Mariah breastfed her 17-month-old son until he was 11 months old. Despite not growing up around breastfeeding, she conducted her own research about the benefits of it and wanted to breastfeed her son.
Ultimately, it was the nutritional and immunity benefits that won her over. Being able to nurture her son and give him the best start in life was the most important thing. Also, breastfeeding is free in the sense of costs (though not in the sense of time, effort, pain and struggle).
Mariah’s husband was incredibly supportive during her breastfeeding journey, however other family members were not. She had very few breastfeeding friends she could rely on too, which made the struggles for her more difficult.
“Breastfeeding was a huge struggle for us. My son was born with an unexpected severe airway defect. He had laryngomalacia at such a severe degree that his airway was 95% blocked. He had emergency surgery at 3 weeks old, but we endured severe feeding problems caused by the airway defect for the first 12 months of his life. He had very severe reflux and he had a desire to nurse ALL the time during the first several months because he was always in pain from the reflux,” Mariah explained.
She sought out specialists for the issues, at one time even having to see 6 different doctors on the regular. Because of this, breastfeeding was extremely difficult for her psychologically. “I wasn't getting enough sleep for months, my child screamed if he wasn't on the breast, and I was very stressed about work and school. I started my PhD the year my son was born,” she added.
While lactation consultants are normally helpful in breastfeeding matters, because of the airway defect and the complications it was causing, she was little help to Mariah and her son. Despite all these difficulties though, Mariah managed to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and continued serving him her pumped breastmilk until her son weaned himself off at 11 months.
“I did not expect him to wean and did not want our breastfeeding relationship to end but he just refused one day and would not latch. The refusal was intense and continued for 6 weeks. I tried every day and gave up after 6 weeks of continuous rejection. It was hard,” she explained. “I wish it had lasted longer. I feel incredibly guilty that my 17-month-old has not been getting the benefits of breastmilk for 6 months now.”
Mariah shares her story with us now because she knows how difficult it is to get past obstacles with breastfeeding and that people have strong opinions about it based on little information. “I was too embarrassed to feed my child in front of certain people, even under a cover. I would pump and bring bottles, so I wouldn't have to nurse, and I deeply regret that.”
Her advice to other moms breastfeeding for the first time is to seek out information from reputable sources and not to worry about what anyone else thinks. “The choice is yours and you should always feel comfortable to feed your child how you choose. Make your choices based on factual information, not others' opinions.”
There are so many resources for new moms starting their breastfeeding journeys. Don’t be afraid to get help and support! We’re here for you!