August latched for the first time at the hospital. A lactation consultant came in to teach me different ways to hold him and offered pointers on how to position my breast for the most efficient latch. After about 15 minutes of consultation, he did it! He began to suck and I broke down in tears. It had been nearly 9 hours since he was born and he hadn't eaten a thing. I was so proud of him for figuring it out, and I was so relieved that my breasts offered the milk he needed.
For the first two weeks, I used a nipple shield close to every other feeding to help him. I was determined to make breastfeeding work, and was really anxious about our struggle to latch without plastic between us. After the first week, he only needed the shield for night nursings. Maybe he didn't want to wake up all the way in the middle of the night to focus on latching properly (I can't blame him). After week two, he latched without a problem, and without the shield!
At August's first appointment, the doctor told us he'd gained weight during that first week home with us. I almost cried right there at the pediatrician's office. I was so relieved that my body was providing what he needed to grow. At his one month appointment, my baby boy had gained nearly TWO full pounds since birth! I'm so thankful that my milk supply has kept up with my son's demand.
Breastfeeding has been incredibly fulfilling for me. As much as it hurt the first couple weeks as August worked to perfect his latch, the bonding experience through the whole process has been unbelievable. I love the way my son searches for his source of food (sometimes he'll surprise my husband when they're snuggling and try to latch on his shoulder, or his arm pit hair!) He grunts and quickly wiggles his head back and forth, searching with an open mouth. When he finds what he's looking for, he buries his face in my breast and I can feel his whole body relax. I love looking down and seeing August's sweet eyes connect with mine as he nurses. Sometimes his eyes roll back into his head as he enters that full-belly sleepy state. I feel an inkling of pride each time as my body sustains him.
Breastfeeding has also been an ongoing test. My patience is tested throughout the night when August wakes up every couple hours to eat. It's tested when I wake up to milk-soaked sheets from leaky breasts. It's tested when they get so full and hard with milk, you can literally feel milk ducts bulging... and it HURTS. It's tested every single time I pump, because pumping isn't the same as nursing, and it can hurt, too. My patience is tested when he detaches and throws his head back in a God-awful wail (usually gas induced, sometimes just out of frustration), then goes right back to nursing like nothing ever happened.
Nursing has also done a number on curbing my anxiety. When I get anxious about feeling rushed to finish his feeding so we can get somewhere, he feels my stress and doesn't nurse as well. For the wellness of my boy and by God's grace, I've developed a way to love through my anxiety. When my blood starts to boil and I feel myself breathing quicker, I see his face and remember that it's his well-being that truly matters as he's completely dependent on me to survive. Breastfeeding is teaching me how to let superficial things go for the sake of my child. It's teaching me how to relax in spite of my anxiety disorder.
During World Breastfeeding Week, I salute the female body. I thank God for giving women the ability to sustain life, and for growing me in the process.
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