“I Never Thought I Would Breastfeed.”

Before I became pregnant, I underwent breast explant surgery. I wasn’t certain of all the mechanics of breastfeeding, but I assumed I wouldn’t be able to produce milk afterward. Before Ollie was born, my plan was: formula. And I was fine with that. In fact, I had boxes and boxes of formula stockpiled at home, all ready to go as soon as we brought him home from the hospital. But then Ollie was born, and I put him to my breast without a second thought. It was just so instinctive.


In the beginning, I couldn’t get him to latch on correctly—no one tells you exactly how to angle your nipple for a newborn’s mouth. At least no one told me. I developed a rash on my nipples that was so painful, I would cry while he nursed. And I was always topless. I couldn’t bear the thought of even the softest, oldest T-shirt. I wanted to avoid any friction on my nipples at all costs. I didn’t even care who saw me—the night nurse, my dad, there was maybe even a delivery guy once. I was in so much pain. 


Meanwhile, my health insurance company wouldn’t send me a pump until I verified that I’d had a baby, and obviously, the last thing you want to deal with after having a baby is paperwork. My milk supply was bigger than Ollie’s appetite, so I would go into the shower on my hands and knees and express myself like a cow to try to get out as much milk as possible and relieve the pressure. It took a full two weeks to get a breast pump, and in that time, I developed mastitis. It was so fucked up. 


Soon, with the help of a lactation consultant, I figured out pain-free nursing. And with the help of a breast pump, I never got mastitis again. But was it stressful? Hell yes. The 3 a.m. feedings, the all-nighters, the co-sleeping on sick nights with my breast in his mouth…there were moments when I didn’t know if I could go on. But eventually, breastfeeding became second nature to me. Me: the person who’d bought formula before giving birth. 


I was just taking it one day at a time—not knowing how long I would do it for and, some days, not even wanting to think about when I would stop.. Sure, there were times where I was like, This is so ridiculous. I’m still up at night; I’m still feeding him six times a day. I have no life. I can’t even get away for a haircut. 


After Ollie’s first birthday, my lactation consultant told me about the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method. I would feed him three times a day—when he woke up, before his nap, and at bedtime—unless he asked. 


Outside of those three feedings, he rarely asked. And as he got older and transitioned to using words, it became more of a game. He would point to my breast and say, “This one now! Okay, other side! All done! Yummy in my tummy.” 

 

It made some people uncomfortable that I breastfed for so long—including my mom. She called me every day, and the first thing she would ask was, “Are you still breastfeeding?” But it felt right for me and for Ollie, and I had no reason to stop.


I always felt that nursing in public inadvertently became a statement—though I still did it. I was a billboard for breastfeeding. It seemed as if people were hyperaware, and I wish I could have just faded into the background the way I do now when I give Ollie apple slices. I wish we would see more ads with nursing mothers, so we could normalize the idea of breastfeeding in public. I wish we could get rid of the stigma and the judgment. 


The last time I nursed Ollie wasn’t emotional at all. I think it’s different for every kid, but there was a very obvious time when he felt that it wasn’t for him anymore. He was almost two and a half. 


I wouldn’t say breastfeeding was something I loved. It was more of a superpower. But would I do it again? Absolutely.