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What Everybody Tells You About Breastfeeding Is True

Photograph by Twenty20

Breastfeeding isn’t easy. Everyone will tell you that.

If, somehow, you have avoided hearing fellow mothers lament things like their bleeding nipples, tongue-tied babies, painful engorgement and supply worries, I dare say you’ve been burrowing under a rock. It’s no secret that nursing is hard. We all know there is a learning curve. We all know it takes time and patience—and a lot of hope—to get to the “good phase.”

But the good phase CAN come. In most cases, it DOES come. I made it there. Three times, in fact.

Through hurdles and heartache, breastfeeding finally became simple. Everything I had dreamed it could be.

Because of those simple days, the ones where my baby effortlessly latched and gulped in time with my letdown, I can say that breastfeeding my babies has been one of the best, hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Every one of my children doled out their own obstacles in our breastfeeding relationship. One of my babies choked on my explosive letdown during every single nursing session. We were constantly drenched. When I returned to work, she wouldn’t take a bottle and, alongside her nanny, we had to explore cup feeding. Then I learned I had excess lipase, so pumping and storing milk was a headache.

Another one of mychildren loved nursing. Almost too much. We battled boundaries and all-night nursing sessions. Physically, we had a good balance. I made milk and he drank it. But emotionally we had to really work at finding something sustainable, especially when we moved into the toddler years of breastfeeding.

Every child is different. Obviously. But I think I went into breastfeeding believing that if I knew what to do, it would all work. I mean, I was made for this, right? But truly, nursing is a process that takes both mom and baby to mesh.

And that takes time. Time that is hard to find amidst daily chores, caring for siblings, work and, well, life.

There is no doubt in my mind that nursing is a sacrifice.

Something that goes largely unacknoweldged, even among the strongest of advocates, is that breastfeeding is not conducive to our current culture. Nothing makes it easy. Everything about it is an obstacle. But that doesn’t negate its worth. Hard things are often a battle. Hard things tend to take tears, sweat and yes, blood. But, I promise, that makes victory all the more sweet.

In the case of breastfeeding, we don’t have to do it alone. There are resources—albeit good and bad. But much, much more good. So fight. Stick with it. Find fellow milky mamas that are ready to say, “You CAN do this. We’re doing this together.”

I’ve paused so much to be be present with my babies during their breastfeeding season. Both days and nights. For years. There is no doubt in my mind that nursing is a sacrifice. When I made the commitment to nourish another person 24/7, I gave up a ton. But I gained a lot too.

Nursing, has given me a slower pace in life. It has connected me with my babies in a very special way and, when the sweet, simple nursing snuggles have arrived, nothing fills my heart with such joy. Often I’ve told myself, “These are the moments I’ll cherish forever. These are the best days.”

I’ll never forget the hard parts of breastfeeding. In a way, they have scarred me just like pregnancy and labor have. But when all is said and done, I will always feel like breastfeeding was worth it. The hard things usually are.

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