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New mama: It’s okay to say breastfeeding is hard

But for me, it was so worth it.

New mama: It’s okay to say breastfeeding is hard

Of the many real fears that can haunt a new parent on the cusp of bringing a child home for the first time, none felt quite as acute to me as the fear of not being able to feed our son. And so, during my pregnancy and in the hospital, I approached the subject of breastfeeding with all the zeal of an over eager scholar tackling a complex theorem.


I took the classes, read the books, asked the experts, watched the videos, consulted the nursing staff, researched feeding schedules. But as we all know, with any new skill we’re trying to master in life—there are lessons that can’t be found exclusively in books.

The hard and worthy ones are just not that easily won.

Or, as one lactation consultant drily explained at the start of my third trimester breastfeeding course, the experience would be akin to “taking a class on riding a bicycle without having an actual bicycle.”

Weeks later, with our own beloved “bicycle” in my arms, we spent nearly five days in the hospital. Through the searing pain of almost instantly cracked nipples, I struggled to get this new skill down. To hold this fragile human being like a football, while reclining, in a cradle hold, in a cross-cradle. To relax. To try not to think about it too much.

Then I pumped. My husband and I fed our son with plastic syringes and tiny cups as if he were a bird. As his weight dropped, I recall tearfully giving him formula in what felt like, at the time, my first major failure as a mom. Why couldn’t I do this?

Arriving home, we moved furniture and pillows, worked with a lactation consultant, and kept a water bottle and snacks constantly at the ready. For the first several weeks, my very patient husband supported me through a majority of our nearly hourly nursing sessions. Nothing could have prepared me for the scale of the hunger, thirst, and exhaustion I felt.

With a firmer grip on the mechanics of breastfeeding, I nursed on demand for months, feeling like I was tethered to our couch. Without any way of establishing a schedule, I felt unmoored, lonely and at times, resentful of my lost autonomy.

This natural process, breastfeeding, did not come naturally to me at all. At the lowest points, I conflated my ability to breastfeed with my ability to be a good mom.

Looking back on it now, I would tell that tired, anxious mom that at some point her fear and worry and frustration would feel cheap. I would tell her that she would feel bigger more enduring things. I would tell her she would make a home in those more beautiful feelings.

No matter how we choose to feed our children, no matter what trials we endure in the process, I appreciate that these difficult moments are great teachers and infinitely worthy of our attention and admiration.

So to my body, my baby, and our breastfeeding journey together—I want to thank you.

Thank you for the wonder you’ve shown me.

Almost a year later, I marvel at the ways women’s bodies are able to produce and sustain life in such swift succession. Nursing our son, after everything my body had been through, still feels totally miraculous.

Thank you for the patience you’ve given me.

My son’s constant hunger and relentless nursing schedule, eventually taught me to take a deep breath, relax and submit to the wisdom of an essential process. It taught me that sometimes I need to let him guide me.

Thank you for the gift of presence.

As our son became more alert, it became too difficult to nurse him and watch TV or look at my phone or read a book. Nursing him allowed me to be truly present for these intimate moments.

Thank you for the warmth you’ve brought into my life.

The hunger to hold and touch our son has often felt overwhelming. Touching him, studying the folds of his ear or each crease on his chubby fingers, seems to give the world more depth. Holding and nursing him has made me cherish moments of loving touch.

Thank you for reminding me of my strength.

It’s doubtful that a mom nursing her son in Central Park is cause for attention, but it made me feel brave. Venturing out into the world to nurse has given me newfound strength, confidence and comfort in my own skin.

Thank you for this sense of connection.

Mistakenly, I thought I would be alone in breastfeeding our son. I was buoyed by the support of my husband, nurses and friends who had been through it. This experience has given me a newfound sense of community and a deeper appreciation for the ways we have to open ourselves up to receive help from others.

Thank you for helping me foster true compassion.

My breastfeeding experience has not been easy, and there are circumstances that are far more challenging than my own have been. I have so much admiration for all the moms who fight to figure out the best ways to feed their growing families. No matter how it’s done, it’s an incredible thing.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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