Here’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have: I love breastfeeding.
When I was younger, I didn’t expect ever to have kids. I also hated having female anatomy for quite a long time, so breastfeeding seemed uncomfortable and absurd.
Once I got pregnant, however, it became unquestionable in my mind that I would breastfeed. My husband and I took a free class at a local hospital and knew it would not be easy, that there would be a learning curve for both mother and infant.
Indeed, the beginning was excruciating. One of my nipples has a sort of split in the middle, so it was difficult for our baby to latch onto it correctly. It started bleeding on the second day. I tried to get him to feed more on the other side to let this one heal, but that made the other one very sore very quickly. Each time, I struggled to get the positioning just so with piles of pillows surrounding me. On day three, I caved and purchased a $30 specially shaped nursing cushion, on which I would rely heavily for the next two weeks. Even with the cushion—a product called My Brest Friend—and generous amounts of nipple balm, we had numerous evenings when the baby would keep crying for more food and I would break down sobbing because it hurt so damn much and I didn’t think I could handle any more.
Yet I powered through, because I really, really wanted to make it work. It wasn’t that I had bought into the claims that breastfeeding would give our child more IQ points or make him love me more. I just didn’t want to spend money on formula when I was supposed to be the ultimate natural, nutritional food source (though breastfeeding comes with its own costs, such as lactation consultants, nursing attire, and of course, My Brest Friend). And I figured I should have been able to do it since my mother did, as did generations of mothers before her.
My perseverance paid off. By the three-week mark, it didn’t hurt nearly as much anymore. A week or two after that, it stopped hurting entirely. We only ever resorted to feeding him formula two or three times. To put that in perspective, newborns eat eight to twelve times a day, often more when experiencing a growth spurt. This isn’t to say it’s been smooth sailing, though. I’ve had to be the one to get up and take care of him most of the times when he’s woken up in the middle of the night, since those wake-ups are often due to hunger. I get clogged milk ducts from time to time, which hurt. I have to avoid dairy and eggs because his digestive system is sensitive to them. But I’m happy to deal with all that to keep him happy and satisfied.
Now that I’m back at work full-time, on weekdays I only get to nurse our baby once in the morning and once in the evening. I genuinely love these moments. I love the way his little mouth wiggles as he draws out the milk. How his tiny fist clenches my shirt, his hand strokes my boob, or he inadvertently flips me off. The way he looks up at me with wide, luminous, adoring eyes like an anime character’s. How his sniffles die down when he is placed on the breast, if he was upset before. The times when he lets go just to smile or try to tell me something. The fact that he has gained eight pounds so far in three and a half months from my milk alone. Turns out I can be nurturing after all, in more ways than one. It is incredible and empowering in a way I never anticipated.