I’m amazed that I’ve made it to the one-year mark of breastfeeding. I find it remarkable, not only because the human body does wondrous and outstanding things, but because it felt like an uphill battle. Years ago a friend mentioned that Asian women tended to have trouble getting a good latch, according to something she heard at her prenatal class. My sister, my mother and my mother in-law all used formula. Was it the latching issue? I felt alone, with very little support because they all lived hundreds of miles away. They didn’t have much advice on how to nurse since they primarily bottle-fed. Would I be able to do this?
When I brought my baby home from the birthing center my sister and my mom were both worried I wasn’t producing enough to nourish my baby girl. I was in tears and already feeling like a failure as a mama. Thankfully, part of my local village included a new best friend who was eight months into breastfeeding, my midwives and other nearby mamas who all encouraged me in the early weeks. That best friend was another Asian American mama who encouraged me by showing me that I didn’t have to believe everything I heard before and I had what it took to nurse my baby. My midwives came to my home to check on me and help me with latching. My midwife told me that my tearful breakdown I had those first few days was a good thing. “Mama, you’re doing everything right. Sometimes that initial letdown can come with tears because it’s a pivotal moment for your body.” This was what I needed to hear. She continued to text me to see how things were going and offered to come by and help if I needed additional support.
Most importantly, I had a partner who was making sure I had everything I needed—from little snacks for the cluster feeding, to late-night trips to the drugstore for lanolin. It wasn’t easy to watch me go through those first few weeks, but he held my hand as I nursed through the pain of a sore nipples and two blebs. He made me meals that I could easily devour through the nursing marathons through the night. When we eventually introduced bottles of expressed milk, he took the late night shift so I could get enough rest to be up and pumping or nursing before the sun came up again. We had milestones of “let’s get to” points: one month, three months, six months and one year. Today, I’m nursing a one year old and imagine I’ll experience another tearful day–when she eventually weans herself.