Happy World Breastfeeding Week! I love this week long celebration focused on protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding moms throughout the world. I realize that breastfeeding is not for everyone, whether by choice or by circumstance, but for me, personally, breastfeeding has played a very important role in my experience as a mother. At one point, breastfeeding saved me.
As World Breastfeeding Week 2015 approached, and in the quiet moments of nursing my darling 2 week old baby boy, I have spent a lot of time pondering my years as a breastfeeding mama, in particular, the sweet experience that breastfeeding was for me when I had my second child, a daughter, at the beginning of 2010.
Noel was born January 3, 2010. She was born late, which I expected as my first was born at 42 weeks. What I had not expected was the traumatic experience that would bring her into the world. My birth experience with my first was beautiful. She was born after 6 hours of active labour and about an hour and a half of pushing. I birthed her without being induced and without any pain medication. I anticipated that the delivery of Noel would be similar, but I was very wrong.
The specifics of Noel’s birth story are not necessarily important to the story of how breastfeeding saved me. What you need to know is that she was taken by emergency c section due to a placental abruption and though we both came through with no physical complications, the extremely traumatic nature of her birth took a huge toll on me mentally. In the weeks following her birth, I found myself spiraling downwards into the depths of postpartum depression.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding postpartum depression. As it is not a commonly talked about issue amongst mothers, I did not realize what was happening to me. I just knew that I was struggling. I felt no connection with Noel, she was an extremely fussy baby (which I later determined was because she fed off my emotions) and I seemed to be just going through the motions of being her mom. I fed her and I kept her in a clean diaper and clothes, but it was almost like I was just her caregiver or babysitter. I didn’t feel like she was mine and I was hers. It was a really dark time for me, but in time, breastfeeding saved me.
There was something sacred and special about those quiet moments when Noel relied completely on me. I was providing for her something that no one else could and we began to develop that bond that was missing when they first placed her in my arms following the c section. As our bond grew, it brought light into my life again and helped me to move out of that very dark place. I began to feel human again. I began to feel like a mom. And as my mental state changed, I found that my formerly fussy, impossible to console baby changed too. She became a much happier baby and I was a happier mother.
Noel continued to nurse until she was just a few months shy of her third birthday. In fact, it was during World Breastfeeding Week of 2012 that she finally weaned. The 2 years and 8 months she spent breastfeeding turned out to be a wonderful bonding experience for the two of us and each year, when I celebrate the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week, I also have my own personal celebration. I celebrate those wonderful years of nursing my sweet Noel and the great blessing it was for the both of us.
Is breastfeeding the answer to fighting postpartum depression in everyone who is struggling? Absolutely not. For all I know, I might be the only person in the world who found it to help, but luckily, there are plenty of other resources available to mothers who find themselves in that dark, hopeless place. If you are fighting postpartum depression, please contact your doctor or midwife, talk to a friend or family member or reach out to someone who can assist you in finding the help and resources you need. You are not alone and you can make it through!
I’d like to wish a very happy World Breastfeeding Week to all my fellow mothers, whether you choose to breastfeed or just support those who do. And if you have a sweet breastfeeding story to share, feel free to leave it in the comments. I would love to read it!
Photography by Mary Kriss Photography