I have always held a healthy hatred for percentiles. Outside of the doctor’s office, they serve no purpose but to aid in a mother’s ability to boast.
Pediatricians, however, find them to be beneficial in understanding a child’s growth curve. In short, percentile consistency means your child is thriving.
“You need more rest.”
My daughter’s pediatrician chose to lead with bitter truth at our most recent check-up. In her second month of life, my daughter dropped from the 75th to 50th percentile for weight. Together, her doctor and I explored various reasons for the drop, including a potential reduction in my overall milk supply. Apparently, six hours of combined sleep per day is not enough to meet a newborn’s demands. The prescription was rest. Although I was grateful for his wisdom, I grew exhausted at the thought of adding another dynamic to the already complex commitment of breastfeeding.
In truth, I have been worrying over breastfeeding for several years. During my first graduate degree, I grew unsettled at the idea of how I would balance breastfeeding with full days of teaching high school English. The very thought of pumping in a classroom made my skin crawl, and, besides that, when would I even have the time to do it? From that point on, I knew that my desire to be a present and available mother for my children would inform future professional decisions.
Both what I knew and what I experienced inspired me to breastfeed as a mother. Time and time again, my studies in public health highlighted the vital benefits of breastfeeding for a child’s long-term health. Additionally, my mother breastfed me, and she now serves as the best coach I could hope to have. In my mind, there has never been an alternative to breastfeeding.
To say that the 17 months I breastfed my son and the almost three months that I have spent feeding my daughter have been easy is a lie. While the act of breastfeeding may be natural, the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifices that the relationship requires are not:
- I was in toe-curling pain during every single feeding with my son for the first eight weeks of his life.
- Both of my children have milk protein-induced reflux, so I have chosen to refrain from consuming dairy during their first months of life. (Additionally, I have also avoided wheat and nuts due to the GI upset these foods cause when present in my milk.)
- Many late nights have been spent prioritizing breastfeeding over my career, my passions, and even my own health. Nothing soothes a teething or sick child quite like the breast.
- My weight, thanks to some wicked hormones, fluctuates, which means that none of my clothes fit well and many shirts have been stretched beyond repair. Then, of course, there are the smells and stains of spit-up. In short, my wardrobe is limited to clothing that I wouldn’t even normally allow myself to wear in public.
- Let’s just say that nursing in public induces the worst performance anxiety I have ever faced in my life.
- Two words: tummy pouch.
- I must monitor my hydration level at all times, especially when the stars align and I am finally able to exercise.
- Sometimes, despite even the best efforts of genuine sensitivity, the very act of breastfeeding discourages a mother that formula feeds. This is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast.
- I experience the depths of exhaustion daily. And, my gracious, there are few things worse than being sick and having to conjure up the energy to nurse. I wouldn’t wish mastitis on my worst enemy!
- Finally, I dream about proper posture.
Just when I find myself beyond frustrated and on the edge of resignation, I realize that my little girl is still latched. While I’ve been caught up pondering my life and my sacrifices, she has been doing what God created her to. I stroke her precious head of fuzzy hair and remember that nothing about parenting is about me, the parent. This is the secret that our children hold: they make us better.
When my husband and I prepare our children for bed, I look forward to their final embrace, the one that says “Thank you.” Tomorrow will most certainly have its challenges, but breastfeeding will not last forever and I will never regret, or likely remember, all that I have given up.
In truth, I am undeserving of what I have gained.