As I gaze at my one year old son drinking from a sippy cup with his adorable little hands, I have a sense of joy and a touch of sadness as our breastfeeding relationship has slowly come to an end. A year ago I was blessed with becoming a first time mother of a sweet baby boy. As a Registered Nurse, recently certified Certified Lactation Counselor, and someone very passionate about wellness and nutrition, I knew that it was very important for me to breastfeed my baby as long as I was able. I read many books, reached out for advice from other mothers, as well as attended a hospital provided class on breastfeeding. I created the positive intention and the goal that I would breastfeed for at least a year; always keeping in mind that I would be thankful for any duration I would be blessed to breastfeed.

With my son recently turning one, I realize the immense gratitude I have for my breastfeeding experience and I hope to inspire other mothers new to breastfeeding and support mothers facing challenges with breastfeeding. Every mother’s situation is unique: there are mothers who physically cannot breastfeed due to health conditions and some mothers who prefer not to breastfeed. In appreciation of the diverse situations mothers’ experience, I wish to encourage and inspire all the mothers who are physically able to breastfeed and have any desire to begin breastfeeding. You can also reach your goals with breastfeeding and bless your baby with the health benefits and the special bond which breastfeeding creates between a mother and her baby.

As mothers, we all have certain worries and fears. One of my big fears in becoming a new mother was that I could fail with breastfeeding. I had nine weeks maternity leave and was determined to master this new skill, as well as somehow have a magic stock of breast milk in the freezer before I went back to working my 12 hour shifts as a nurse. Like many mothers I worried I would not make enough milk and I would have to use formula. I also worried about how I was going to have time to pump during my very busy and fast pace shifts at work. I worried about judgment from people at work and I worried I could let my baby down if I was not able to provide sufficient milk. Perhaps it was partially my new momma sleep deprivation which led to my worrisome mind, but I soon realized I needed to let all my fears go and stop focusing on what could happen. I turned my focus with breastfeeding on my baby’s demand, paying attention to his cues, and spending as much time with him as I could. I replaced my worries with gratitude and appreciated the present moment. Just like with anything in life, I believe our experiences are often a direct reflection of our mindset.

With the assistance of my lactation consultant in the hospital, I was able to have my baby latch on initially after birth. The latch was not perfect, but it was a beginning of a special relationship. It is amazing how fast a baby learns, and how efficient a baby can become in retrieving milk! As I said earlier, I understand every mother’s experience with breastfeeding is unique and that every mother faces different challenges and experiences varied rewards. It is my hope that a mother does not give up on breastfeeding due to lack of support or lack of assistance with facing their challenges. Life can become very busy and stressful and one of the most common reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is due to lack of support. Many of the support systems I utilized were the Lactation Consultants at local hospitals, La Leche League online support, fellow mothers, and the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, and Teresa Pitman.

After my baby was born, I was able to have him latch a handful of times before I left the hospital. As a woman with very small breasts, I had no idea what these milk making machines were going to morph into. As I left the hospital on day two after having my baby, the nurse gave me a number for a lactation consultant and I bought my breast pump on the way home from the hospital. During the ride home from the hospital, I remember thinking there was something wrong with my breasts; I suddenly was having a great deal of pain and fullness. It turns out my milk had come in full force and I was experiencing intense breast engorgement. I did not remember learning engorgement could be so painful. I was breastfeeding my baby frequently but my supply was not regulated yet. Before calling the lactation consultant, I thought I would try to pump to empty some of the milk. Sleep deprived and in pain from delivery, I opened my pump up and realized I did not know how to use it. They had not gone over how to use a pump in my breastfeeding class. After a few phone calls to the lactation consultant, and patience, my discomfort eased. With time my milk supply was regulated through the relationship of frequent breastfeeding with my baby.

I believe the initial start of a mother’s breastfeeding is when they are most likely to stop breastfeeding because there are often challenges in the very beginning. Without my significant other’s support, I know that I would not have had such a positive breastfeeding experience. If mothers reach out for support and guidance in the beginning, they are much more likely to continue breastfeeding.

As I look back on this last year and my experience with breastfeeding, I wonder how I overcame some of my challenges including: having to pump frequently at work when I was away from my baby, building an extra supply to provide milk for my baby when I was at work, limiting engorged breasts, and avoiding sore nipples. I realize that I overcame my challenges because in my heart, I knew that I was blessed with an amazing nutritional supply and an opportunity to create a special bond with my baby. I knew that I would not give up and that the time commitment was necessary and only temporary in helping my baby start out with optimal nutrition.

As a new mother, I have realized how beautifully strong mothers are, as well as how much love and determination a mother can hold. The gift of being a mother and the blessing of breastfeeding is a memorable journey full of challenges and rewards. To all breastfeeding mothers, and those still yet to have the journey, I commend you for your strength and commitment to your babies. One day at a time, I support and encourage you with reaching your breastfeeding goals.

As I have use up the last of my freezer supply of breast milk, and have weaned my son, I think of all the people who knowingly and unknowingly supported me along the way. I am also thankful for my determination in making the time to continue breastfeeding until my baby’s first birthday, it was not always easy, but so very worth it! A bond and memories to forever cherish.

Blessings to all you loving mothers who are nurturing beautiful spirits!

Melissa