Sarah: The Breastfeeding Newbie
Sarah and her husband celebrated two milestones this summer: their second anniversary and the birth of their first child. She is looking forward to breastfeeding and motherhood and feels that breastfeeding will be the first way she’ll be able to show her baby how much she truly loves him. She has also prepared for breastfeeding by reading and researching and understands that it won’t be easy. Her husband, mother (who breastfed Sarah), sister, and mother-in-law all support her decision to breastfeed.
Read More >
Over the past eight months the landscape of my life has done a complete 180. Before Sammy was born I had all sorts of preconceived notions about motherhood. I had this vision of breastfeeding my son that he would lay calmly in my lap peacefully drinking his mama's milk till he was content. I thought, after reading tens and tens of books, that I had an idea of what it would be like to be a breastfeeding mother. Boy, was I wrong! I had no idea. After reading all of the books I had a vague inkling of what might happen, but my Sammy is my Sammy, he is no one else's baby and he is definitely not the baby described in all the books. Since Sammy joined my life I have become more focused, more dedicated and more committed to living fulfilled, living with meaning and living with passion. Sammy has taught me how to be alive, how to live each day with conviction and passion, while still being able to go with the flow and roll with the punches. Being a breastfeeding mom is such a joy and such a challenge.9:00am on Monday April 11
Sammy was born when I was over 41 weeks pregnant. By the end of my pregnancy I was convinced that there was a big conspiracy theory that some women just stay pregnant forever. I thought that Sammy would never come out. I thought I was going to be that woman waddling down the street that looks like she’s about to pop… but I felt like I never would, I would just keep waddling along for another year or two. But, then it happened. I went into labor and my water broke and Sammy was on his way. Once he was born, it was hard to imagine him as anything but a days-old infant. Well, Sammy turned six-months-old this week and what I have come to realize is that it is almost impossible to imagine him as any other age than he is right now.
9:00am on Tuesday April 5
We visited with our three-week-old friend today. When we arrived Sammy was ready to nurse as was our tiny friend so both boys had a nice little lunch. It was remarkable to compare the two. While the newborn was curled into a little ball in the nook of his mother's arm, intently focused on nursing, my not-so-little boy's legs dangled off my lap as he curiously observed the new surroundings while sucking away. Even though Sammy was that tiny not too long ago, I'm having a hard time recalling Sammy as a three-week-old baby. I do remember, though, that when he was that age, six months seemed like a millennia away.
Something happened this week. I would almost go so far as to say that Sammy woke up. Sammy seems to have shed the last remainders of his newborn days. He does things now that were impossible for him just a few short months ago. He sits, rolls, coos, sings, and laughs, laughs and laughs. Oh, those laughs. Sammy has blossomed into a little boy, a happy, squirmy, giggly little boy. The milky grins, the fantastic belly chuckles fill my heart with so much joy. My milk has nourished him into a little gentleman. Now he’s eating real food, bananas, apples, carrots, you name it – he’s either tried it or will try it soon (if it’s a fruit or veg). It was amazing watching him eat for the first time. Somehow he just knew to chew and swallow. How did he know that? I propose that he woke up.
So, the time has come to say goodbye to my newborn son and hello to the little person version of Sammy. I realize that the moments that have passed and those to come are too hard to grasp. I am just starting to understand that I can no longer live in any moment but the present. Time has taken on a whole new meaning now that Sammy is in my life. In those tough moments time goes SO slowly, in the good moments time goes by faster than a blink. It is useless to imagine or guess at what will come just as it is useless to rehash the past. Sammy has forced me to live in the now. He has made me realize that life is happening right in front of my eyes, right here, right now.
