It comes as no surprise to me that breastfeeding my children has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. Often, the good things in life come with a bit of a sacrifice. "No pain, no gain," as they say.
In my four years of parenting, I have nursed three different babies, all of which were very different experiences with different trials and triumphs. My first baby was breastfed for only a few months, and then given pumped milk until I ran out, and formula after that. My second was a pro nursling until she decided to finish around 20 months old, a very bittersweet time for me. My 6-month-old is finally nursing beautifully, after a painful battle of cracked nipples, infections and finally a tongue and lip tie diagnosis and correction.
But through it all, the experience has made me stronger and proud. It has helped me battle postpartum depression. Breastfeeding has given me so much more than I imagined and I am so glad to be a nursing mother.
Breastfeeding has become a scandalous topic, igniting furious debates between nursing moms and formula moms, as well as starting fires between moms who need to feed their babies in public and those who find it despicable to do so. Surprisingly enough, no one has ever said a word to me about feeding my children out and about. I don't know if I'm just one of the lucky ones or if people are finally beginning to understand that feeding babies is a natural part of everyday life, and sometimes it must be done out in the open.
As proud of myself as I am for being a breastfeeding mother, I know there is no way I could have done it without the help of the village around me. I know that other breastfeeding mothers will agree. So today, I'm writing an open letter—a thank-you note to everyone who has ever supported a breastfeeding mom.
To the husbands, wives and partners in this parenting gig: We could not do it without you. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for getting me ice when my boobs were engorged at the very beginning. Thank you for not judging me when I leaked through my shirt. Thank you for getting me a glass of water or a snack when I was up in the night, feeding our baby. Thank you for taking care of my precious pumped milk, making sure not to spill it or leave it out to ruin. Thank you for believing in me and keeping me going.
To our close family and friends: Thank you for your advice. Thank you for your help. Thank you for letting me sneak away to nurse my baby in your bedroom. Thank you for letting me nurse my baby on your couch. Thank you for understanding how much work it takes to feed a baby this way and thank you for encouraging me to do so.
To our doctors, nurses and lactation consultants: Thank you for helping me with latch 8,000 times. Thank you for letting me put your number on speed dial. Thank you for assuring me that I was doing everything right. Thank you for diagnosing lip and tongue tie, mastitis and thrush. Thank you for letting me come in for weight checks and latch checks. Thank you for talking me through it all. Thank you for telling me that I could do it.
To onlooking strangers: Thank you for not saying anything to me when I fed my baby at the library or the mall or the park. Thank you for giving me nods of encouragement, a nonverbal "you go girl!" as I fed my baby while you were passing by. Thank you for not shielding your husbands or children from what I was doing. Thank you for accepting me and supporting me. We need more people like you.
To businesses that support nursing moms: Thank you for not kicking me out. Thank you for not asking me to go to the restroom or to my car. Thank you for providing me with a place to feed my baby. Thank you for offering me to use a nursing room or a corner chair so I could be more comfortable. You are changing the world and these little practices make such a difference.
Like I said, it takes a village. We couldn't do it without your love and support and understanding. Thank you all so much. We are so incredibly grateful.
—Me, and all the other mamas who have ever nursed a baby