The fact that this photo exists is a miracle.
For many reasons, really.
First of all, if you told me 7 months ago that I would be comfortable breastfeeding out in public, i would have given you a dirty look and unfriended you on Facebook.
Also, if you told me 7 months ago, that I would still be breastfeeding, I would have told you that you are crazy and then, I probably would have burst into tears.
Exactly 7 months ago, I almost died.
I gave birth on November 25, 2015. My husband and I were thrilled, excited, and scared out of our minds to welcome our beautiful baby girl. As first time parents, there was a lot to learn: from soothing, to changing diapers, to (you guessed it) breastfeeding.
We saw 4 lactation consultants, and everyone just kept telling me to shove my nipple into the baby’s mouth. It seemed so violent to just yank her tiny head towards my engorged breast. But that’s what they all said, so for the first 12 or so hours, my baby didn’t actually eat much. And she cried quite a bit. Everyone kept telling us that if we introduced the bottle, she would not go back to the breast. They scared us with terms like “nipple confusion.” Causing lots of new parent confusion in the process.
At some point, I decided enough was enough. My motherly instinct told me the the poor child was hungry. We finally gave in and fed her some formula, and eureka, she stopped crying.
And so we learned, you have to make your own decisions as a parent. Forget nipple confusion, the baby needed to eat. We supplemented with formula until my milk came in. The baby and I found a rhythm and after about a week, we were good. Great, even. She would latch on. I would grimace in pain from the blood blisters on my nipples. But, she was eating and i was feeding her and we were happy.
Then, 2 weeks after giving birth, i had a post-partum hemorrhage. We went to the ER. I had lost about 3 and a half pints of blood. They sent me home. Two days later, I hemorrhaged again. This time, I passed out, on the floor of my bathroom. My husband ran in to find me in and out of consciousness and called 9-1-1.
We later found out that I had a hemoglobin level of 6.5 and needed 2 pints of blood transfused. Had he not called 9-1-1, I would have bled out on the cold pink tile of our bathroom.
This incident may not seem to be part of my breastfeeding story, but oh boy, was it.
I remember looking down at my hands in the emergency room. They were the color of yellowed paper. Not even a hint of pink or blue. Anytime I stood up or even sat up, my blood pressure would drop, so I was bed bound and hospitalized overnight.
You see, we had a relatively painless start to our breastfeeding journey. And then bam, I lost half the blood in my body and lost all of my milk.
After coming home from the hospital after the hemorrhage, I can only categorize the next two weeks of my life as hell. Because, when I commit to doing something, I see it through. I was determined to get my milk back.
First, my baby rejected my nipple. So, perhaps nipple confusion really is a thing. Because, after 24 hours of drinking formula from a bottle, she did not want to breastfeed. She cried and protested. I remember hovering over her with my breast hanging downward, trying to get her to latch on. This is not one of the suggested breastfeeding positions.
Then, I figured out that if I put a pacifier in her mouth and then, quick as a wink, pulled it out and replaced it with my nipple, 7 times out of 10, she would latch on and nurse. So, we did that for about a week and she was finally willing to latch on again.
Second, I had very little milk. You would imagine so, after losing all that blood. So, we rented a hospital grade pump. And I pumped once an hour, ever hour. Except overnight, when I pumped every other hour. In a 24 hours span, I was pumping around 18 times. I was glued to that pump. It became my constant companion, I played Candy Crush as that machine just pumped away. My husband and I washed bottles constantly. And every time I pumped, I got a little more milk.
There were days when I would pump, and my husband would immediately bottlefeed her the ounce I had just pumped, as I continued to pump more. She was hungry and wouldn’t latch and I wanted to meet her demand as much as possible. They say your body will adjust depending on how much the baby eats, but my body had no idea what the heck was going on.
Two weeks, countless bottles, and many hours of pumping later, we were only supplementing with one 2oz bottle per day. After that, it became 1 oz. And then, I can’t remember when, we were exclusively breastfeeding.
So, now, here we are. Seven months later. She is a pro at nursing. She can find my nipple and latch on without me even having to move.
And I am proud to be a breastfeeding mom. I am proud to be in public, able to feed my baby.
For the moms out there who are struggling in their own breastfeeding journey, know that you are not alone. And that, maybe seven months from now, you too will feel the joy and pride I feel today. Much like every other challenge we face as new parents, there are no rules. You have to trust your instincts and make your own.