Sammy and I have really hit a great pattern. He's been sleeping through the night and taking three naps every day. I would say it’s a miracle if I didn’t know how much work and time it took to establish this routine. His awake time is so joyous. He laughs and babbles with excitement as he discovers the world from a well-fed and well-rested point of view. He's ready to eat about every three hours and has become very specific in the way that he asks for his food.9:00am on Wednesday March 30
Today we had the pleasure of attending the bris of the first born son of very good friends. We had a great morning getting ready for the big event. Sammy took a nap and as soon as he got up we got him dressed and caught a cab across town. Sammy loves car rides so by the time we arrived at the synagogue he was in a great mood.
It was so intense for me seeing Sammy right next to this eight-day-old infant. How did we get this far? How did Sammy and I become the experienced, old hands?12:00pm on Thursday March 24
Night becomes day, day becomes night, waking, sleeping, waking, sleeping – life continues on and on and on. Looking back over my days it is almost a miracle to realize that the person who got dressed up for Saturday nights in the club is the same person who sings “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” while cleaning up poopy diapers. How did this happen? Was there some kind of fundamental shift that brought about this monumental change? The answer, in short, is no. Nothing deeply fundamental changed within me. But, if I am honest, the girl I used to be would never have been capable of living the life I live today.
Through my daily trials and triumphs I learn who I am, as well as who this little bundle of mysterious joy is, my Sam. Though I am often shocked to hear it, I am a mother. I have borne a tiny, wondrous, little human. My reluctance to accept the title of Mother has actually been integral in helping me to learn the myriad of my new responsibilities. In my heyday I was a competitive and driven publicist, I was a motivated and detail-oriented restaurant manager, I was a partier, a friend, a savvy New Yorker. Today I am all of those things. Initially there was a feeling of resistance to letting go of the woman I once was. I still want to know all the best restaurants in town, I want to go to the hippest shows and most cutting-edge bars. But as a mom I’m completely exhausted by 9:00 pm.
With nearly seven months of motherhood under my belt I look back on the road that got me here with gratitude. Each one of the qualities that served me so well as a single city girl is now making me an amazing mom. Just because I am a mother does not mean that I can no longer be the rockin’ woman I once was – if anything, continuing to rock will embolden me as a mother. Looking at the decisions I have made in the past will give me the confidence to make good decisions as a mother. Sammy is my cub and with each day I am growing into a stronger, more feminine and ever more fierce lioness.
Going through the transition of single woman to partner to parent can be overwhelming and scary – I know it has been for me. I must remind myself to not look at the puzzle of my life in pieces, but rather as a whole. There are beautiful pieces within me that when joined together create a force of nature that can only be described as Mother. It's a challenge though, finding a way to fit each piece together. At each stage of life I become less and less sure that I know it all. As a child I was sure that my world was THE world and that I was the expert at everything. The older I get the wiser I get, in that I am wise enough to realize how little I know. All I have are my own experiences and the knowledge that I have picked up along the way. Combining everything that I was and everything that I am will (hopefully) lead me to find everything that I hope to be.
To all of my mom friends out there, those I know well, those I’ve never met, my mother-in-law, my mother, my grandmothers, great-grandmothers: Thank you. Thank you for the benefit of your experience, thank you for teaching me to be me, to be comfortable to embrace all the parts of who I am in order to become a wife, a mother and ultimately a woman.
