I remember looking at the milk that had just come out of my body in complete and utter (udder?) amazement.
By this point in my breastfeeding and motherhood journey, my first baby was clearly thriving (aka he was a huge chunker [see picture]). I had felt my breasts engorge with milk (ouch) and the sweet relief after each feeding (sigh). I leaked pretty frequently (kind of annoying). Clearly, I was making milk. But to see over 5 ounces of it in a bottle and know that it came from my body was, and still is, a very surreal and humbling experience.
I guess it’s hard to describe because it feels so obvious.
When a woman gets pregnant, she grows a whole human from scratch. We get that. She makes a special organ to act as a filter between herself and the baby to ensure that baby is getting the highest quality nutrition possible. I guess we kind of get that, too. She births the baby through her body, whether through her abdomen or her vagina. Sure. And then she makes actual milk to sustain her baby once they have joined her in the outside world.
I mean, come on! Am I the only one who finds this absolutely miraculous and fascinating at every level?
And yet, like most of life, it is also quite mundane.
Let’s be honest: Breastfeeding and motherhood can feel like a chore.
I’ll admit that I’ve called my little nursling my “ball and chain” on more than one occasion. 🙊
It can feel overwhelming to know that you’re the only one who can provide sustenance and comfort to your baby. In the early days, you’re trapped under a baby literally sucking the life out of you for an entire hour. Finally, they fall asleep and the second you hand your baby to someone else, they start crying, and what happens? Your poor husband asks you if the baby is hungry and your face gets hot with pure Mama Bear Rage (or maybe that was just me 😡). Also, It can straight up *hurt, at times! Like… babies get teeth! 😬 Or they get distracted and give you nip-lash (when they turn abruptly to look at something while still latched on) 😖! I also want to mention that pumping is for the birds. I’m thankful for it but I really dislike it. Shoutout to the exclusive pumping mamas out there – you the real MVPs!
And of course, all those night feedings and sleepless nights can be So. Incredibly. Exhausting.
But amidst the mundaneness of breastfeeding and motherhood there are little miraculous moments of bliss.
Like how breasts actually change temperature compared to the rest of your body to help your baby stay warm 1,2. Or how most babies seem to know exactly what to do to get their milk as soon as they’re born. Those moments of sweet eye contact and milkie smiles. The magical ability to soothe and comfort your baby immediately. The convenience of just lifting up your shirt and having everything your baby needs to grow. Not having to heat up a bottle and wash the dishes after every feeding. (Okay, maybe that last one’s not a miracle, but it’s one of my favorite reasons to breastfeed, if I’m honest 🤣).
There are moments that transcend time and space. Like when you breastfeed in the middle of the night and you’re not filled with resentment. You know, when you’re actually present to the moment and it feels like you and your baby are the only ones awake in the entire world. Little moments, when their tiny hand rests on your chest, you smell the top of their head and are immediately filled with indescribable joy and gratitude at the thought of being able to take part in creating and sustaining life.
Then, as you shed a single tear of joy and love for your baby, your baby has a major diaper blow out or spits up all over you 🤦🏻♀️.
That’s where we as mothers reside: between the miraculous and mundane.
Oscillating between the two, moment by moment, day by day.
Maybe your breastfeeding and motherhood journey has been easy or maybe it’s been a long, difficult one filled with many tears. Or perhaps you were never able or had a desire to breastfeed. Regardless, take heart, mama. Know that we are all swinging back and forth between the miracle and the mundane, united in this thing called “motherhood”.
*Typically in the first six(ish) weeks of breastfeeding, there is some pain upon latching that usually subsides within ten seconds or so. Usually this goes away after six weeks. If you experience pain, it is always a good idea to call a lactation consultant (IBCLC) to assess the situation.
- Kimura, Chisato, and Megumi Matsuoka. “Changes in breast skin temperature during the course of breastfeeding.” Journal of human lactation : official journal of International Lactation Consultant Association vol. 23,1 (2007): 60-9. doi:10.1177/0890334406297255
- Skin-to-skin contact and suckling in early postpartum : Effects on temperature, breastfeeding and mother-infant interaction Author: Bystrova, Ksenia Date: 2008-02-18 Location: Berzeliuslaboratoriet, Jacob Berzelius (fd sal Adam), KI Campus, Solna Time: 13.00 Department: Institutionen för kvinnors och barns hälsa / Department of Women’s and Children’s Health