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Breastfeeding hasn’t always been an easy road for my babies and me.


I remember the feeling of breastfeeding for the first time. It was sort of like an out of body experience. I was thinking: Am I doing this right? Is this how it’s supposed to feel? Does this look right to you? What was that other way I can hold her to nurse again? How do I widen her latch?

And the questions kept coming. Wait—do I make sure she eats every two or three hours? Do I wake her up if she’s sleeping? Should I keep track of when I’m feeding her? Should I set an alarm to remind myself to offer her milk?

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It was a little overwhelming at first.

Which makes sense. Doing something new—something I’ve never done before—can leave me feeling confused and unsure, until I build up my confidence.

Along with my questions, I experienced Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER), which, for me, means getting a heavy, sad feeling right before a letdown. It only lasts a couple of minutes, and I didn’t figure out that it was an actual ‘thing’ with an actual name until I was nursing my second child.

Once I figured out that it was something other women experienced, it was so nice not to feel alone or weird.

With the little bumps along the way (and the successes as well!)—there have been a lot of lessons learned. I’m currently four months into nursing my third baby, and I have realized how much my breastfeeding journey has taught me. It has brought me immense joy, and, a bit of perspective on motherhood.

So, breastfeeding—thanks for teaching me a lot about being a mama.

1. Thanks for teaching me to be confident.

And that confidence might not come right away, but to be patient with the process and with myself, because it will come. (And it did!) Even though I had millions of questions, my baby and I figured it out together.

Breastfeeding ended up working for us, but even if it didn’t, we would have figured something else out, and that would have been a lesson learned, too.

And as a mother in general, I had no idea what I was doing at first. Motherhood was a new experience, unchartered territory. Now, four years and three babies in, there are days when I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing! But you figure it out as you go along. It really is a true “learn on the job” job. And there’s grace in acknowledging that and learning to be okay with that.

2. Thanks for teaching me how to work as a team.

I needed to follow my babies’ lead with breastfeeding. I needed to trust myself and my body. But I quickly realized that that is hard!

We are often taught to read instruction manuals and measure progress and make sure you know what you’re doing. Well, with breastfeeding, sure—there are “instruction manuals” to read and lactation counselors to consult, there are even videos online and classes to take (and all of these resources are amazing!). But in the end you have to trust in yourself and your baby—you have to trust in your team.

And that goes for nursing and non-nursing mamas. If you’ve realized that your breastfeeding journey as a team is not working and your baby is not gaining the weight she should, and you feel like you’ve tried it all and you’re going to supplement or transition to formula or donor milk (or whatever the case may be!) it’s time to work as a team to find out what you both need.

More and more I am learning that working together—parent and child—is much more effective than working against one another. Working together builds trust on both sides.

3. Thanks for teaching me the importance of slowing down.

A mother’s day is often filled with moving from one task to the next. It’s busy, busy, busy. I felt this way as a new mother, and I feel this way times a million now. I am caring for three children, “cleaning” my house (I use the term ‘cleaning’ lightly here), tending to my marriage, working from home, remembering to do all the things, rushing here, dashing there—the days can be LONG.

But—my baby needs to eat.

And yes, there are times when I nurse her and multitask by answering an email or finishing an essay on my phone, but most of the time I have to sit down and take some time to feed her. She can’t wait—her feeding schedule has to come first. I can’t just “finish one more thing” before I pick her up. I feed her when she’s hungry, so that means I have to sit down and take a breather a few times a day.

It’s so wonderful. It’s such a nice reason to take a break. Even though my body is working hard when I nurse my daughter, my mind can take a rest. These are beautiful moments throughout my LONG days that remind me how short the seasons are and how fast our babies grow.

4. Thanks for teaching me the importance of doing what works best for us.

With breastfeeding brought lots of outsider opinions and comparing myself to what other moms were doing. I have finally let that stuff go. Now, I am able to do what works best for two people—me and my baby.

Which means I am okay nursing her to sleep because that’s what works for us.

I am okay with nursing to comfort her because that’s what works for us.

I am okay nursing in public (but, also okay if you’re not!) because I just need to feed her when I need to feed her and get overwhelmed at the thought of having to find a specific place to feed her in.

I’m okay nursing her in front of other people at a family party or with guests over because I don’t want to spend hours hiding in my room, missing out on the conversation (although, sometimes I do enjoy the quiet break, especially now that she gets distracted easily while nursing!).

My point is—along the way, we’re all going to get so many opinions from other people. We’re going to have ideas and philosophies shoved in our faces from the world. This will happen at every stage of raising our children. So, we need to listen to ourselves—we need to let our inner voices be the loudest voice we hear because we know what’s best for ourselves and our families. A mama’s intuition is powerful.

