up into my eyes while nursing. If I could have made time stand still the first time that happened, I would have. I would sit there, holding my baby in my arms knowing that he’s depending on me to provide nourishment for him. I would think about how big and strong he would become as a result of the milk that my body created. Sometimes it brought me to tears, and I would gaze into his eyes and tell him how much I love him. I knew that he would soon understand that he was loved and protected.
I won’t spend much time on this point because it’s plain and simple. Those who know me know that I am as frugal as they come. THIS benefit right here is probably my REAL favorite of them all. The milk…is FREE! IT’S FREE Y’ALL! You mean to tell me that I can give my baby milk that is super-duper good for his little body, and I don’t have to spend a dime??? Sign me UP, Honey!
When I mentioned earlier that my boobs began to fall apart, I almost wished they would have so that I could have hung an “Out of Order” sign on them bad boys. My poor boobs had been pulled and tugged on by this machine (the pump, not the baby) so much that my nipples eventually formed scabs. The scabs then led to some of the worst pain I’d ever experienced. It would feel like someone was sticking needles into my nipples whenever my boobs would go on high beam. It brought me to tears!
The “let-down” let ME down! Let-down is the release of milk from your breast. This is triggered most commonly when the baby’s sucking stimulates nerves in your breasts. However, it also happens at random. I can’t tell you how many times I was in the middle of a conversation with friends and had to stop mid-sentence to grit my teeth. It happened so often that one of my close male friends would say, “Milk coming in?” I would just respond with a simple, “Yep!”
Another source of pain was a breast infection that almost took me out. Breast infections are of the devil, and one could sneak up on you before you know it if you’re not careful. When I started experiencing the symptoms of a breast infection (flu-like symptoms are part of that), I immediately went online to figure out what I could do to combat it. I found an article with tips on what to do, and I was actually able to bounce back before it got bad. The number one tip that I will give to avoid a breast infection is to keep your boobs empty. Stay on top of nursing and pumping on time by any means necessary!
As a working mommi, one of the biggest struggles was becoming comfortable with pumping at work. I had my own separate office, but I was always nervous that someone would walk in on me. And it happened. I locked my door and placed a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it before pumping. Yet and still someone knocked. I ignored them…so they used their key and came on in. It was the male janitor coming to get my trash. The trash can wait, man!!! I was covered and hiding behind my desk so he had no idea I was pumping. But I knew, and I was extremely uncomfortable.
The second incident was different. This lady didn’t walk in on me, but she too ignored my sign and knocked on my door. I responded with “I’m busy” in attempts to avoid another awkward situation. She then proceeded to inform me of a parent who wanted to meet with me. I felt like I had to violate my own privacy and tell her that I was pumping. Guess what? She couldn’t understand me, and I had to repeat myself. I eventually yelled, “I’M PUMPING GIRL! GIVE ME TEN MINUTES!” She apologized, and ten minutes later she passed by and knocked on the door again. Y’all…I wanted to cuss so bad. But I didn’t. I just ignored it and finished what I was doing.
This morning, a coworker sent me a screenshot of a new Texas law that will be in effect as of September 1, 2019. While there has been a law in effect allowing breastfeeding anywhere, it never specified pumping. That is all about to change. I don’t know about other states, but in Texas, women will have the right to pump breastmilk wherever they want. So if your employer does not have a designated area where you can pump, let them know that you CAN and WILL pull them jugs out in the middle of a business meeting and there will be NOTHING they can do about it! See how fast they create a space then.
One small drawback to breastfeeding for me was being unable to enjoy a nice adult beverage whenever I wanted to. GASP!!! LADY GRACE DRINKS??? Yes I do and so do you so get over it. Moving right along. Can you drink if you are breastfeeding? Of course, the safest option is to not drink at all. However, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one drink a day is not known to be harmful to the baby. Personally, one drink a day sounds scary, but that’s just me. I only drank occasionally, and I made sure hours passed before I nursed my son again.
One of my friends actually bought me a kit that I used to test my breastmilk for traces of alcohol. She knows I enjoy a nice daiquiri every now and then! If there was alcohol present (which only happened twice), I would thaw a bag of frozen milk and bottle feed the baby. Every other time, my one drink and 3+ hour wait did the trick. So yes, you can drink while nursing, BUT it requires planning and preparation. It took a lot of work and planning on my part because I can be so absent-minded sometimes.
As I was writing this, I realized that all of the cons pertained to me. There were absolutely no cons in my personal breastfeeding journey that pertained to my baby. I guess this is why I chose to stick it out and not quit. In the grand scheme of things, the cons really don’t matter when the child is reaping all of the benefits. I can honestly say that breastfeeding was the best decision I could have made for my son. As difficult as it was at times, I would not change a thing. Breastfeeding…a true a labor of love.
To all of my former or current breastfeeding mommies out there. Would you consider it to be a labor of love? Has your journey consisted of more labor or more love? I want to know about your experiences. Drop me a line or two in the comment section below, and I’ll be sure to respond.
You Are Amazing,