I started to write this for World Breastfeeding Week, however, I didn’t get a chance to finish it (surprise!) so here it is on Clem’s 5th birthday and the 5th anniversary of our first time breastfeeding.
Let me preface by saying I believe fed is best - that if you wanted to breastfeed and could not, you are not a failure; if you didn’t want to breastfeed and did not, that’s great too.
This week falls a little shy of FIVE years of nonstop breastfeeding (and at times exclusively pumping).
I’ve breastfed despite being told Clementine - having Down syndrome - would never latch due to low muscle tone and tiring easily.
I’ve battled oversupply, and breastfed through 8-10 cases of painful mastitis, as well as staph skin infections and one bleb on my nips.
I’ve managed to power through times when I’ve accidentally eaten things that have tanked my supply.
I’ve breastfed through all nine months of a miserable pregnancy: two trimesters of hyperemesis gravidarum, followed by my last trimester being diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus.
I started tandem breastfeeding when Zelda was a little over 12 hours old.
I’ve pumped and fortified with formula to boost Clem’s caloric intake while she was in heart failure.
I pumped for Clem through heart surgery and kept pumping when she had mild chylothorax and had to be on a low-fat, high protein formula. When we got the all-clear from her cardiologist that we could resume (and then had a follow up x-ray just to be sure it was completely healed) we started exclusively breastfeeding and never looked back (except the rare but necessary pump & dump occasions).
I’ve pumped and dumped when I had to take medications incompatible with breastfeeding - or that I didn’t want my children to be exposed to.
I survived months of one terrible insurance issued pump that tore me up.
I’ve breastfed through teething and they now both have teeth and sometimes they forget that fact.
I’ve breastfed through a handful of bouts of stomach flu, strep throat, sinus infections, courses of antibiotics, thrush. Through chronic migraines, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Through heatwaves and dehydration.
I breastfed Clem immediately after her tonsils and adenoid surgery when she refused to eat or drink anything.
I’ve breastfed on long road trips, on planes, trains, subways, and boats. Through sleepless nights and busy days. In the ER and during doctor appts. On beaches, in parking lots, restaurants, stores, and parks. While walking, standing, in the shower (stomach flu looking at you), multitasking, and working.
I’ve breastfed at concerts, in museums, at the happiest place on Earth, and at Hogwarts.
I’ve managed to continue breastfeeding despite moments of being so sleep deprived, delirious, and desperate that I wanted to take enough pseudoephedrine to dry up and run away somewhere I could be alone and sleep uninterrupted for months.
I’ve breastfed through hurtful comments - people discouraging me endlessly, criticizing me for extended breastfeeding. Telling me to only breastfeed Zelda. Questioning if I really believe Clem will ever wean (and to answer - yes I do, when she’s ready, or my body is done).
I’ve had women congratulate me on going so long especially knowing how much work it is. Their supportiveness means so much more to me than they could ever imagine - and not for ego or attention but because it has been a long, hard, exhausting road - because when you’ve had negativity dumped on you, the physical toll it’s taken and wanting to quit in those moments of exhaustion and pain - it’s nice to be reminded that there are people who recognize that breastfeeding is beneficial, that it is great to keep going for as long as it’s mutually wanted. That two years and beyond is not messed up or going to mess my kids up. It’s just really a soothing balm to the soul of a tired mother who is trying her best every single day - who does everything she possible can for her babies (no matter how big they are) - and who lives this out despite society’s largely unaccepting nature to public and extended breastfeeding.
I have to give propers to my husband for supporting me through all this. Sometimes he tells me I should try to wind it down when I’m overwhelmed and dangling by a thread because he doesn’t want to see me suffer. Those moments notwithstanding, he’s 100% in it with me and helps me as much as he can to keep things going, to feed me when I’m starving and can’t take a break, to take care of things so that I can keep feeding these two maniacs on demand and for as long as they want and need. He tells me not to listen to the naysayers and to do whatever I believe is best for the three of us - and that he’s proud of me for being a good mommy to our girls.
I am also so indebted and grateful for my Dr. of Breastfeeding Medicine who has been by my side and had my back for the past 5 years. I couldn’t have done any of this without her support and expertise. I’m so thankful for her as the lovely, wonderful, intelligent woman that she is and her dedication to both mothers and their babies, as mothers are often overlooked and unimportant once a baby is born. She has been such an advocate for the 4th trimester and she holds a special place in my heart!
It’s been truly beautiful bonding with my babies in the quiet moments of pure snuggly bliss. It’s been a relief to be able to calm and comfort them when they’re in pain or screaming and how all the suffering and strife just fades away when they melt into you. It’s been a blessing to be able to watch them both bonding with each other from day one holding hands and falling asleep together on my chest, and at times pestering each other now too. It’s been a miracle to be able to breastfeed them through illnesses that they otherwise refused to eat or drink, and to have kept them pretty healthy through all these previous sick seasons all things considered.
It’s been a labor of love and while I definitely haven’t loved every minute of it I would do it for them again a trillion times. I am so thankful to have been able to do this for my babies for so long and hope that I can continue for as long as they need and want.