An open letter to Breastfeeding Mamas in honor of World Breastfeeding week
There are soooo many stigmas, myths, and warped perspectives on breastfeeding, it can be difficult to sort through all the information and just appreciate this beautiful superpower. The female body and our orchestra of hormones are so amazing, which can make breastfeeding seem both magical and soul-crushing depending on whether we’re able to live up to the expectations we put on ourselves. I had a mostly positive experience, but with some typical frustration along the way.
In honor of World Breastfeeding week (8/1-8/7), here's my humble Breastfeeding Journey!
Mom of 3, breastfed two.
I have 3 daughters, but my oldest I didn’t give birth to. The two girls I did birth, I had at home via midwife-assisted water birth, with no meds. It was definitely the craziest life adventure I’ve had so far (maybe why I’ve lost the motivation for roller coasters and extreme thrills 😂) but such an empowering rite of passage. They both “knew” exactly what to do and latched right away. Now, I realize this isn't the story for most of you - but if it wasn't mine, someone out there might not know it's possible. And if my story still elicits a snarky disdain, keep reading--I did have some challenges along the way!
My older daughter (in her typical fashion) has always been more sensitive; she began having digestive issues around 3 weeks old. Her poop turned green, and she was super gassy and fussy. I had zero friends who breastfed (why I’m writing this!) and had only my mom for guidance (helpful but she didn't live nearby and obviously hadn't breastfed in a while).
I sought out my doctor, but no help there - so I changed my diet!
My doctor was no help, and I was not ready to try formula. Out of desperation, and armed with some basic nutritional knowledge, I decided to try changing my diet. I took out gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and egg. It was very challenging at first; I felt starved and exhausted, and an emotional wreck trying to reformulate my diet while juggling a newborn (who by the way also didn't nap or sleep well at all in general)! I incorporated smoothies with plant protein for something fast and easy, ate more nuts and seeds, and made large batches of oatmeal and quinoa to keep on hand instead of bread (gluten-free bread options weren't great then, and honestly even now often contain corn and/or soy).
It was HARD, but my daughter improved significantly over the next 2 weeks, and we were both happier and more rested. I was able to reintroduce eggs, but I still avoid gluten, dairy, corn, and soy today which has coincidently helped me manage my Hashimoto’s. That experience was liberating, but also made me realize I needed more community and support for this wild motherhood journey, so I sought out my local La Leche League who I’m forever grateful for as other issues came up! We nursed until 15 months when I got pregnant with my 2nd daughter, and breastfeeding became very painful. I tried to push through (my lofty goal was to tandem nurse until my oldest was 2), but I think the taste of my milk also changed and my daughter weaned herself shortly thereafter.
I cried a little - I didn’t expect that special, snuggly time to end so abruptly, but it was best for both of us.
Overall, I loved breastfeeding! Not the hours spent alone awake at night while my husband snored away 😒 or pumping and crying in my car because I wanted to work part-time but felt so guilty and missed my baby - but the connection and bonding that happens during those dark, still moments or when I just needed an excuse to get away for some quiet time - I tried to cherish every moment.
And to all the mamas who weren't able to breastfeed, I see you too. It’s an intensely personal and emotional experience, and sometimes life happens differently than we expect. I just encourage everyone, as I learned the hard way, to seek out and surround themselves with women who can serve as mentors and friends in all areas of life. We all need community, and that is one of the purposes of World Breastfeeding Week.
You are not weird, gross, or forgotten because you are a woman or a breastfeeding mom. Your body has an amazing superpower, and science reflects evidence of its health benefits!
Signed a fellow mama just trying to do the best for her babies & let you know you aren't alone,