Immediately after Ariella came into this world, we tried breastfeeding. She suckled for about 30 seconds, and then fell asleep. The nurses told me not to be disappointed as she was probably tired from a long labor and that we could try again later. So a couple of hours later we tried again...same thing. This continued throughout the whole night. The next morning a lactation consultant came into try to help. She was one of those "no nonsense" nurses that looked like she could beat your husband at football. I was so intimidated as she forcefully shoved my breast into my sleepy infant's mouth. "You have to keep waking her up if she falls asleep," she told me. I asked her if she had any children, and she shook her head, "no." "Ok, great", I thought, "I'm learning from someone who has never done this in her life!" So every breastfeeding session after that became a battle of trying to keep Ariella awake.
A few days later, my milk started coming in and WOW...did that ever hurt!!! Every time Ari latched on, I would squint my eyes and say "Lord help me!" until the pain subsided. The best thing for that season of breastfeeding was the Lansinoh lanolin someone gave me at a baby shower. It hurt so much that a few times I even considered pumping exclusively or going to formula feeding. Even though everyone told me that it would get better, I thought it would hurt like that forever.
And "the people" were right! It got way better about 2 weeks later, and our every 3 hour feeding sessions were a well-deserved 45 minute break for me to rest and read and pray. I loved them and treasured those times. I would even just stare at my suckling child for the entire time sometimes. I couldn't believe that I was the recipient of such a precious gift...and that Hashem was allowing my body to produce her life-sustaining food! What a miracle!
Now, 7 months later, I look back and miss those times. We're still breastfeeding, but it goes so fast now. She can drain both breasts in 7 minutes flat. Barely enough time to read a good chapter or have a "good" prayer session. Or even just to stare at every little characteristic of the side of her face or play with her toes. (Ok, now I'm tearing up). My baby is growing up!
When I first started breastfeeding and it was so hard, I would think to myself, "Ok, just 3 more months of this." Then I got to 3 months and thought, "Ok, 3 more months." And now, I don't want to stop! I know I will at some point wean her, but right now as she is becoming more active and more independent, it's a much beloved time that is just for the two of us.
Sometimes I wondered why God made it so that only the woman has the ability to breastfeed her baby. But then I thought about it. God did not make male and female to be the same. He made us with COUNTLESS differences, specialities, abilities, whatever you want to call them. What a treasure He has given us as mothers!
So, to sum it all up, if you choose to breastfeed (and please do if you can!):
1. Pray, even before your baby is born, that God will make your body able to do it. I found a prayer like this in the Artscroll Women's Siddur, and I prayed it every day in the last few months of my pregnancy.
2. Cherish the time you spend snuggling with your little one. It really does go by really quickly!
3. Take care of yourself, get enough calories and rest so that your body can produce the milk.
4. Don't stress...pray and talk to other moms when you need encouragement.
5. If you have a little night owl like mine, side-lying nursing is AWESOME for letting you get some needed rest while your baby suckles.