I make milk. What’s your superpower?
It’s amazing how a pair of body parts, with a very important function, can become so sexualized and nearly consume a culture. I’m not denying that breasts can and are extremely sexual, but having a child has made me see a very different side of my breasts!
It is just incredible to me that a mother’s breasts provide all the nutrition a baby requires to grow and thrive for the first 6-8 months of life. After this time, breastmilk is still the most important element of a baby’s nutrition until at least one year of age.
I knew, before I was ever pregnant, that I would breastfeed my babies. I knew I would want to provide the best start possible for my children’s health and development. I had no doubt that breastfeeding would help solidify the mother-child bond. I was also certain that breastfeeding would be a natural, simple process. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
The complex and intense range of emotions a new mother experiences is virtually inexplicable. Despite all my doubts and insecurities, one thing I remained sure of was my need to breastfeed Elijah. Reality set in quickly as I began to experience excrutiating pain with every feeding. Disappointment, guilt, shame and sadness set in and at times I felt like giving up. Sometimes I even dreaded feeding time which was sometimes every hour. Countless friends, family and so-called experts gave me advice that failed to solve the problem. I would weep as I fed Elijah in the middle of the night, tears falling over him and soaking us both. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. And yet, my instincts told me I had to keep going. Only by the grace of God was I able to persevere through the pain for the sake of my child. I’ll spare you the physical details, but I finally decided that the situation was not really healthy for either Elijah or me. So I began to pump my milk for him; 10 bottles or about 80 ounces a day. It is an understatement to say that this required dedication.
After about 2.5 months, I finally found help. I went to Dr. Jack Newman’s breastfeeding clinic in Toronto. It turned out Elijah was tongue tied – his frenulum was tied too tight, preventing him from latching properly and causing me such intense pain. His frenulum was snipped on site; they described his tongue as popping up like it had been kept down by a very tight spring. I was hopeful we would finally be able to breastfeed properly. The pain remained, however, so I resigned myself to pumping and bottle feeding indefinitely. At about 3.5 months old, Elijah caught a cold, so I decided I had better try to breastfeed directly to help him fight off the virus. Miraculously, there was no pain!
As Elijah started getting his teeth, we realized his top lip was also tied too tight, causing a rather charming gap to form between his top front teeth, but likely also preventing a proper latch. As his mouth grew, he was able to finally achieve a successful latch. We have been happily breastfeeding ever since.
I used to think it was inappropriate for women to breastfeed in public, and weird when mothers breastfed their toddlers. At almost 19 months old, Elijah still asks for breastmilk at least a couple times a day, and I am more than glad to provide it when and where he wants it. It helps us connect after our time apart, calms him when he is distressed, provides him with nutrients he may have missed in his solid food regime, supplies custom antibodies that help him fight germs, and makes me feel special because he needs me in a unique way. It was worth all the anguish and exhaustion, and I will be honoured to breastfeed him for as long as he wants.
I have since made it my personal goal to educate and support as many women as I can about the benefits and beauty of breastfeeding. I long to dispell all the myths about breastmilk versus formula, and help women who struggle with early breastfeeding difficulties to persevere and get the right help. Perhaps one day I’ll actually get some qualifications so I can become a consultant, but for now I’m happy to get on my soapbox and share my story.
Feel free to contact me if you want to know more….