What Breastfeeding Has Taught Me About Self-Care

As I reflect on finishing my first semester as a middle school teacher, I note that one of my greatest accomplishments is maintaining my breast milk supply for my baby girl. This isn’t my first breastfeeding journey having breastfed Jarvis Jr for 14 months and pumped milk for Legend for 4 months, but I can honestly say that “the third time is a charm”. Freedom and I have the breastfeeding relationship that my heart desires and despite me going to work three weeks after her birth, we are still going strong. While I’ve been providing all of Freedom’s nutritional needs with my milk supply, this experience has provided me with new insight in regards to self-care.

One of my intentions this year was to be more selfless. With everything that went on with my family this year, breastfeeding brought this quality out in me to a new level. I could have easily made excuses not to breastfeed but instead I rose to the occasion and am still doing what needs to be done to ensure that my daughter has the best source of nutrition. I’ve learned what it truly means to sacrifice everything for the well-being of someone else. I have to make sure that I eat a balanced diet and drink enough water even when I’d rather skip a meal and do something else. I must keep my stress levels down to ensure that my body produces enough milk. I also have to implement discipline and pump milk on my lunch break and during my planning period on the days that I get one to make sure that Freedom will have milk to drink when I’m away. This isn’t optional as she will not even take an occasional bottle of formula if it’s offered. She simply will not drink it. In making these sacrifices to allow my body to provide the sole nutrition for my little human, I’ve become a better version of myself. Seeing Freedom’s growth and development has made these sacrifices worth it which fills my heart with gratitude and personal fulfillment. I’ve been reminded that in order to care for anyone, I have to first take care of self first.

This time around I finally mastered the side lying nursing position. When we’re at home, this is my go to position. It’s most comfortable for both baby girl and I and it also gives me a chance to rest. Often I fall asleep into these “spiritual naps” as I call them where I fall asleep for less than 10 minutes, have a vision, and wake up feeling recharged. Sometimes though I fall asleep for longer which is my body’s way of letting me know that I really need rest. I need these naps more than I’d like to admit and quite honestly I wouldn’t take them if I weren’t breastfeeding. I just see this as God’s gift in using my child as a signal for me to slow down and reset.

I majored in Child Development during undergrad where I learned that babies cannot be “spoiled”. Needing to be held, loved, and nurtured are valid needs for babies. Freedom requires a lot of my attention, more than any of my other children ever have. She nurses often and always wants to be held preferably by me. The other night when she woke back up an hour later to nurse again in the middle of the night, God spoke to me and let me know “You need me the same way rather you’d like to admit it or not.” I was sleepy but I responded something like “You sholl right.” (Don’t trip. Me and God are tight like that.) I was reminded that I need constant connection in my relationship with my Creator. I can’t just get full by having one encounter a day, I need several “meals” throughout to sustain me. I’m forever grateful for my children and infinite chances on this path to grow and improve. While there are chapters of my motherhood journey where I neglect self-care, this journey also reminds me of why it’s important to keep my cup filled to pour into the lives of others . This is ultimately why we are here anyway, to serve. In sum, I am functioning at my best when I’m serving others, taking care of my body, well rested, and in alignment with the Creator which is the ultimate act of self-care which is rooted in self-love

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