I want to talk about breastfeeding. About the way I’ve been feeding my baby for eleven months (tomorrow). Please realize, dear mamas, that I’m sharing my story. There’s no sense of should or shouldn’t; it’s simply what is. What’s happened and what’s happening. Your story is no less beautiful and heartfelt, though the details vary.
I think we often do what we see and what we’ve known. My mom had me naturally, with no drugs and barely even a midwife in the room (though, I think she came right at the end of labor, just to make sure she could honestly send a bill). My mom rebelled against her mom in so many ways, really, but one of them took the form of breastfeeding me–along with most of my siblings. My sister, however, was formula fed, as she was adopted. Formula is a gift in so many situations. My mom loved her and fed her and that’s a powerful story.
Mostly what I’ve known and seen is breastfeeding. So for me, it was a natural next step to having a baby. Having read that it can be hard to do, I found a class nearby and convinced TJ to take it with me. We looked at slides of babies nursing and saw lots and lots of boobs. The woman who taught it was a kind, elderly lady with grey hair that fit her head like a helmet. She didn’t look like she’d nursed anyone for a very long time, but what do I know.
“If breastfeeding hurts at all, you’re doing it wrong,” she told the class.
Fast forward to tiny Charlee with a latch like a Hoover. To me, curling my toes in searing pain as she sucked what felt like more than I could give right out of me. And there’s TJ, gently reminding me that if it hurts, I’m doing it wrong.
“Well then I’d like you to offer your nipples to this tiny piranha we brought into the world. Let her at them for hours at a time. Don’t even bother wearing a shirt–with her appetite, you really don’t need it–and then tell me how your nipples feel.”
He quieted down after that.
I decided to do my own research. I sent late night texts to friends who’d been there. “It hurts like hell,” they confided. “Totally normal,” they said. “Kind, misguided Helmet head should be fired,” I thought.
I think it took about two to three weeks for my toes to stop curling every time she latched. I think it took a little longer for it not to hurt at all. But I got there, and now I barely even think about that comparatively short time in our nursing relationship.
Now I love it. I’ve loved it for a long time. It’s amazing to have such a powerful tool to calm Charlee anywhere and anytime. It’s incredible to have her so close, so often.
So here’s my message: if you’re interested in breastfeeding, it may very well hurt a lot at first. That’s okay; that’s even normal. Not every lady with a helmet haircut knows what she’s talking about. I found this out the hard way. Just keep breastfeeding your baby, if that’s what you want, and I promise it will get better. A lot better.