Milkmaker | Evian Granitz, co-founder, milksource
When I think about the start of my breastfeeding journey 21 months in, it all seems like a blur. A beautiful, chaotic, sleep-deprived blur. Whether to breastfeed or not was the kind of decision that was made well before I even thought about having a child. Breastfeeding and providing my son with my milk was a non-negotiable. Little did I know that breastfeeding, while being the most natural and biological way to nourish and bond with my baby, would be one of the most challenging parts for me of being a new mom.
Before Preston was born, I did everything I could to prepare for my labor and breastfeeding. I read the books and blogs, watched countless videos on Youtube, stocked up on all the supplies I thought I would need - I was ready to be successful. Well. My labor was the opposite of what I had planned on; a late pregnancy, cord wrapped around my son's neck, an induction and an eventual epidural was the first of many events that derailed my confidence as a new mother. Every experience was beautiful yet so foreign, so new and definitely scary. I pushed on and made peace with my labor, knowing at the end of it all I would get to meet my son and we'd figure it out. After Preston was placed on my chest, I found myself desperately wishing that we would get just one thing right…just one thing according to plan and he would latch with no issues. Within minutes my sweet boy bobbed up and down and latched and I let out the biggest sigh of relief. Who am I kidding - I cried like a baby.
He did it. I did it. Maybe, I could still do this.
I was on a postpartum high and, as every new mom, was madly in love with this little being. The hours went on and he was nursing like a champ, it didn't even hurt - I thought. How fast things can change! The first few weeks were hard, really hard. Preston had a posterior tongue tie and lip tie, his tongue couldn't extend beyond the gum line at all and the nurses and pediatricians kept saying he was fine and it wasn't that bad and so I listened. But then came the clogged ducts because he was unable to drain my breast properly, the nursing sessions that would last hours because he had to work so hard to get the milk out, the extremely raw nipples that weren't getting better, the countless milk blebs that just wouldn't stop coming and would hurt so badly I would cry before every feeding, and the awful mastitis that felt like I was hit with the flu. I thought why can't I catch a break? It's not supposed to be this hard, right? I researched every trick in the book, I felt so clueless and lost. But, I was not going to let these challenges get in the way of something so important to me. As far as I knew, I was the only one in my family and my husband's family to breastfeed. I had no one to talk to, no one to seek out personal experience and help. I never had a moment in my mind where I wanted to stop breastfeeding, even when it was hard, and there was so much about breastfeeding that I truly loved but I was not ready for how hard it was going to be or how much support I would need to reach my goals.
I finally asked an IBCLC to come to my house for help. Boy, had I wished she came sooner - the challenges she could have helped us avoid with a proper education! She advocated for us to revise the ties, and she worked on my positioning and latch, and she encouraged me when I was crying on the phone, feeling like I couldn't do it. Having an IBCLC visit us was so important in our breastfeeding success. I had the ties revised and the pain began to subside. Finally. I smile now, reflecting back on our early months and realizing so many things we were doing incorrectly, so many things if only I had known I could have fixed.
During this time in my life, I was also attending graduate school at NYU. I had to be on campus for a final just days after I delivered my son. I sat through my final completely engorged feeling like I was going to actually explode, postpartum hormones rushing through me, body so sore still from labor. Week after week I had to sit in the back of my classes while my professors lectured, pumping with a single manual pump under a nursing cover, hoping no one would notice because there were no places to pump near my class...except the bathroom. Gross. I felt embarrassed and isolated, but I knew I would just have to make it work - and slowly I figured it out. Over time, with some practice, it got easier. I could handle that pump like a pro, was able to maintain my supply while I was apart from my son and still succeed in my program. My professors were supportive and my classmates thought I was awesome for balancing motherhood and school. I was fortunate to have that support - not many do.
It was also during this time that I decided I wanted to study breastfeeding in a scientific capacity. I began to notice so many inconsistencies and holes in the way the medical community "supports" breastfeeding mothers. This was a huge problem in my mind. If parents are relying on their pediatricians and OB/GYNs for advice on their breastfeeding concerns and they were being given outdated or simply poor advice - how were mothers expected to have positive and successful journeys? No wonder so many women have challenges in their breastfeeding journeys, something had to change and I wanted to be a part of that change. Breastfeeding doesn't have to be so hard and it definitely doesn't have to be isolating, even if it may be challenging at times. Women are amazing and together, with the proper support and information, we can do it.
Breastfeeding changed my life. It changed my perspective on motherhood. Courage. Loneliness. Uncertainty. Love. I now look back at the last 21 months of my son's life and our time bonding through breastfeeding. I flip through the photos of Preston nursing as an infant, so tiny and squishy. I see his latch in those photos now and think what was I thinking, that latch is so shallow ouch! And I laugh at all my errors and naiveté. If only I knew then what I know now - what a difference information and support make.
I am grateful for how strong I learned I could be becoming a mother and breastfeeding my son. I am grateful for the support my husband, family, friends and strangers gave me in those early months and the support I still receive. I am grateful for my son who thought I was doing a perfect job even when I felt like I was failing.
Breastfeeding has helped my world slow down. My active, wild, silly boy asks for "moos" and he snuggles up to me so we can sing songs, read stories, laugh and chat. We didn't have the smoothest first few months and there were things I would have changed that could have prevented some of our breastfeeding hurdles, but I love our story and breastfeeding is one of my favorite parts of being a mama. At the end of the day, breastfeeding will always be one of the best decisions I made, and I never could have imagined getting this far but here we are, 21 months in and loving every minute.