I decided when I found out I was pregnant, to do all that I could for my child from the start. I changed my household and beauty products. I began to strictly buy the best food available. Thankfully, it is not hard to achieve this on the SF peninsula. I contacted a doula in my area who also became my Yogi & guide to meditation, which I have always struggled with. Early on I decided that my birth would be natural and my children would be breastfed.
Being born in late 70’s to a Mexican immigrant I was not breastfed. It just, “wasn’t done”, was my mothers only explanation. Her mother did not breastfed her children either. Back then they had wet nurses that did the breast feeding. I can not imagine missing out on the connection breastfeeding gave me with my children. But that was part of the culture at the time and I am not willing to judge their choices. Especially since my family was understanding & very supportive of mine.
My sons birth was wonderful and peaceful. Lasting only 3 hours from start to finish. With my Abuela, my Mothers, and husband present. They prayed they even sang, it was wonderful. My doula was an amazing advocate for my choices in the labor & delivery room and after. My son latched on without a problem in the hospital and we were sent home on schedule.
Our first night home was another story completely. It was near 100 degrees and I became so engorged that he could not latch. We cried together most of the night. I called the lactation nurse in a panic she gave me some advice that I did not execute well. After another desperate call full of tears we made an appointment for a at home visit the next day. She came over bright and early and changed our lives. Diego was able to latch and ate with gusto. I decided to join her lactation support group at the local hospital which met once a week. It was pretty much a huge meeting room with chairs lined along the walls women of all ages and races with our brand new to 2 year old babies. That group was my lifesaver throughout the first six months of my son’s life. Whatever questions or thoughts we had we voiced them there. It was a safe space to talk amongst supportive women going through the same things. I learned so very much from them all, and made some forever friends.
At that point my son was a happy very chubby baby that no one could believe I only breastfed. People often commented on the fact that they, “knew”, breastfed babies were skinny, less healthy looking, and never slept through the night. We changed their minds about that quickly. I had decided that I would breastfeed my children for a year. It seemed like a substantial enough amount of time but I was not opposed to breastfeeding for longer if they needed.
When my son was 7 months old I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Being that my son was such a healthy eater, breastfeeding began to drain me. I was exhausted, I began to try to pump to freeze a reserve for him in case I could not longer continue. Since I am in this country alone without my family I had never been separated from my son at all. I had never had to pump or give him a bottle. This was challenging, he detested the bottle. I bought every brand available no matter the price with no success. I began to donate my stored milk to mothers with low supply or mothers who had adopted infants so that it would not go to waste. Finally we found a nipple he would take. I began to give him one bottle a day just to get him used to the idea. He turned a year old and I began to wean him off my breast, more bottle than mama; I also continued to pump. By the time he was a year and 3 months he was only being bottle fed and had 3 months of stored supply. I was too tired to continue.
When my daughter was born I obviously began the whole process again. He showed some interest, so I fed him from time to time. But he lost interest within a couple months. The world was his oyster now that he was mobile. With my daughter I introduced the bottle a little earlier. I stayed most of that year in Mexico with my family and had help with my daughter so that I could take my son out for some bonding time just he and I. I did not want him to feel jealousy of his baby sister. She was another happy chubby breastfed baby that slept and ate very well. I began to wean her at a year and a month old. And by a year and 4 months she was drinking the 3 months of stores milk I had for her. Breastfeeding was a wonderful experience for me and my children. It took some of my family members some getting used to me feeding in public. But I made sure to do my best to be open to their questions or comments.
I wore my children for the first year of their lives which is “not done” in Mexico any longer either. The classes are less defined today but still exist and the lower classes are the only people you will see feed their children in public or wear their children. Our friends and neighbors became used to seeing me wearing my babies and stopped staring. I am happy to see a change in this generation of a larger middle class. Hopefully soon there will be more education and support for breastfeeding there as well. I have spoken to all my nieces of my experience and a few have even followed my lead. Becoming a mother has made my life so much more meaningful. And I am blessed to have been able to give my children the best start in life possible. I wish that for us all.
(c) 2014 E. Gomez