Ladies, (and possibly gents) we have another amazing point of view from a mama on nourishing her baby. I love these, I love reading from other mom’s experiences and I think you will love this one. This is the story of Ben, Rachel and little miss Elinor Whitehouse. Rachel wrote her story just beautifully and I think you will all love and appreciate it like I do. I met Rachel on instagram and I couldn’t feel more blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know her! Again, I hope you enjoy this series and this post but I have a pretty good feeling you will. Thank you Rachel for Sharing! You can find Rachel’s blog at swankyanddapper.com ! Enjoy!
Rachel and Elinor
it is so easy to be selfish isn’t it? eat what we want. wear what we want. go where we want. do what we want, when we want. but i believe that life is a process of learning to be less self-involved and more self-giving. pouring into others. in life, you forge friendships, which help you to consider the needs of others. marriage is about two people becoming one—no room for selfishness there. and parenthood. caring for a life. nourishing a life. raising up a little person. that is a tremendous thing. and you can’t be self-involved if you want to do it well and raise a thoughtful individual. this is growth. this is life. a series of things that move you onward. refinement.
for me, pregnancy was integral in this. it was a shift in thinking. my body wasn’t just for recreational purposes. what i ate, how i moved, the position of my body. it all had additional purpose. it was sustaining another. for all those months, that itty-bitty life was reliant on me. what i did mattered more. it wasn’t about eating whatever tasted good or exercising to fit into my clothes nicely, it was about building a healthy little being. and then, breastfeeding. my calories were not my own. my clothes needed to be functional. the “ladies” weren’t just for show (not that i have ever had a lot of showing to do…). my schedule was dedicated to sustaining a life. and i took this seriously. i didn’t necessarily approach breastfeeding with warm and fuzzies. it was what i needed to do—what my body was deigned to do. and i was going to do what i could to support it.
those early days were just about digging in and getting through (much like everything is in those first days and weeks). you are trying to keep that baby alive and healthy and keep yourself functioning properly. you are adjusting. getting into a rhythm. a good latch. the correct position. let down. burping holds. nipple creams. breast pads. all that lovely jargon. thankfully, my hubby was home for the first five weeks after elinor grace arrived. and let me tell you, he was a gem. he attended to my needs. taking care of me so that i could take care of this new little life. he gave me my breastfeeding support supplements. my fenugreek. and made sure i had a constant supply of coconut water. he prepared meals for me. brewed tea. he sat with me for the 15 minutes on both sides. he supported me while i became accustomed to things. he researched my questions. he listened and tried to understand the wild and often unglamorous thing that is breastfeeding. those were great moments of not only bonding with my daughter, but bonding with my husband. bonding as a family. we got into our groove and learned to anticipate each other’s needs better. things started to feel natural.
those early days are peculiar days. i was in a blissful natural-birth, hormone cocktail stupor but my brain was buzzing. my body was tender but i have never felt tougher. i was fatigued but surging with energy. i was a changed person, i felt different but felt whole. schedules and supplements and swaddles. fast and furious. decisions to make. actions to take.
days were spent as a family but the nights were my private time to figure things out with my little girl. i observed her. watching her face. feeling what her little mouth was doing. learning her. connecting to her cues. i spoke scripture over her. i would softly sing and hum as i rocked. i knew how many rounds of edelweiss and amazing grace that it took to give her a full feeding on each side. those moments are hazy, yet vivid.
and then, after i came out of the wonderful fog of the first few weeks, one thing became clear. this is an amazing thing. the way the body quickly shifts from nourishing a baby in-utero to nourishing a tiny person. how the body heals from labor while working hard to produce liquid gold. to the way the body matches demand with supply. balances nutrients. and instinctively prepares for timed meals. intuitive. amazing. breastfeeding is the coolest.
over the next months, my relationship with my daughter continued to change and breastfeeding changed right along with it. she used to be solely dependent on me for her needs, a helpless little infant. but all too soon, my little girl became more independent. as she moved through her first year and beyond, she became quite the mover and shaker. and breastfeeding became our respite. it morphed from a time-consuming, mind-consuming, and energy-consuming activity to something more relaxed and simple, just part of life. moments when i could talk sweetly to elinor. pray over her. stroke her face. cuddle. and watch her as she responded to me with her eyes and momentary flirty smirks. it was more and more of a sacred time. and it was an easy time. the stuff that dreams are made of. and i will always cherish this. knowing that not everyone has this. knowing that even the next time around, i may not have this. heck, i might not even have a next time around…
those precious moments with elinor have always been protected, guarded. for me, breastfeeding is intimate. there is nothing sweeter than sitting in her room, slowly rocking, softly singing, and enjoying that time together. quiet. still. life is very much “on the go” and breastfeeding for us was a time to ease the pace. and while i am all for breastfeeding in public, and while there are definitely times when we have had to take the show on the road…i prefer the “slow food” approach to breastfeeding. establishing routine. constancy. safety. i wanted that time to be a sweet time. slowing down. getting away. a haven.
