Claudia, 32, a Chicago-based bankruptcy attorney, has a 3-year-old daughter she nursed for more than 10 months, until she got pregnant with her second baby, another girl, who is still breastfeeding 18 months out. The experience, she says, can be summed up in one word: easy. In our next installment of The Breastfeeding Chronicles, Claudia describes what it's like to want to celebrate a near-perfect breastfeeding experience, while being mindful that so many women, including her close friends, struggle.
When I got pregnant with my first, I just knew I was going to breastfeed. I never thought it wouldn't work. I figured: I have breasts, I will breastfeed.
But it was definitely difficult in the beginning. I realized it's not as easy as, you put the baby on the breast, you make milk, you breastfeed. I had a very strong let-down, so there was milk everywhere, and my nipples were sore and scabbed. I would cry and the baby would cry -- it was kind of disaster in the first week. I'd turn to my husband and say, "This is why women stop breastfeeding. Right here, right now." But I was lucky to have him supporting me, and my aunt, from Colombia, who was staying with us and who helped with everything, so we stuck with it.
With my second, I knew I was going to breastfeed again. I'm not sure how or why, but I just kind of knew I wasn't going to have any problems.
THE PERFECT FIT
To be honest, this breastfeeding experience with my second child has been probably one of the easiest things I've ever done.
I had a natural birth with a midwife (in a hospital) -- there were no interventions, no epidural, no Pitocin -- and she was handed to me immediately, still on the umbilical cord. I think that was the start of it: having a midwife who helped her immediately latch, within seconds. She sort of crawled up to my breasts, which was pretty cool. That didn't happen with my first child. Even though I had a good birth, they immediately took her away, weighed her and cleaned her up. I'm not sure, but in my mind, having a really good, easy, natural birth just helped, because I wasn't focused on healing. I didn't have pain, I didn't have stitches, so I could focus all my energy on breastfeeding.
My second baby was also just a better eater. She would eat while asleep [laughs], and she never had weight gain issues, so I never felt that self-doubt. And I was just more experienced. I put the baby to the breast whenever she was hungry. That was my breastfeeding strategy: Baby's hungry, feed her. That's it.
IDEAL WORK CONDITIONS
With my second, I had a longer maternity leave -- 12 weeks, versus 6 weeks. When my first daughter was born, I was so worried about having to start pumping right away because I had to go back to work. I started within two days. With my second baby, I didn't start until eight weeks. I was kind of like, "Oh! I should probably start pumping, because I'm going back soon [laughs]."
I've been at the same law firm with both children. It's very small -- basically me and my boss -- and he's very family friendly. I have friends who've asked, "How did you pump at work? Weren't you embarrassed?" And I'm like, "Embarrassed? Why would I be embarrassed?" I'm the type of loud, open person who leaves the pump parts in the kitchen. People are like, "Um, Claudia, your boob stuff. Go wash it."
I do have my own office, and I know that's not the case for many women. I have friends who are teachers who can barely find a janitor's closet to pump in, whereas I have a flexible schedule, I have my own office and a very supportive boss. That's huge. I have the ideal work conditions for breastfeeding. I do have to go to court, although my boss picked up a lot of that work for me. When I went, I would just ask to use the empty jury prep room.
I know that my experience is very different from what a lot of women go through, and I've been privileged to have so much support. I have friends and I see women on message boards, Facebook and Twitter, who have so many problems with breastfeeding. I feel like when women say they succeeded, they're bragging. And I hate that. I wish people could just say it was awesome.
I donated some breast milk, and when the woman who was using it came over to get it, she was crying the whole time, and then she kept apologizing for crying. I didn't say much, honestly. I just kind of said, "I'm very sorry it didn't work out for you, and I'm happy I could help." I didn't know what else to say. This is a woman who struggled and tried, who took herbs and medicines, and pumped 100 times a day -- a woman who did everything in her power, and she couldn't breastfeed. So I'm very careful about what I say, because I don't want to boast.
My baby is 18 months old and I'm still breastfeeding in the morning and at nights, although I'm not pumping at work any more. I didn't expect to be breastfeeding for this long, but it's going well, so we're just going to keep going for as long as we both want to. Nighttime feedings are getting a little bit tough; she wants to breastfeed 100 times before she goes to sleep [laughs]. But the bonding, with both my babies ... it's incredible.
You know, you never really hear good, happy breastfeeding stories, but I think it would help. My friend put together a contest where women wrote blogs about breastfeeding, and I think mine was the only positive one. She was kind of like, "Here's the sacred unicorn post about positive breastfeeding!" Maybe women who have positive breastfeeding experiences don't write about it or talk about it, because everything's going so well. You don't hear about the 500 planes that don't crash, you only hear about the one that does.
This account has been edited and condensed.
In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1-7), HuffPost Parents participated in "I Support You," an initiative to collect photos and messages from mothers to each other that say we might lead different lives but we share wanting the best for our children. Find out more here.