My family has reached a crossroad. We have outgrown our current one-bedroom apartment and are ready for the next step. Our only problem is we don't know the direction we should choose. Sammy is nearly six months old. He is rolling over more and more, he is sitting up, and he looks pretty anxious to start moving around. As Sammy has grown in the past half-year our life as a family has grown in kind. What I keep coming back to every day is that my milk has nourished Sammy and brought him this far.12:00pm on Thursday March 17
As I was talking with my mother over Skype while nursing Sammy today, she remarked how impressed she was with me, at how well informed I am despite Sammy only being four months old. She said that when she had my brother, her eldest, she was grasping at straws for some time. After hanging up with my mom, as I burped Sammy, I thought how lucky he and I are to be able to share these special moments with his grandmother across the country. I changed his diaper and put him down for a nap and checked my email. It dawned on me that my greatest salvation over these past few months has been the Internet. Without the Internet I would not be able to talk with Sammy's grandparents like I do everyday. I would not be able to check in with my friends on Facebook and Twitter and right here on this blog I would feel completely alone.12:00pm on Thursday March 10
My husband and I had a whirlwind romance. It was not even seven months from the day we met till the day we married. We knew within moments of meeting that we would spend the rest of our lives together. Since Sammy's birth we have grown closer than ever as we joyfully watch our creation grow into an amazing little boy. We have learned a lot about each other as we grow into our roles as new parents. Through every turn my husband has consistently been my biggest supporter.12:00pm on Thursday March 3
"What might be right for you, may not be right for some"
-Alan Thicke, Gloria Loring and Al Burton
When did our society start passing so much judgment on nursing mothers? Who made up the rule, "if they're old enough to talk, they're too old to nurse?" I would just like to know why people are so concerned with how long a child is nourished or comforted by his mother. Mother's milk has been proven to aid brain development, immunity, dental health, and a myriad of other important functions. In fact, children who nurse for beyond 12 months are shown to be more independent toddlers and young children.12:00pm on Thursday February 24
My husband and I feel that we have a very special and unique love. When we met almost exactly three years ago we immediately fell in love, a fairy tale love, a love that only comes along once in a millennia. We genuinely love and respect each other and we never get sick of expressing that to each other. When Sammy began growing in my belly, we could barely believe it, but we fell even deeper in love. We actually felt sorry for other couples because we felt that no one could love each other as much as we did. And then Sammy was born and he became this most precious and overwhelming manifestation of our love. It's like Sammy's existence brought our love into focus, as if to say, "this is why we met and fell in love."9:49am on Tuesday February 15
I often think about what it must have been like to be a nursing mother in a small town a few hundred years ago. New moms probably kept each other company, their babies socializing and growing together. They probably also all nursed around each other. Young girls probably grew up seeing their mothers and mothers' friends nursing their own children. It must have been so organic for women to birth and nurse their babies. It was just the way their mothers had done it. Nowadays things are different. Our apartment is on the 17th floor, isolating us from the world below. Our families are states away, so its really just us. As a 21st century mother, you have to work at creating your own village.12:00pm on Thursday February 10
A friend of mine described motherhood as a series of separations. First your child separates from your body, then from your breast, then off to school, college, etc. While I will admit that this is the natural course of things, it is hard for me to let Sammy go. Before Sammy came along my husband and I used to spend a lot of time going to see movies and dining out. Now, we savor a night when we have enough energy to rent a movie and order in dinner. While we enjoy the opportunity to have a date night, it is hard for me to trust anyone else but my husband to watch our son. That is why the holidays are so nice. Visiting my parents or my husband's parents is a nice time for us to go out as a couple because we can leave Sammy with his grandparents.12:00pm on Thursday February 3
As a new mom everyone tells you to take care of yourself first. They say that if you’re not feeling 100% your child will know it. Well, Sammy is almost four months old now and last week’s birthday present from my husband – a spa day -- helped me to realize that I was really letting myself go. I would go days without showering, I had neglected doctors appointments and I was – and still am -- in desperate need of a podiatric appointment for a toe that’s giving me trouble. The past seven days have really been enlightening for me. Since taking the day off and indulging in the spa I have let myself calm down and relax as a parent and as a woman.8:36am on Thursday January 27
New Year's is always a time of reflection. As with every other New Year it seems a lot easier looking back than it does looking ahead.The past and the present I can deal with, but the future is too scary to contemplate. At the same time, I've never been more excited to see what's next.2:17pm on Thursday January 20
Today is my 31st birthday, happy birthday to me! For my present my husband sent me to a spa for a two-hour rejuvenating treatment that included a footbath, full body exfoliation, full body massage, scalp massage, and facial as well as a manicure/pedicure. I will say, I am a very lucky girl. My husband took Sammy for the day, ran all the errands for the weekend and sent me off to be treated like a queen. This is truly one of the most perfect days.3:29pm on Thursday January 13
A couple weeks ago I mentioned my family's upcoming trip to Jamaica (which we are very excited about). Well, it dawned on us last weekend that in order to bring our son with us on his inaugural family trip we would need to secure him a passport. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of visiting a US post office, rest assured they are a not-too-distant-cousin of hell. Both Sammy's father and I had to be present with valid government issue ID's in order to get Sammy his passport. It actually started off as a good afternoon...3:18pm on Thursday January 6
Though I live across the country from my parents, I was lucky to have them with me the day that Sammy came into the world. I will never forget the trip home from the hospital. In NYC, few people have cars, so we took a cab home from the hospital. My husband, Sammy and I were in one cab and my parents were in the other. When we walked into our apartment I remember having an overwhelming feeling of, "now what?" My husband's parents arrived the next day. Not that we have any idea about what we're doing now, but back then, all of three months ago, we were like polar bears in the tropics.2:36pm on Thursday December 30
"It's only a phase, and there IS a reality outside of this."
