There are many things that can cause controversy between mothers after you give
birth from how you swaddle your child to organic baby foods vs. generic right down
to the type of diapers you use (or don’t for that matter). Mothers around the world
all raise their children differently, and you know what? That’s perfectly fine and
even better. However, despite that, one topic always raises a few red flags and can be
a source of contention for some mothers: Breastfeeding.
Let me first start by saying this: Breastfeeding is not for everyone, nor does it work
for everyone. There is no specific length of time you should breastfeed (if you can
and want to), and there is no limitation on the length of time you breastfeed your
child (again if you can and want to).
Breastfeeding is both a personal and physical choice. There are some women who
simply cannot breastfeed. Physically, their bodies just don’t produce breast milk,
and this can be for any number of reasons ranging from hyperthyroidism to
polycystic ovaries or even previous breast surgery (like a reduction or implants).
And sometimes, mothers who birth via C-section also experience low breast milk
supply due to their bodies not going through the natural birthing process and
therefore not having the correct hormones and “triggers” activated in order to
produce milk for their newborns.
And that’s OK.
It’s all OK.
It doesn’t make you any less of a mother if you can’t (or don’t want to) breastfeed.
My Personal Breastfeeding Experience
I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do when my boy was born. I understood the
benefits of breastfeeding, especially that first sip of colostrum, a high-protein, low-
sugar substance the breasts produce only for the first few days after birth. If nothing
else, I hoped I could give him that, then see where things went from there.
Maybe he wouldn’t latch, maybe I wouldn’t produce enough milk or I’d find it
too painful. There were so many maybes, and I promised myself I wouldn’t stress
out about it.
Of course I did. I think as mothers we are built to stress and be anxious about all the
things we experience when we first give birth. And when I attempted breastfeeding
my boy the first few times, it was torture. I was terrified he wasn’t drinking enough,
wasn’t latching or that I wasn’t holding him correctly (I was super grateful for the
breastfeeding pillow from Baby Sitter which helped me position him well and kept
us both cozy down the road).
But he did latch, and he did feed. And he fed A LOT. I knew while I was pregnant that
I had a certain timeline in mind for breastfeeding. I wanted to do only 3 months. It
was my personal choice. I had mommy friends who continued to breastfeed well
past the 1-year mark, and still others who chose not to or couldn’t at all, despite
How I stopped breastfeeding:
At the 3-month mark, almost exactly to the day, I remember my boy woke up for his
usual 4 a.m. feeding (because babies really don’t care about your sleep cycles if you
were wondering). Normally, I’d feed him one side, then pump the other with my
Medela Swing Single Breast pump (and I’ll get to that experience in a moment),
while he snoozed till the next feeding time. Well, that particular morning he dried
out my one side and continued to scream when I put him down, so I gave him the
other side, and when that was done he yelled for more, so I gave him a few ounces of
formula (mixed with previously pumped milk). He was finally satisfied after all that.
And I knew, in that moment, that breastfeeding was done for him and I. And I was
OK with that and happy he made the decision as much as I did (and right on
Breastfeeding Tips and Advice
Like everything else in pregnancy and motherhood, our bodies go through a lot.
Breastfeeding is just another one of those physical phenomenons we get to
experience as mothers. It’s both wild and wonderful and horribly painful and
annoying at times. Trust me.
There were a few things I learned early on in the breastfeeding days, and one of the
most important lessons were: 1) Always bring a change of shirt when you’re out; 2)
Find a good, comfortable, easy-to-unlatch nursing bra; 3) Nursing pads will be your
savior; 4) Do not bend over without a bra or nipple pads on, because you will leak
everywhere; 5) Leaving it too long between feedings or pumping is extremely
painful and you could potentially take out an eye with the pressure built up (trust
me, I know).
As I mentioned above, I would often only feed on one side, then I’d pump the other
side, and store it for later use so daddy could feed, as well.
Products that were extremely helpful for me:
When I first started pumping, I used a manual pump from AVENT. It worked well,
but at 2-3-4 a.m. sitting there in the bathroom manually pumping was
just way too tiresome. I did NOT need to workout on top of everything else. So, I
upgraded to the Medela electric pump. It works extremely well and is very
comfortable. It’s quiet and easy to use, and it frees up both your hands to read or knit or
Breastfeeding in public is another source of contention for some, both mothers and
otherwise. Personally, I never had an issue doing it myself, as I ensured I was always
well covered to as avoid embarrassing those around me. There’s no need for anything
too fancy, however, if you want to ensure you stay covered, investing in something
like the beautiful organic cotton Storksak Mother’s nursing cover or Bebe au Lait cover-up,
similar to one I had, is well worth it to keep everyone at ease.
What Happens When You Stop Breastfeeding?
And when you do decide to stop breastfeeding or your body and/or baby decide for
you, it’s rather hard to do it cold turkey and it will be painful. Especially if you
produced a lot of milk up to that point.
If you continue to pump, your body will continue to produce, though in a reduced
way. It’s as if the body knows it’s not a little person extracting the goods, and so it
Cold compresses are key to relieving pressure build-up. And try not to panic about
hard milk sacks. They will happen. Massage them gently if you can (they will be
painful) and release as much milk as you can (and save it of course as it can always
be used to mix with formula). And sometimes heat helps relieve the build-up and
hard sacks, as well. I wish I’d had a kit like this one to help alleviate the discomfort I
felt for a few weeks after I stopped breastfeeding.
A Unique Experience for each Mother and Child
Like everything else in motherhood, breastfeeding is as unique as you and your
child. It will not be the same for every mother or every baby. How you do it, when
you do it, how long you do it, if you even do it at all: Everyone will be different. And
that’s all OK, and all kind of amazing.
Our bodies are incredible things that keep these little beings alive not just when
they’re in us, but when they enter the big bright world, as well. Take a moment to
celebrate those feeding moments while they last.
You’re a mother either way, nurturing and helping that little baby grow strong, and
you’re doing an incredible job.