My last baby just turned one year old. I’m going to need a minute to process this.
I’ll be over here holding the bridge of my nose until the urge to do the ugly cry passes.
One! It’s such a busy age, especially for little boys with ants in their pants trying to keep up with two older siblings. Henry’s desire to sit down and nurse is ending. And so is a precious chapter in my life as a mom.
Almost nine years ago, before I had my first child, Jackson, I made it my goal to breastfeed for one year. The baby books encouraged
breastfeeding, and so, like most first-time mothers, I followed the expert recommendation.
After one week of breastfeeding Jackson, I felt duped. Swollen, sore and sleep deprived, I had no clue what I was doing or why it was hurting so much. Those books made nursing seem like a beautiful, ethereal, bonding time during which we would all nuzzle in white robes on a cloud of maternal bliss. I was certainly not experiencing that bliss. It felt more like an “open all night” wet bar of doom.
I’d finish feeding Jackson, lay him down, and he’d be ready to eat 20 minutes later. I was getting discouraged until I figured out it was a bad latch. Once we corrected that sucker, things got better.
After about a month of breastfeeding, I realized that all the soreness was gone. I looked down at Jackson’s big brown eyes while he was nursing, and my heart exploded with love. There weren’t any white robes or ethereal clouds, but that moment cemented a beautiful 13-month breastfeeding relationship that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
When it came to breastfeeding baby number two, I was ready. But, Abby was born at 24 weeks, and I wasn’t ready for that. Could I even make milk for her after a traumatic birth? Yes. Did it even matter to try?
Breastmilk is so precious to premature infants that it is labeled as medicine in the
NICU. It lowers infection rates and is easier for immature stomachs to digest.
I was determined. I pumped every three hours for her entire 104-day NICU stay. I pumped at the hospital, at home, at work, wherever I went. My “mommy medicine” was pumped through a tube in her nose that ran to her belly. In the beginning, the amount was barely a couple of drops, but by the time she came home from the NICU it had increased to several ounces.
I will never forget the moment I was able to breastfeed Abby for the first time. Together, with the help of a nurse,
lactation consultant and nursing shield, we held a three-pound baby to my breast. I nursed her while we watched her monitor for heart rate and respiratory dips. Every time it dinged and alarmed, I held my breath. That first feeding was stressful, scary and more clinical than maternal.
Each nursing session we attempted took patience for both Abby and me. One day, when we had graduated to breastfeeding without help, those tiny little gray eyes peered up and saw me as Momma. My heart could barely take it. We were doing it! Even with such a rough start, together we eventually made it from the NICU to home, through brain surgery and all the way to 18 months of breastfeeding.
If you’re on the fence, or if things didn’t go as planned with baby number one, try again! Every baby is different and every experience is new. Breastfeeding has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had and one I’m most proud of as a mother.
Learn more about the importance of breast milk and how you can help extremely premature or critically ill infants by donating breast milk to The King's Daughters Milk Bank at CHKD.
About Jessica Bensten
Jessica Bensten is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles
in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group
and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council
and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.