Being a health and wellness worker, many people have asked me how and what I feed Atlas, how long will I nurse, if I make his food, and various other related questions. So today I’m going to do a throwback to my pregnancy and postpartum posts and discuss that part of our journey. As with all of those posts, I am sharing my personal experience and not meaning to judge, teach, or promote my way above anyone else. We are all very different people with different children. Hopefully some will find this helpful, reassuring, or at least informative.
The work of a mother is a contradiction in a lot of ways. Some moments I feel like its effortless and other’s I’m using all of my mental, emotional, and physical energy just to keep up.
One such example is that of feeding my child.
In the beginning, breastfeeding was a challenge. I felt mentally prepared for this possibility, knowing that so many other mothers struggle to nurse. Whether its latch, supply, pain, or frequency, almost every nursing mother can attest to having a struggle in one or more area. And so it was. A struggle.
There was a lip tie, a tongue tie, sore nipples, and delayed supply. Right up until the day that there wasn’t. The ties got resolved, the supply came, the nipples healed, and a schedule was formed. All of a sudden, those issues were not present. Ah. A breath of fresh air. Effortless. That is, until the new challenges showed up.
Practical issues like what to wear when we are out in public, leaking through clothing, and exercising with full breasts. Then my supply regulated and I would no longer leak or experience painful engorgement. I figured out the clothing thing and eventually he started eating less frequently and more efficiently. Back to the easy life.
Uh, nope. Then I started to notice the anxiety. I happen to be one of those individuals (let’s just say I’m a Unicorn) who experiences anxiety along with the release of oxytocin. You know, the “cuddle” or “love” hormone. Our bodies release it during labor and nursing (among other things) to promote contractions and the let-down reflex. What this means for me is that my let-down brings a very low-level of stress and anxiety to my body. This is not typical but it is common enough that scientists are looking into the other roles of oxytocin on our brains. You can read about it more here and here. I learned how to cope with this through distraction or just paying attention to him and not the anxious feelings. It still happens, but I know it’s just my body doing its Unicorn thing. At the start of my breastfeeding journey, I never would have anticipated that nursing would become so technically effortless, but leave me with the incredible psychological challenge of physiological stress. One big contradiction.
Now I am in the phase of moving towards whole, real, unprocessed foods and less nursing. He is beginning to wean on his own and my hormones are adjusting along with that in some weird form of PMS that isn’t really PMS but feels like something just as irritating and uncontrollable.
Being a chef, a lot of people assume my baby food skills are prolific. In all honesty, I don’t put a whole lot of work into making his food. I just give him what we eat (age appropriate, of course). He loves some foods some days and not others. When I first started introducing foods, all I could think was how easy nursing was compared to figuring out how to feed him actual food. It’s messy…he may not like it…what if he chokes!? At that time, prolonging the nursing anxiety was beginning to look more and more attractive.
Eventually, it got easier (surprise, surprise) and he absolutely loves to eat. Plantains, brisket, and blueberries are current favorites. He doesn’t choke often and when he does, he figures out how to chew better next time. He is learning how to grow and mature, and I’m learning how to let him.
I planned to nurse for a year and figure out the rest later. Now, at almost a year, I see him beginning to prefer the high chair over the rocking chair and I know that our season of nursing is approaching itend. As I look back over all of the challenges and the ease, I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn and persevere through it all, being able to provide incredible nutrition for my child, and the knowledge gained by watching an experience go from hard to easy to hard and back again. It has been such a beautiful example of motherhood, of life even. Times of effort and of ease.
*This post was inspired by the stories at the Honestly Blog. I was not paid or sponsored by Honest, only encouraged to share my experience in hopes of normalizing all the ways we chose to nourish our children. Check out more stories here and follow Honest on Instagram.