These are wise words that a good friend told me she used as a mantra for herself multiple times a day when her son was first born. Being a new mom has thrown me. I'm used to feeling confident, sure of myself. Being a mom has you questioning yourself at every turn. Babies are so innocent, so helpless and yet have so many needs. When a baby is first born they have to eat every two hours, at least. For some babies it can take quite some time until the time between feeds stretches out.2:28pm on Thursday December 23
Since the first minute of Sammy's life I have enjoyed our nursing relationship. I love the way he eats so intently and his little hand grabs onto my shirt. I love the way he looks up at me with his milky smile. Sammy will have his three-month birthday this week and I cannot believe how far we've come. But while I am giddy over our special and intimate mother-son relationship, I can't help but have moments when I feel like I want to yell, "ENOUGH!"1:23pm on Thursday December 16
The Jewish holidays have just come to a close, just before Sammy turns three months old. My little family traveled to my parents' home for the holidays. What a great treat to be around family, so many helping hands. I was actually able to shower EVERY day! I don't think I've been that clean since Sammy arrived.
As Orthodox Jews, modesty is a big thing in my parents' home so breastfeeding was bound to be an issue. I am a free spirit and I truly believe that my baby should be able to eat whenever he needs to, no matter where I am. All of the female members of my family were completely comfortable around me nursing but my father would excuse himself at Sammy's mealtime. Before I nursed, I would ask my father where he was going to be, he would always allow me to stay where I was and he would either look away or leave the room.11:52am on Thursday December 9
So here we are in Los Angeles, clear across the continent from home, sitting in Grandma and Grandpa's house enjoying the Southern California sunshine and all the attention that only grandparents know how to give. This is Sammy's first trip and what a trip it's been. We leave for our home in NYC tomorrow but we've been soaking up all the love over the past week and a half.10:54am on Thursday December 2
When Sammy first came into our lives I was sure I would never sleep again. He does not have any kind of schedule and will eat anywhere from every 30 minutes to every two hours. Waking up for nighttime feedings was so challenging. I was so tired and taking the time to get get up only made Sammy wait longer for food thus enraging him further. As if achieving a good latch during the day wasn't hard enough, it was virtually impossible at 2 a.m. Now that Sammy is almost two-months-old the nighttime feedings have become one of my favorite moments as a mother.4:39pm on Thursday November 18
If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend Planet Earth, a five-part documentary by the BBC. The movie is just packed with incredible detail and information. Apart from that, it is one of the most beautiful things to watch. A lot of the information is centered around varying species' mother and their young. As a woman preparing to mother my first born it was so amazing to see the way that animals in nature care for their babies.12:32pm on Thursday November 11
Traveling with a two-month-old is so much more of a treat than I ever would have imagined. My husband and I took a cross-country flight with Sammy so that we could visit his grandparents (my parents) before my husband goes back to work. The whole time leading up to the trip we were questioning whether or not it was the right thing to do. Sammy's doctor gave him clearance to go; he had already gotten his first vaccines. His doctor told us to make sure that Sammy was nursing during take off and landing. Being a nursing mom made this trip so easy. As my mother said, "have breast, will travel."3:12pm on Thursday November 4
I just got home from my 38 week checkup and it looks like things are moving in the right direction. My doctor did an internal exam and she said she was able to feel the baby's head. She also said that I'm one centimeter dilated. I laughed right out loud when she said that. In my mind any degree of dilation means that there's a baby coming. Of course, it could mean that the baby is coming tonight or in three weeks from now. My husband and I find this whole process so hard to believe. Is there really a baby in there? I'm sure we won't truly believe it until we're holding him in our arms. We found out yesterday that good friends of ours are 15 weeks pregnant. The father-to-be said, "we don't really believe it yet." I responded, "you'll have just as hard a time believing it at 38 weeks as you do at 15 weeks."4:21pm on Thursday October 28
