My experience nursing my four children was like night and day. I went into it with my first daughter, naive. Before I even had her, I assumed I would breastfeed and it would be easy. Little did I know there were days I would end up in tears, both of us crying in frustration from my lack of milk.
When I had my twins, I was surprised by how many people were shocked that not only was I planning on breastfeeding them, I wanted to do it from day one at the hospital. When they were born and I asked the nurse to help me get both babies latched on, I'll never forget the look of surprise on her face as she stammered, "Sure... I can help with that. Are you sure you want to?"
And with my fourth baby, I was thrown a giant curve ball. Overly confident with my success tandem nursing twins for nearly 8 months, I just assumed I'd nurse him to a year and beyond. What I didn't expect was that he would be born tongue tied and with severe reflux which wasn't diagnosed for a few months. He would cry in pain every time I fed him, which led me to frustration and tears while wondering, what am I doing wrong?
Yet even with tears, there were happy, peaceful, and tender moments with each experience. The biggest lesson I learned was, it was worth it. Here are five other things I know now:
- Put on your nursing cover. No, I don't mean to tell you to use one while nursing your baby -- that's your choice. I mean the invisible one. Because you are going to get lots of comments from others. I had one family member comment, "You're STILL nursing them?" when he found out I was nursing my 6-month-old twins. In our family, most opted to formula feed, so he wasn't used to the idea of babies being nursed, and most definitely not past a year. Another family member commented that I was spending too much time nursing when she told me she calculated how many hours a day I was spending pumping and nursing. My nursing had nothing to do with anyone but myself and my family, so I decided put my invisible nursing cover over my head and focus on what I wanted to do for my babies.
- You really will cry over spilled milk. In order to keep my supply up when I was nursing my twins, I started pumping a few times a day. I did the same for my fourth son because his tongue tie caused him to have difficulty nursing. So I would nurse, pump, and bottle feed. Pumping will become second nature and part of your daily routine if you choose to do it, but there are moments where you get careless, or maybe you are just sleep deprived and 4 ounces of pumped milk will topple out of your hands. You'll see it happening in slow motion and try to will it to stop, but before you know it, your precious milk is splattered all over the counter and floor. Go ahead and cry over that spilled milk. We all know how precious it is!
- It's OK to be Sweden. The mommy-wars between those who nurse and those who don't is fierce and divisive. As you nurse your own baby you realize you are only doing the very best you can do, just as any other mother does for her child. Maybe it's because I both formula-fed and breast-fed that I realized I didn't want to be caught up in that mommy-war. I wanted to encourage the women around me and support them no matter how they chose to nourish their baby.
- You won't regret trying. Though I hoped to nurse my oldest daughter longer, I was grateful for the four months we did nurse -- even with all the struggles. When my labor and delivery nurse told me "no one tandem nurses twins," I decided to give it a try anyway. And I'll always be glad I did because it was a wonderful 7.5 months even if it did feel like my days were spent nursing and pumping. I know I gave it my best with my fourth baby -- and when we made it to 6 months with a combination of nursing, pumping, and a special formula to help with his reflux, I cheered for us! For me! For trying my best.
- The last session is bittersweet. You were probably ready to be done. And baby was too. But nobody warns you just how bittersweet that very last nursing session will be. With my oldest daughter, she was only 4-months-old. My supply was all but non-existent and I knew it was time to try formula feeding. So I took her in her nursery, nestled her against me and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star -- a song that always calmed her in her most colicky of states. She nursed for a few moments before pulling off in frustration and wailing, her mouth formed into an angry little "o." I continued singing, knowing it was our last time, while my own tears splashed against her cheeks as I said goodbye to this stage with her.
Nicole Scott is a mother to four, wife, runner, and writer. She writes about chasing dreams at MyFitFamily.com.
This article is part of HuffPost Parents' World Breastfeeding Week series. Read more here.