This is me. I'm tired, still very postpartum and I'd just started up my second round of antibiotics for mastitis. My baby had just had her tongue tie fixed, which had made our nursing relationship start off a little rocky.
Don't be afraid. This isn't a story about how my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter was littered with struggle and stubbornness, though I am very stubborn. This also isn't a story meant to shame mamas who are on the brink of calling it on this whole nursing thing or the mamas who've long since made that decision.
This is a story to detail another option out there, show there are ways to overcome breastfeeding difficulty and that those decisions should be made by you and what your heart is telling you. If your heart is saying "Dang it, I want this breastfeeding thing to work!" then that's awesome! If you're like "Yeah, I've worked really hard, given my best to my baby and now I need to give my best to myself" I think that is awesome too. Let's begin.
Breastfeeding is Natural
Yes, breastfeeding is natural in so much that you're feeding your baby with the food specifically designed for them. Mamas, there is not this animal instinct that kicks in and tells you exactly how to get that food into your baby. That's why there are lactation experts and people like me, your doula, to be there for you.
My daughter had tongue tie, which means her little tongue was attached a bit too much to the bottom of her mouth. This condition is very common and made her ability to draw milk from my breast difficult. This resulted in very sore nipples, cracking and mastitis.
We tried a lot of different techniques which provided small leaps in success. From using a nipple shield and nipple creams, to spoon feeding and eventually a small procedure to correct her tongue tie. All of this helped, but we still had to catch up. My daughter had been learning to nurse incorrectly, so there was still a lot of learning before we finally got the hang of this breastfeeding thing.
Then I got mastitis again. I freaking lost it you guys. How could this happen again? We fixed everything? This was supposed to be magically better. Why do my toes still curl when my baby latches? What in the fork is going on?
My daughter was going through a growth spurt and wanting to nurse all the time, I wasn't going to make it. I wanted to quit. But dang it, I wanted to experience at least once what it felt like to have my baby breastfeed without it ending in tears.
I met with another lactation consultant. Serendipity led me to this woman at the right time, because we fit. She saw me. She got me. She knew just what I needed at that exact time. A nursing holiday.
A nursing holiday doesn't sound luxurious, but folks, it really is. My lactation angel suggested I take 24 to 48 hours to stop breastfeeding. Yep. Stop breastfeeding.
She wanted me to take time to not only let my nipples heal, but my spirit heal as well. She suggested I use my breast pump every two hours to express milk and prevent engorgement and then feed my baby that milk from a bottle. She taught my husband and I how to feed my daughter with a bottle in a way that slowed milk flow and would help make the transition back to breast easier.
Then she said "Take this time for yourself and after your holiday is over, reassess if you want to keep breastfeeding." I had an out if I wanted it. That acknowledgment from another person that I still had control gave me the renewed spirit to keep breastfeeding.
Because it was a weekend, my husband was able to feed my daughter while I pumped and stayed in bed mending my body and soul. I remember thinking really hard about what I wanted, what I would regret and what I was okay with. I ended my holiday and I made my decision.
Where Are They Now?
It took several months to get into a groove with my daughter while nursing. I pumped for a year and a half. She went on nursing strikes. Sometimes we'd supplement with a formula if we needed to. She night nursed until she was 11-months-old. She's two and she's still nursing.
Having the concept of a nursing holiday as a tool for my mamas is a gift. It's that tool that allows mamas to not only heal their bodies, but heal their spirits. Breastfeeding is a huge responsibility to take on at such a tender time. I think it's important for mamas to know they have options, they are being seen for who they are at that moment. There are always ways to help keep that breastfeeding relationship going, but only if they want to.