As the Jewish New Year comes around I realize that I have to be grateful for. The New Year is a time for reflection. Do I have someone special in my life, am I happy in my career, am I giving enough to the world around me? This year, the holidays are all a blur. Sammy is in my life now so everything else has fallen away. One reason I was nervous to breastfeed was feeling isolated. Would I always have to excuse myself? Would my husband be embarrassed of me? What I have found is the exact opposite. I have never felt more connected to those around me than I do as a mother.
I'm sure that mothers everywhere have been exchanging knowing glances for as long as mothers have been around. I try to get out everyday, mostly to preserve my sanity, and every time I leave the house passersby stop me with questions about Sammy. As a new mother there is nothing I would rather talk about than my newborn son. People want to know how old he is, how much he weighs and if he keeps me up at night. (He's 7 weeks old, I'm not sure how much he weighs, but at four weeks he was 11.7 lbs, and yes, he keeps me up at night.) My favorite moment is when people ask if I am breastfeeding. When asked, I immediately beam and proudly answer, "yes, I am."12:00pm on Thursday October 21
What does a due date really mean anyway? I read that only 5% of babies are born on their due dates. In fact, my close friend gave birth to her first-born son two weeks and two days after the due date. With 14 days left till my estimated due date I realized last night that if I give birth at the same point in my pregnancy that she gave birth I'll still have another month to go!
My pregnancy has been a real combination of highs and lows. I have battled nausea through the past nine months. I have had heartburn, constipation, restlessness, appetite problems and just about every symptom you can imagine. I have also had the true fortune of feeling a life grow inside of me. I have seen my body grow and change with such rapidity that I don't recognize myself in the mirror every morning. I have just entered my 38th week of pregnancy and I am feeling so heavy, hot and tired.
With everything I do I can't help but think, "the next time I do this I could be a mother." It might not be smart to think that way, but, again, I can't help it. I try not to focus on the due date, but at this point, I really just want the baby out. I'm excited by the prospect of labor and delivery. I have been doing targeted exercises throughout the pregnancy to prepare my body. I have read a tremendous amount about the science of labor and delivery and I feel very prepared so that I will not be surprised by what will happen. We have also hired a doula, labor support coach, to help us through the whole thing from start to finish. I aim to deliver this baby naturally and I truly believe I have done everything possible to prepare myself. Science has proven that women who deliver naturally have an easier time achieving the first latch and babies who are born naturally have an easier time initiating nursing.
I'd like to think that I am doing as much as I can to get this baby started on the right foot. I believe that a natural delivery will give this baby the best start possible. Of course, I understand that anything can happen and I am more than prepared to deal with whatever might come up, but in an ideal world, this baby and I will both be alert and excited to meet each other when the moment comes. Our doula is also a certified lactation consultant. We had a breastfeeding meeting with her last week and it was so interesting. We learned about the process of achieving the correct latch, we learned about the hormones involved with breastfeeding and we learned about the emotions that both my husband and I are likely to feel. My doula is encouraged that I will have a good start with breastfeeding because my breasts are already leaking. On the one hand I get excited when I see the colostrum at my nipples, but I also get a little freaked out. It is so strange to see my body behaving like this!
