It’s World Breastfeeding Week, which is either seven days of advocacy and awareness or every second of my life right now. The theme of #WBW2015 is breastfeeding and work, and since I’m one week (and 180+ ounces of pumped milk) in to my return from maternity leave, I should have offered to be their poster child.
I nursed our oldest son for a year and plan to do the same with our youngest — only 278 days to go. And yes, I’m counting.
I am passionate about breastfeeding, but there’s such a learning curve, both in terms of finding my own way and in helping others around me learn, too.
It’s why marathoners proudly display 26.2 magnets on their car trunks — they trained, they cried, they pushed, they stumbled, they kept going; they did it. It becomes part of their identity, to say they accomplished this thing that, at many moments, felt impossible. That others told them was impossible, or too hard, or too uncomfortable to witness.
Breastfeeding is physically challenging. My husband spent his first Father’s Day out buying an electric heating pad so I could treat a plugged duct; I spent this year’s Mother’s Day stocking up on lanolin thanks to a newborn whose tongue-tie prevented a perfect latch. I’ve sat through church services praying not for salvation but for my milk to not let down as someone else’s babe cries four pews back. I’ve driven 125 miles home from a daylong business meeting, swollen and sore after forgetting my pump parts on the kitchen counter.
Breastfeeding is logistically difficult. I’ve expressed milk in offices, bathrooms and backseats so my son could have sustenance while we’re apart. I’ve improvised nursing covers out of burp cloths and pillowcases. I’ve watched 6-hour road trips tick upwards of 10 hours with each 30-minute nursing pit stop. I’ve interrupted dinner-and-a-movie dates and long-awaited full nights of sleep for pumping breaks that ensure my supply stays up.
Breastfeeding is stressful. I’ve sat in a doctor’s office, listening to a nurse tell my deer-in-the-headlights new-mother self I’m feeding my son too much; two weeks later, that I’m not feeding him enough. I’ve spent countless 3 a.m. feedings illuminated by the soft glow of Google as it answers my queries on football holds and oversupply and whether that glass of merlot will derail my son’s acceptance to Harvard. I’ve cashed in $200 worth of gift cards five days before returning to work, all in a panicked effort to find the holy grail of bottles for a picky 2-month-old.
But, mostly, breastfeeding — more than diapers or baths or hours singing Little Bunny Foofoo — is, for me, the most selfless thing I’ve ever done. I’ve learned to give of myself, even when the days are so blurry I don’t remember my own wedding anniversary and I’ve consumed so much fenugreek even my eyelashes smell like maple syrup. I’ve learned to put someone else’s needs above my own, even as I eat my weight in oatmeal and rotate through on-the-hour growth spurt feedings. I’ve learned to slow down, relax and simplify — not an easy feat for a Type A perfectionist. I’ve learned to be a better person.
Not everyone runs marathons. Not everyone breastfeeds. But it’s okay to celebrate when a person succeeds at a personal goal that takes incredible dedication and commitment — even if your life, and your choices, look different.
I’m proud of my run — no car magnet necessary.
My Top 5 Nursing Mama Must-Haves
There are so many things I know now, 12 weeks in to my second round of motherhood, that would have saved me a lot of grief in the beginning. (Insider tip: Act like it’s 1975 and try latex bottle nipples.)
So, here are a few of my favorite nursing mama things. Grab yourself a nursing pillow, a charged e-reader and an industrial-size water bottle and get comfy.
1. Online resources. The KellyMom.com website is a breastfeeding woman’s bible. I’ve used it often to do everything from calculate what size bottle to give to remember how long pumped milk can last in the fridge. I also enjoy the conversations and camaraderie in social networking groups like Facebook’s Working Pumping Moms — sanity savers, right there. Because #sisterhood.
2. Lily Padz. You know you’ve reached a special level of adulthood when you have designated “around the house” breast pads (the paper ones are lovely, if you don’t mind wearing diapers on your chest) and “going out” (silicone) breast pads. THESE are the ones I leave the house in, and I love them. They’re tacky on one side, so once you put them on, they don’t budge. They’re also super thin and undetectable under clothing, and — most importantly — they work extremely well.
3. Total Baby app. This app deserves a post all its own, that’s how in love with it I am. I found it with my first son and it’s only improved since then. It tracks everything baby-wise, but especially feeding times, which side you last started on (because goodness knows I can’t ever remember, especially at 2 a.m.) and gives you daily/weekly/monthly averages so you know how he stacks up. The pumping tracker is especially robust and lists expiration dates, storage location and more. You can even export all the data in spreadsheet form via email to yourself, your husband, your doctor, your neighbor, whomever. A SPREADSHEET! OF STATS ON SPIT-UP! But if Excel docs don’t do it for you, I also really liked my Itzbeen timer.
4. Medela labeling lids. I adore these for marking pumped milk in the cooler/fridge, but I’m also a self-proclaimed label fanatic. (I’ve also use these removable date stickies from Inchbug, but more for labeling daycare bottles each day.)
5. Nursing nightgown. I splurged on a few new nursing nightgowns this time around, and fell in love with these from Baby Be Mine. Very comfortable — not too light, not too heavy, good length. Well-placed elastic around the arms and chest make it easy to nurse but also keeps you well-covered, making this a perfect choice when you’re around a lot of visitors. I wore it in the hospital and it instantly lifted my mood. Three months later and it’s washed really well and not stretched out a bit.
Baby on the brain? Also check out my Ultimate Baby Registry list.