Please don’t be misled by the title of this post. I have no plans of showing off “the girls” but you might be thinking some of this is still T.M.I. – Too Much Information. Sorry folks but you’ll have to deal. It’s time to expose the underbelly of breastfeeding. So, in honor of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I wanted to share my breastfeeding experience with you. Even though this is a controversial topic to discuss I feel that it deserves attention. And attention I’ll give it – like it or not I am a breastfeeding mami and this is my story!
I have to admit I didn’t start out as a staunch supporter of breastfeeding. To be honest, I never gave it any thought until I began working for a company that supported it. I had no choice but to research all that I could, participate in events promoting it, and overall being surrounded day in, day out by it. I wasn’t married or pregnant yet and all the talk about breastfeeding was overwhelming. But eventually I gave in to the facts and benefits. I mean who could argue with:
- Decreased possibility of baby getting a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections, diarrhea, etc.
- Return to pre-pregnancy weight faster
- Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Less postpartum bleeding
- Facilitated bonding between mother and baby
With all those good reasons to nurse, my decision still didn’t become clear for me until the day my son was born. They rested Shaunsito on my chest and I let him nurse. I was so afraid of this tiny baby but the minute he latched on all my fears subsided. We were immediately in sync with each other and the strong bond I felt with my child was indescribable. This was the defining moment. I was hooked on being a breastfeeding mamí. But it did come with many challenges as I would soon find out.
My mother was visiting from New York to help with our first days as new parents. When I was released from the hospital she was giving non-stop advice. All I wanted to do was put Shaunsito down and rest. But she wouldn’t let up. Then he started to cry. I tried to nurse him but with all the stress I couldn’t relax. He kept crying and very little milk came out. With all the research I had done I knew that the milk would not come in right away but my mother kept saying “The baby isn’t getting any milk. Go buy formula. He’s going to starve!” I did not have the energy to deal with her or my screaming infant so I hopped in my car and drove to the supermarket to buy formula.
Needless to say I fed Shaunsito formula that day and cried the whole time. I was a failure. I couldn’t produce milk for my son. But that next day my mother left to go back to New York and guess what? My milk came in. Crisis averted.
We went through our ups and downs throughout the next six weeks yet managed to continue breastfeeding. Eventually I had to return to work and the next step was pumping my milk. I was fortunate to work for a wonderful company and boss that provided me with a private office to pump in and a flexible schedule to do so. Everyone at work was supportive about it, as well. People would offer me fruit, granola bars, anything to help keep me and the baby healthy while I breastfed.
Then the questions started coming.
How long do you think you’ll breastfeed? Will you stop once his teeth come in? You do know that he’s going to bite you once he gets teeth, right? You’re not going to be one of “those” moms who breastfeed forever, are you? Did you know…blah, blah, blah? All of a sudden my strongest supporters – family and friends – became my harshest critics! I stopped discussing it and simply answered honestly with “I don’t know. I’m taking things one day at a time. When the time comes that will be a decision that I’ll make privately.”
Pumping at work proved difficult. My days would be crammed with work and meetings. Sometimes I wouldn’t have time to pump and “the girls” would be hard as rocks, engorged with milk. It was extremely painful and I had to start dressing in blouses that would not stain easily and had designs on them to distract from any possible leaks. Yes, it was very hard but I kept on pumping and nursing. Then one day I was introduced, no, hit over the head by a known adversary to breastfeeding mamís…MASTITIS. If you decide to breastfeed I recommend you go to this link at BabyCenter and read up on the signs of mastitis so you know what to look out for.
Well, one minute I was in a meeting and the next I was sweating profusely thinking I was going to die. I won’t lie, it was rough, but after a visit to the doctor and some antibiotics the infection and inflammation went away and I was off to pump/nurse another day.
Right about the time of the mastitis drama I began to give my son formula. My mother-in-law was caring for him throughout the day, I was running out of time at work, and honestly I was just exhausted so I made the decision to supplement some of his feedings with formula. This was definitely a decision I struggled with. But eventually I came to peace with it because I knew I was making the right choice for me and my son.
My son is now 9-months-old and I’m still a breastfeeding/formula feeding mamí!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking – choose a side! Breast or Bottle. But it’s not that simple. I’m not “pro” one or the other. However, I do firmly believe that breastfeeding is the ultimate experience for both baby and mamí. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with me on that. But that’s okay. Do what’s right for your family. And if you can relate, if you disagree, or if you have your own “war stories” to share please leave a comment. I would love to hear all about it! We may not all agree but leaving ourselves “exposed” may just help out another mamí so go ahead and let it all hang out!
With all my mami love,