5. Thanks for helping me appreciate my body.

Oh, my postpartum body! I love you, I appreciate you—but boy, do I get frustrated with you.

I feel like I will NEVER fit back into my pre-baby clothes. I feel like my body is completely changed for life after baby number three. I feel like my belly will always be jiggly and my stretch marks will always bother me. I feel like my boobs will always disappoint me when I look at them. They don’t even remember what the word ‘perky’ means.

But, on the other hand, I have such reverence for my body. For this stomach has housed three children. For these arms and legs have, with their strength, allowed me to carry and rock and piggy-back my babies. For these breasts have fed three children.

That’s downright amazing.

Motherhood, like breastfeeding, is a challenge.

Motherhood, like breastfeeding, is fulfilling.

Motherhood, like breastfeeding, is intense.

Motherhood, like breastfeeding, is a beautiful rollercoaster of emotions.

And it sure has taught me a thing or two.

So, thank you.

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Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life

I am broken.

It has happened again and I am breaking even more. Soon, the pieces will be too small to put back together.

The negative pregnancy test sits on my bathroom sink like a smug ex-lover. I am left pleading, How could you do this to me again? I thought it would be different this time. I had hope.

We are still trying. It has been 11 months and 13 days and there has been no progress. No forward momentum. No double solid lines. The emptiness of the space where the line should be mocks me.

I am broken.

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No amount of planning and scheming and effort is enough. I am not enough because I cannot make a chemical reaction happen at the exact moment it needs to happen. I cannot do what I want but oh how I wish I could.

It almost happened once. Two months ago, I felt different. Sore breasts and aware of the world like never before. I felt not empty. The blankness had been replaced by someone. I was sure of it. And I was late. Six days late and I thought this is it.

I didn't rush to test because I didn't want to jinx it. Or perhaps I just didn't want to let go of that string of hope. Without evidence that you're not actually here, I can pretend that you are.

So I waited. And I Googled early pregnancy symptoms and I kept an eye out for red spots I hoped I would never see. I finally couldn't wait any longer and decided the next morning would be the test.

But when I woke up, I knew it was just me. The feeling I had been feeling was gone and I knew, just knew, what I would find.

This test had words instead of lines. 'Not pregnant' it blared loudly, obnoxiously, insensitively.

I am broken.

It was four in the morning and I stood in my tiny bathroom apartment silently sobbing. Alone.

Perhaps you were there for a brief moment, but then you were gone.

I stared again at the stick.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

Not pregnant.

It was taunting me now.

I wrapped it in a paper towel. Walked down three flights of stairs to the front of my building and threw it in the garbage can outside.

Later, when my husband woke, I told him I was wrong. There was nothing there after all.

And I mourned. All day long, I mourned. While I walked to work. While I said hello to my co-workers. While I answered questions and pretended to smile and tried not to think of the broken body I was living in.

The next day the blood arrived. Furious. Both of us infuriated it was there once again.

Can I keep doing this?

Am I broken?

Will I get to the point where I just… stop? Stop hoping. Stop praying. Stop wishing. Stop. Trying.

Am I broken? Or can I keep going?

Life

One of my biggest jobs as a mama is to create a foundation for my kids to become trailblazers and problem-solvers. It's not an easy task. I'm constantly wondering what type of person they'll become and how I can ensure they'll be awesome citizens of the world. For me, part of raising and encouraging future leaders starts with exposure—the more I introduce them to notable leaders in history, the better they can envision their own future.

This is why I love when brands create inspirational clothing and accessories for kids. And this month, Piccolina, a lifestyle brand for littles, added an exclusive Black History Month capsule collection to their trailblazer tees series and they are too cute for words.

The Black History Month line honors heroic leaders like Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, Katherine Johnson and Rosa Parks on colorful tees. It even features illustrations by emerging artists of color like Monica Ahanonu, Erin Robinson and Joelle Avelino who are, in my opinion, just as important.

In addition to the tops, the collection features art prints that coincide with the shirts, making this a perfect addition to any kids room—and even mama's office. Perhaps even more exciting are the price points: The limited-edition tees retail for $28 and framed art prints are $60.

Maya Angelou trailblazer tee

Maya Angelou trailblazer tee

This cotton tee features a portrait of the award-winning author, poet and civil rights activist and is the perfect way for your little one to celebrate her inner storyteller. A portion of the shirts proceeds benefit non-profit organizations that support girls' education and empowerment, such as the Malala Fund and Step Up.

$28

While I'm not sure what type of person my little ones will become, I'm certain that introducing them to leaders will help them have greater self-confidence and reinforce that they are competent and resilient, too. And what mama can't get behind that? Now the hardest part is deciding which ones to purchase.

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