This world is full of strong, admirable women. Ones who advocate for rights of others, ones who care for others, ones who are raising the next generation.
As mothers, we are thrown into an endless amount of choices and challenges. What is my birth plan? Crib or co-sleeping? Stay home or send them to daycare? Self-soothing or not? Cloth or disposable diapers? Formula or Nursing?
Any educated choice a mother makes for her child is “the right one” because she knows what is best for her child. However, as mothers, we still face challenges even after those choices are made.
There has always been a stigma against breastfeeding in public. Some women choose to cover up while nourishing their children and that should be okay. Some women choose to bottle-feed their children breast milk or formula in public and that should be okay. Some women choose not to cover up or face challenges covering up while breastfeeding and that should also be okay.
As women, we should be encouraging each other, lifting each other up, no matter the choices we make. We are warriors, super-moms, raising the next generation of politicians, doctors, advocates, and lawyers, making the most of what we have been given.
At Birch Arrow, we chose four tenacious women to talk about the choices they have made as breastfeeding mothers and the challenges they have had to overcome. These women fight every day, for their right to nourish their child their way and that in itself, is incredibly admirable. They have chosen to share their stories with the world, hoping to encourage other women to not be ashamed of the decisions they have made for their children.
“Breastfeeding is important to me because I want my baby to have the best. The best milk, the best nutrition, the best immunity and the best start at life. I also really wanted to have that closeness and bonding with her. It is the hardest thing I have done and I'm very proud of us. [The most challenging thing has been] life! I feel as a new breast feeding mom, everything is a challenge. We started in the NICU and that in itself is a challenge. The NICU is not designed for breastfeeding moms. When we got home she had severe reflux. so my diet plays a huge role. Trying to eat enough to produce milk, but nothing to spicy that would give her gas. Drinking enough water is a challenge sometimes. I also work long days so hand expression every two house so she has milk while I'm gone and I don’t dry up. And if I accomplish all of that, then my baby also has a strong opinion about how and when she wants to eat. It's a challenge but it is all worth it.” -Amanda Paivarinta
“[Breastfeeding is important to me because I’m] able to have that special bond that only a mother can have with her child. Giving his immune system the strength and antibodies it needs to fight off infections and providing him with nutrition from my body that it was made to do. I am a nurse and while going through school, mother/baby was always my favorite. When my sister had her daughter, she breastfed for three months before her body stopped producing milk and it devastated her. I grew up surrounded by people saying ‘formula is better’, but always thought ‘then why do women produce milk?’ So I did my research and found in fact that breast milk, if a mother is able to produce and breast feed successfully, is actually the best option. So I wanted to give my children the best if I could. What no one ever told me was how hard breastfeeding actually is... one of the hardest things I have ever done, but in the end, it has been the most rewarding of them all. The time I have spent building that bond and special connection with my son, is one I will cherish forever.”
- Kara Wood
“As a mom, my main goal is to give my children the best possible start to life I can. Breastfeeding helps me to achieve that. Not only does it provide numerous health benefits, but the bond it creates is unbreakable! My son had latching issues at first, that forced me to pump and either syringe feed or cup feed him until we established a good latch. I then had emergency surgery when my son was 1 month old that forced us to use formula for a couple of days because we used my little stash up. Luckily, after all of the medicine was safely out of my system, he latched on like he never stopped! I’m hoping for a smooth breastfeeding journey with my daughter, but if we hit a few bumps I know we can get past them!” -Samantha Hebner
“To date, I have breastfed my 3 babies a total of 41 months. The connection between my babies and I is one that can’t be described. They’re is nothing better than sitting there in the middle of the night, just the two of you, especially in those early days when you’re getting to know each other. All of my kids have upper lip ties, which makes it hard for them to latch. The oldest two didn’t struggle as much as my little guy. I can’t tell you how many times I sat there and contemplated quiting. It hurt SO bad! It was like being pinched with razors!
I have also struggled with supply. I rarely get engorged and seldom leak. I have had a hard time being able to pump at work, now, and in the past., especially with my middle son. I really struggled with pumping at work. I had a boss who had ZERO respect for my privacy, and had a camera placed in the room that I typically pumped in. The intent was to catch someone sleeping, but they knew that room is where I pumped.
My little guy was colicky and cried if he was awake, for the first 2 months of his life. I felt like I was going to loose my mind. One day I noticed that he acted worse after I consumed dairy. I cut milk, and ice cream from my diet and He DRASTICALLY improved. It was weird though. I could still eat cheese and yogurt and he was fine. The second I ate ice cream or drank milk he was back to screaming.
I stopped nursing my oldest when she was 8 months old. I started a new job and they required me to get my chicken pox vaccine. I asked my pediatrician if it was okay for me to get that while I was nursing since babies don’t get their shots until they’re one. The reply I got was ‘You should be fine'. Nope. Sorry. That’s not a good enough answer for me.
I nursed my middle son until he was 23 months old. I worked 3rd shift in a psychiatric hospital and got scratched by a patient that was later determined to be HIV+. I was given prophylactic medication only to find out about 5 hours after ingesting the medication, that it wasn’t classified as an exposure and I didn’t have to continue the meds. It was too late. Those meds have a really long half life and stay in your body a long time. I was devastated. Our nursing relationship had been slowly weaning, but for it to end so suddenly was tough on us both.” -Britiany McCarty
Every mother, nursing or bottle-feeding, has her own story to tell. She is giving the best life to her child that she possibly can. The next time you see a mom, throw a smile her way. Let her know that she is doing a great job.
Because if we put the effort we spent on judging other struggling mothers into lifting each other up instead, think of how powerful we could become.