I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my kids.
I knew I didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle, and figured that rolling over and nursing in bed would be the easiest way to sleep as much as humanly possible with a newborn.
People had told me about the incredible bond I would feel with my kids by breastfeeding. With a history of anxiety and depression, I wanted to take advantage of any extra hormones my body would produce to make the bonding process easier.
I had a lot of intellectual reasons for breastfeeding, but never felt a heartfelt desire to nurse while pregnant with my first daughter.
The first couple months were brutal. My daughter nursed for 45 minutes every hour. She was colicky. I was young and anxious. I contemplated giving up several times, when people insisted she would sleep longer than two hours if I gave her formula.
But once the colic passed, nothing prepared me for how much I would love breastfeeding. The quiet hours I spent holding my daughter, smelling her hair and the folds of her neck, dreaming of the amazing young woman she would grow up to be, and feeling content with life.
I was lucky enough to take six months off with each birth, and even after I returned to work, nursing allowed me to feel more connected to her. Every time I expressed milk, I was grateful for the quiet time to think about my baby.
I weaned my first at 20 months when I developed a severe nursing aversion at the start of my second pregnancy. My second child self-weaned at 15 months, and my third child self-weaned at 15 months, presumably when my milk slowed down after I became pregnant with my son.
I had always set a goal of breastfeeding each of my children for two years. Although I have yet to achieve this goal, my last child is 22 months now and going strong, so I have hope we’ll hit that milestone.
With each pregnancy, I have produced enough extra milk to be able to donate to babies who needed it. The formal donation process was too stringent for me, and I was opposed to donating milk that would turn around and be sold, so I found folks nearby who needed it. Some were friends who didn’t produce enough, or any milk. Some were strangers whose babies had medical conditions and needed breast milk because of digestive issues, or whose mother passed away. I feel good about my nursing journey, that I was able to provide for my own children, and help other people out in the process. It was not always easy, but in retrospect, it was always worth it.