August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. To celebrate, we’re having some girl talk all week about breastfeeding. Today you’ll find Cassandra from Raising Up Stones sharing openly and honestly about things that only a good friend could tell you.
There are many decisions to make when it comes to breastfeeding your child. Will you pump or will you offer your child solely the breast? Will you have a schedule or will you feed on command? How long will you breastfeed? Will you wean or just let the baby go until you dry up…if you dry up? The list is endless and at times can become overwhelming to a new mom.
I made the choice to nurse my first daughter. Honestly, before I became pregnant, the thought of feeding my child from my breast was disgusting! Go figure! I wanted lots of children but that was not going to be a part of our day! The bottle of formula would be just fine for me. After I was pregnant and read all I could about being a mother, as most new mommies do, I had a change of heart. The books made breastfeeding seem almost impossible to say no to! It is free, no bottles to have to mix and clean, I had all the nutrients my child needed right in me, weight loss…and oh, did I mention, it is free!! At this point, I could not wait to start the bonding moment as soon as they handed me my bundle of joy!
The day was finally here. One last push (after 2 ½ exhausting hours of it) and she made her appearance into this world. She was amazing! They handed her to me but it was nothing like that moment you see in the movies! I was shaking so hard that I could barely hold her in my arms. I still do not know exactly why I was shaking so hard but I did not feel comfortable holding her, let alone trying to nurse for my first time.
So began the surprising world of motherhood! Isn’t it true that nothing ever really happens just as we had thought it would? That is part of what makes it so special and part of what makes it our own personal story! Breastfeeding is no exception. You can read as many books as you want or talk to as many friends as you can but there will be moments when you have no idea what is happening or you will find yourself saying, “They never told me this!”
After breast feeding 3 babies, all with different personalities and different eating habits, I have learned there are 6 stages to this all mysterious miracle called breastfeeding. These stages are not in the books the hospitals gives you or maybe even in your nursing manuals but in the hearts and memories of moms who have been there and done that!
The 6 Stages of Breastfeeding That Only a Mom Will Tell You About:
- What a Wonderful World – This stage begins for most mothers when the baby first learns to latch. This may last for 3 days to 1 week. In these heavenly moments your heart is full of wonder and your eyes are sparkling! You cannot believe that you are finally holding this little bundle and that YOU are providing the nutrients that he/she needs. You stare at their little face as you try to learn all you can about the different holds and ways you can make this the best experience for both of you. “This isn’t so bad,” you think! At this point you are producing what is called colostrum and baby loves every bit of it! You cannot wait until you start producing milk. The nurses say it will be any day!
- Gargantuan Breast and Sore Nipples – Oh boy, the MILK . IS . IN! Is it possible to have this much milk in there and will they explode? Why are they so warm? Please, GET IT OUT! You now have experienced the letdown of the milk and it was more like a flood! Every time your child is ready to eat you spray them in the face! Your poor nipples may be very sore because they are not used to what you have put them through in the last week. When you go to let the baby latch you squirm and wince just praying it won’t hurt too bad this time. Don’t worry, this is normal…not in every case but with every mother I have ever talked to! This stage is especially hard with your first. Just hold your breath, find a way to pump the excess and hold on until stage 3, it will get better, I promise!
- The Milking Cow– All you ever do is feed the baby! You eat, feed baby, sleep, feed baby, eat, feed baby and the cycle continues! If you are blessed with multiple children, you get to throw in some real adventures to the mix. You literally feel like your life revolves around the feeding schedule of this tiny bundle of joy. Well, it is true, it does! This is the stage you are in. Embrace it and don’t forget to eat and drink…oh and try to take a shower. A shower can make the day a whole lot brighter!
- The Panic Room – I think my milk supply has stopped! I don’t know if my baby is getting enough. If you have these thoughts, you are most likely in stage 4. Not everyone goes through this stage but I did with all three and I have talked to many other mothers with the same fears. You seem to be needed less or even for shorter amounts of time. Your breasts do not feel as full and no more milk baths for sweet baby when you unlatch your bra! Don’t do what I did with my first two. Don’t panic and assume it is over. In most cases, per God’s design, your body has regulated what your little piglet needs. Also, your child is growing and is getting the hang of this thing! Take a deep breath and enjoy a small break.
- We’ve Got a Good Thing Going, Baby – Welcome to stage 5! You did it! You both worked hard to get here so stay awhile and enjoy. You are feeling confident. There is some kind of order to your day now. You not only know what hours your growing angel likes to eat, you also know how to tell they are ready. You have mastered nursing in public, the strategic attaching of Jr. without making a scene and you may even be able to multitask while nursing at this point. This is by far one the best times to embrace the moment and treasure each minute you spend with your precious child because all too soon stage 6 will creep up.
- I’m Not Ready For It to End – The time has come. Your baby is most likely toddling around. This stage doesn’t happen at the same time for everyone and that is ok. Some nurse for months others for years. No matter what age, it is never easy. There is a bond that you have formed and the thought of this adventure in life ending feels like the bond is being broken. You have given countless hours to nursing your child and then, almost in the blink of an eye, it is over. I am in this stage with my youngest child and as I wrote here, I have struggled through it myself. This stage is hard to accept. This stage brings emotions that your spouse and even your friends might not understand. That is ok. Cry some tears, hug a little longer, spend a little more time rocking. Be thankful. Be thankful for the time you had and be proud of the time you gave!
Each stage has its ups and downs, as you can see. The choice to breastfeed is not the easiest. There are so many times you will want to throw in the towel. I know I did! It won’t feel worth it every morning at 2 am when they are crying for more or in stage 3 when you are no longer your own but a slave to this ever growing, continually hungry baby! Hang in there though because each one also brings with it a new joy and a strong sense of accomplishment. Take a moment to really wrap your heart around the stage you are in because as long as the days seem, the whole experience will be gone before you know it. Cherish them all and forever hold on to the memories, mom!
Did you go through these stages too?
Also In this Series:
I’m Nursing a Two Year Old
7 Ways You Can Support a Mom Who Can’t Breastfeed
7 Ways You Can Support a Breastfeeding Mom
Finding Breastfeeding Help