While my daughter was my first born, I’ve been an active and involved stepmother for a couple of years. My stepsons couldn’t have been more excited about my pregnancy. They kissed my belly and talked to their sibling daily – their enthusiasm and love grew as my pregnancy progressed. They couldn’t be more excited to have a baby sister – and she couldn’t be any more blessed to have these two big brothers.
So many questions!
On August 7th, 2017, I gave birth to my daughter in the comfort of our home. With a midwife there for support and guidance, my daughter was born into the hands of my husband. It was just moments later that the midwife helped ensure my daughter had a great latch, and she began nursing almost immediately. In the days that followed, I found I had so many questions. Should I begin pumping right away since I have a good supply? How much is my daughter actually eating? Should I pump and feed her from a bottle to make sure she’s consuming enough? When nursing became painful, I wondered if there was a problem with her latch or if she might have a tongue tie. So many questions!
Breastfeeding at Home
In those first moments after my daughter was born, the boys were right there with us. We welcomed our daughter as a family. When my midwife helped my daughter latch for the first time, the boys were sitting by my side. In the weeks leading up to my daughter’s arrival, I’d had a conversation with my husband about how to handle breastfeeding – from a logistical standpoint with our sons around. Did I need to wear two shirts to maintain appropriate levels of modesty? Did I need to retreat to another room while feeding our daughter? Keep receiving blankets and nursing covers in every corner of the house?
At that first latch with the boys looking on, it became quite apparent that there was nothing to be anxious about. It appeared to seem more normal to them than to me! While they were curious, their questions were very matter of fact rather than awkward. To be honest – I was proud of them, and instantly my bond with them grew even more.
Our First Public Feed
My husband took me out for a romantic dinner on my birthday, one week after my daughter was born. This was my first venture out if the house, and I was super-mom prepared. I wore a “nursing dress” and had several options for nursing cover position. We sat in an inconspicuous booth tucked in the corner of the restaurant and with all this preparedness, the evening went as smoothly as I could have imagined. This magical evening lured me into believing it would always be so easy!
A More Public Experience
It was likely another week later, and we went out to eat as a family at a local health food restaurant. Along with my two stepsons, we cozied up in a booth, my daughter sound asleep in her car seat. It wasn’t 30 seconds after our food was served when it was evident my daughter would be joining us for lunch. In spite of the fact that I’d become comfortable and confident nursing at home, out in the open in public was a whole new ball game. My stepsons were consumed with their food (they were 8 and 6 at the time), but my husband could see my hands shaking as I attempted to unhook the still new clips of my nursing bra.
I fumbled holding my daughter while attempting to position her behind the table of the booth where we were seated. My husband reached into our diaper bag and pulled out a cover, and helped me place it around my chest and shoulders while my daughter searched for her lunch. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a successful feeding. To this day, it’s not uncommon for my husband to help me eat my meals while I’m nursing our daughter. Nursing really is a family effort.
My most unusual nursing experience occurred just last week. While vacationing with my parents in South Dakota, we took the boys on a cave tour. My husband had our daughter in a back-pack carrier, and halfway through the cave, she decided she was hungry. If you can imagine you’re 30 minutes into a cold, dark and damp tunnel with 20 strangers. While the guide is telling us all about the stalactites hanging from the ceiling, the voice of an almost 1-year-old overpowers all other sounds. It was lunchtime (for the second time).
After a year’s worth of interesting pubic nursing experiences, most of my modesty is gone and I’m confident that when required, my most important responsibility is simply feeding my child. So, I did what all breastfeeding mothers would do. I fumbled through my layers of hiking clothes to get my daughter to my breast. I think the entire group breathed a sigh of relief when they could finally hear the guide again! My family took my pack, and I confidently proceeded through the rest of the tour holding my daughter to her meal. I’ll be honest – I didn’t feel a bit self-conscious. In fact, this may have been the first time I truly felt like an empowered and courageous mother. I trekked through the rest of that cave following my husband as he guided my steps. I felt accomplished, proud, and grateful for such an experience.
How do you #normalizebreastfeeding ?
I wear a nursing bra and tank under my top. I co-sleep after my daughter wakes for her night-time feed, and nurse side-lying in bed. She sleeps beautifully, but I haven’t had a full night alone in bed with my husband in months. Eventually, she’ll wean from night feedings and have to learn to sleep in her crib! I quit pumping after a couple of months because I have the incredible luxury of having my daughter at work with me most of the time. Because of this, she hates taking a bottle, requiring I hire babysitters or have a girls night out for only 4-5 hours at a time. It won’t be long before a bottle is necessary and I’ll wonder if I’ve done the right thing! My goal is to continue nursing until at least 18 months, but ultimately my daughter will decide how long we continue.
Our boys are learning how to be great supporters of breastfeeding, as well as great husbands and fathers one day. My nine-year-old recently said to me, “Stac, you’re a really great mom.” My 7-year old loves to ask his sister, “do you want Mom’s milk?” and helps her use sign language to tell me. My husband tells me daily how proud he is of me, and never complains about our daughter being part-time in our bed or about the time she needs with me. The look on my daughter’s face when I walk in the door after being out for a few hours reminds me of the incredible bond we’ve created.
This is just my story. My choices have made sense for my family and me – and I’ve learned that every woman’s journey is uniquely her own. How do you #normalizebreastfeeding ?