From all the reading I have done and all the people I have spoken to, with all of this education under my belt I feel ready to get this baby out and at my breast. The heavier he gets inside of me, the hotter it gets outside (high of 98 today!), the more anxious I am to meet this child. Who will he be? What will he look like? How will he sound? It is weird to have spent so long so close to this developing person and to realize that he is still just a stranger. I really can't wait to meet him.11:17am on Thursday October 7
Until moving to New York City I had never seen anyone breastfeed in public. The first time I saw a woman nursing her baby I didn't even realize that's what she was doing. I thought she was just holding her baby close to her. Upon second glance I saw that the baby was suckling from her breast. My initial reaction was, "doesn't she want more privacy?" but then it dawned on me, the baby is hungry and doesn't care about privacy.12:00pm on Thursday September 30
In my family there have been quite a few difficult stories of breastfeeding. However, all of these stories are from my mother's generation. There was an overarching theory that nursing was easy, that all you had to do was bring your baby to your breast and everything would sort itself out. It looked that simple after all. The ladies in my family, and presumably a lot of families, of my mother's generation were met with one obstacle after another as they attempted to nurse. At first the baby was disinterested in the breast, then if the baby became interested, the mom wouldn't know how to get him to latch properly. If the nursing became successful, the latch was so poor that it would cause all sorts of trouble for the nipple, cracking, chaffing and even bleeding. As the attempts at breastfeeding became more and more frustrating for both mom and baby the stress level would rise. While stress is not directly linked to adversely affecting milk supply, it can make the whole nursing experience fraught with anxiety, apprehension and fear causing both mom and baby to become too frustrated to successfully complete the task at hand. Sure enough, the ladies of the preceding generation turned to the bottle, baby formula and even early ages of baby food such as rice cereal.12:00pm on Thursday September 23
I'm in the final stretch of my pregnancy, just 27 days till my due date. In these quiet moments leading up to the birth of my first child I have been doing an obsessive amount of reading. I have been doing so much reading because I have found something in common with everyone I know who has been unsuccessful at breastfeeding: lack of accurate information. I feel strongly that knowledge is power. I have chosen to arm myself with as much powerful knowledge as possible. I have learned so many interesting things to help me prepare for the noble task of breastfeeding my baby.10:11am on Thursday September 16
I am the youngest of three with an older sister and an older brother. My brother has two kids, but let's be honest: he doesn't know a thing about nursing. My sister is my best friend and the most amazing woman in the world but she does not have any children so she has no real insight either. My mother nursed all three of us for four months each. My mom is my first point of contact for all matters related to nursing.
There is something so primal inside of me that is excited to begin nursing. But there are also so many fears, so many questions. What if I don't get it right at first, what if I never get it right? How will I know that the baby is getting enough to eat? What if, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much I educate myself, no matter how much help I seek out, I am unable to nurse my baby? There is one lesson that I have learned throughout my life experience that remains true every day: Don't ask "what if," just live.4:04pm on Tuesday September 7
Puberty was a difficult time for me, as it is for most people. I remember filling with jealousy as I watched my friends' bodies change. How silly it was to be jealous of feeling so sick, but I did want to get my period so I could be in that club too. I saw my friends get their periods and then their breasts, one by one they each went through this change that I couldn't help but feel jealous of. Sure enough, I got my period not too early and not too late. I was 12 years old, it was a Saturday afternoon and I started to run a mild fever. With a shy smile I told my mother, "I think I got my period." I showed her my bloody underwear and the broadest smile came across her face. Of course, feeling the way I did I could not understand why she was so happy. She gave me a pad, which I promptly applied, then she sat me down on the couch welcoming me to womanhood. At that time I didn't feel like a woman, I felt like a sick little girl.10:39am on Tuesday August 3