Two years and a handful of months later, and mine and Sadie’s nursing journey is slowly coming to an end. What a journey it has been.
Before Sadie was born, I had zero exposure to breastfeeding. With that in mind, I went into the newborn days thinking I would be open-minded about nursing. I wasn’t going to pressure myself to do it if it wasn’t working out for us. Deep down, I figured I would bottle feed Sadie because that was what my experience with feeding a baby had been up until having my own.
A few weeks before Sadie was born, Jimmy and I took a childbirth education class that briefly covered nursing. It’s hard to learn about the mechanics of it until you actually do it, though. Not long after Sadie’s birth, the midwives and nurses at the birth center helped us establish a good latch and explained a few positions.
Once we were settled in back at home, I realized my expectations of breastfeeding did not meet the reality of it. I had no idea she would eat so often. And for so long. And sometimes she cluster fed. I felt like I was permanently glued to her rocking chair or our couch. There was some pain in the beginning, but nothing a little balm couldn’t help. My milk came in within a few days and it was a whole different ballgame.
Suddenly, Sadie had trouble latching because I was so engorged. The birth center checked in on me and advised using a warm compress and pumping a bit before nursing to take the engorgement down a notch. They assured me it was just my body sorting things out and that it would all equalize in time.
Every time Sadie needed to eat, I had to have a warm compress on my chest and pump for a bit before nursing her. It was so hard hearing her cry while I waited for the engorgement to go down. Those middle of the night feeds found me thanking Jimmy for getting warm washcloths and literally falling asleep while sitting up. I had to track which side she fed on and for how long in the beginning because I would easily forget. It all felt like such a cumbersome and exhausting process, especially with how often a newborn baby eats.
Within a week or so, I got my first clogged duct and the pain was unreal. Sadie couldn’t latch and I was super engorged, but milk wasn’t coming out when I pumped. My hand brushed against my chest and I felt like someone had punched me. The pain radiated in that spot. I called the birth center and they told me to take Tylenol, use more warm compresses, and massage the lump in my chest. I sat on the couch and bawled my eyes out while I tried to massage the lump. There was no other way to get rid of it.
Eventually, I got through that clog. And then I got another. And another. They became a regular part of life for a few months. I wanted to give Sadie a bottle of pumped milk, but was told to try and wait until she was a month old to avoid nipple confusion and establish my supply.
I remember guiltily telling my mom that I would enjoy motherhood so much more once we just figured out feeding and got into a groove. I loved being Sadie’s mom and taking care of her, but the whole feeding process was difficult and made me feel so weary and incompetent.
Sadie was about three-weeks-old when I hit a wall one night. I can vividly remember sitting on the couch and crying because we both had just been diagnosed with thrush and it was so incredibly painful. I’d had enough of it all. I no longer cared about waiting for the one-month mark to introduce a bottle. I asked Jimmy to get a bottle and I poured some pumped milk into it and asked him to feed Sadie. Through my tears, I was smiling thinking about him feeding her for the first time!
He sat down and put the bottle in her mouth… and she refused it. So we tried a different nipple on that bottle. No luck. Then we tried a different brand of bottles that we had received at our baby shower. Nope. So we tried another type of bottle. Still no. At this point, Sadie was really crying and so was I.
I realized that there was no way out but through. She would not take a bottle, no matter how hard we tried, who fed her, what brand of bottle we used, or the type of nipple. That was it. It was up to me to buck up and feed my daughter. It didn’t matter if I was engorged or had 50 clogged ducts and she couldn’t latch, we just had to figure it out. I cried and cried and cried. I felt so stuck and alone.
It was a turning point, though. I had to give up the idea of having the freedom and convenience of other people feeding Sadie. She couldn’t leave my side for more than a couple of hours for the first several months because she always needed to eat. I felt so burnt out and wanted a break for more than an hour or two, but I just had to wait. There was no other option.
Nursing forced me to completely shift my expectations of life for a while. I didn’t sit through a full sermon in church for months. I was frustrated when I was in the middle of cooking dinner and I suddenly had to nurse. We went to family gatherings and bridal showers and weddings where I spent most of the time in a separate room nursing. I would feel downright jealous when other moms effortlessly popped a bottle into their baby’s mouth.
Time wore on and something happened. We began to hit our stride. Nursing became… normal. I got more comfortable feeding her anywhere and everywhere. I realized it was convenient because I didn’t have to wash bottles or prepare them. We just needed her and me when she was hungry.
Soon, I grew to love nursing Sadie. It became our little break. A bonding time together. A time to rest and soak each other in. She would pat my chest or play with my hair. Sometimes she would stop and unlatch just to look into my eyes and smile at me. I read books, caught up on emails, prayed, and sometimes just sat and daydreamed.
In the blink of an eye, Sadie turned a year old. Then a year and a half. We kept on nursing because, well, why not? We finally got the hang of it, both loved it, and didn’t see a reason to stop. Sure, people would ask when I was weaning her, but we just weren’t ready. I wanted it to be her choice. I had some moments when I wondered if she would want to nurse until she was ten-years-old, but just trusted that she would find the right time to stop.
Lately, she doesn’t ask to nurse very often. Maybe once every few days. I’m sure she’ll taper off completely soon enough. In those hazy, tear-soaked newborn days, if someone would have told me we would nurse into toddlerhood and that I’d be sad to stop, I would have laughed. No way. But here we are.
What a gift from God the whole experience has been. I am so thankful to Him for every single moment of our nursing journey, especially the hard ones that I wanted to avoid in the thick of it.
Through the experience of nursing, God has been teaching me to lean on and find my rest in Him. To be patient with His timing. To give of myself until I feel like I can’t give anymore, but then dig a little deeper and give more, and then a bit more because He has already given everything for us.