we always did scheduled feedings with elinor. it made things easier for everyone and she needs routine. it also allowed me to find a spot for us to get away and have our time together. she likes to know what is coming and when. this allowed her to feel at ease and know that she doesn’t have to get worked up about her next meal, she was taken care of. (what a great lesson for me, by the way. a reminder that God tells us not to worry about our life, what we will eat or drink…He has supplied it. He is on it. He takes care of us. we just have to chill out and enjoy His supply)
we dropped her evening feeding around her first birthday. i held onto that as long as possible because that was such a precious time to me. but i must say, it felt liberating when we moved out of that phase. it also allowed papa to play a larger role in bedtime. it became his official thing with elinor and it is darling to watch and listen as they giggle and read books and sing and say prayers.
around 15 months, we started scaling back our feeding sessions. i just followed elinor’s lead. she was more interested in the world around her and the food around her. and that is exactly as it should be. i still wanted her to benefit from breast milk and we both wanted that special time together, but our breastfeeding relationship was changing. we had kind of found our sweet spot. she was efficient. i was relaxed. it was enjoyable. it was tranquil. it was easy-breezy and not mechanical. and i struggled with letting go. i wanted to hold onto these playful and sweet moments with her for just a bit longer. the satisfaction that comes from giving myself to another. a daily reminder of unconditional love and a sacrificial life. but, i knew it was time to shift and to grow in our relationship. to find new things that would bond us. everything has a season.
around 19 months, we were down to just one morning feeding. i would wake elinor and before the day got too crazy, we would sit together downstairs and elinor would enjoy her morning “snack”. i would talk to her and sing and pray. and when she was finished, we would cuddle for a bit while elinor babbled about her dreams and what she has planned for the day. such a sweet time. we continued this routine for a few months and then i began to swap out a regular session for a bottle session…we had about a month’s supply of frozen breast milk to get through, after all.
around 22 months, elinor was officially done. instead of waking and doing her regular morning “nuzzle” she would just sit with me for a few minutes while we snuggled with her blanket and sucked her thumb. we chatted and sang and started our day. i was sad to see our breastfeeding relationship come to an end, but it was time. elinor was ready. she didn’t miss a beat or look back. onward, little one. she was ready for the next stage. and i guuuuuueeeeeessss i was too.
i never considered myself an extended breastfeeder or really even a proponent of such things. i am not loud about it. that’s just not our style. i just wanted to do it for as long as it made sense, for as long as I was able. i am a firm believer that our bodies are a remarkable creation capable of such cool things. but stuff happens. pregnancies don’t go as intended. births don’t always go like we outlined in our birth plans. complications happen. post-partum issues arise. everyone has a unique experience. and everyone makes choices – of their own volition or otherwise – about how they carry, birth, nourish, and care for their child.
now, i knew the value of breastfeeding and wanted to do it. i prepared myself and was intentional about it. i set a six month goal for myself. i was dedicated to the task. but, i gave myself some grace too. just like pregnancy and birth…sometimes the best intentions and plans just don’t pan out. and you know what? that is okay. it can even be good for us. we learn and grow. we soften. plus, there are PLENTY of mamas and babies that are properly attached and bonded and healthy who endured complicated pregnancies or medicated and cesarean births or who missed out on skin-to-skin time or who just couldn’t figure out the whole breastfeeding thing. the same way that parents who did everything “right” can still have a sick or miserable child. yes, what we do matters. yes, we have to be responsible parents. yes, i believe in being educated and prepared and purposeful. but, i also realize that it isn’t 100% on us. failure or success. it isn’t 100% on us. we don’t get to take sole credit for a healthy baby or a happy baby or a big baby or a smart baby or a cute baby. so, relax a bit. give yourself a break. extend grace to others. you don’t know their story. you don’t know their heart. you don’t know their child or their family dynamic. these are more life lessons that pregnancy and motherhood and breastfeeding have taught me. you just do your very best and cover it in a ton of prayer and live with grace. and be grateful. For what you have and what you have experienced. it is all a gift from above. and i will always cherish all those months of breastfeeding with elinor. it was just as i hoped but not at all like i thought or planned. “and she cherished all these things in her heart.”
Again, thank you so much Rachel for your story, and everyone check out her amazing blog at Swankyanddapper.com !