What I wish I would have told myself.
This is me, age 29, with my husband and first baby Hannah. I didn’t cry when she was born...I cried when she latched for the first time, which happened moments before this image was captured. This photo, taken by Doula Dianne, means so much to me now because it was the beginning of my feeding journey. It’s also the true start down a path that led me to knowing all of you wonderful humans and getting to live out my passion with my amazing business partner Judy.
I appear giddy and joyous here, but I was also so anxious about breastfeeding. I put SO much pressure on myself to breastfeed, and fortunately after a TON of pain and latch issues (we later realized she had a severe tongue and lip tie), I had a great breastfeeding experience. Not always easy, but great. I wish I had told myself that no matter what, it would all be ok.
When we started baby-led weaning at 6 months on the nose, my eldest took to it like a champ. My second daughter was even more of a foodie and was demanding to take part of every meal we ate once she started with solid foods. I have been fortunate to have the wisdom of Judy and what would eventually become our online infant and toddler courses to help me navigate any challenges that came up. I know I am lucky.
I know from the clients I see every day that not all feeding journeys go this way, that mine may seem especially easy. Judy and I work with feeding and nutrition challenges every day - we listen to and comfort sweet mamas as they cry, mourning the loss of an experience they so wish they had. We celebrate even the tiniest of successes and offer our professional and mama-to-mama support when things get tough. We adore meeting such wonderful, diverse, passionate families and witnessing new parents evolve into the fiercely protective people they never knew they were.
Feeding and nutrition are SO emotional, so personal. Everyone does it differently, because everyone is different. We are grateful to be part of your journey. Thank you for being part of ours too!
You are worthy.
You are worthy of enjoying food, of finding joy in the eating process, of eating when your body - no matter what size it is - says it’s hungry! Your body size does not define your worthiness as a partner, as a mother, as a woman, as a human. Don’t let your life pass you by as you strive to be something, someone else. Yes, taking care of yourself and moving in a way that feels good to your body is important, but so many times we self-sabotage because we don’t feel like we are worthy of the same love we give to everyone else, including our kids whom we adore. You are worthy!
If you need help with this, please check out “Intuitive Eating" by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. I trained under Elyse in graduate school and the Intuitive Eating philosophy completely changed my life and the course of my career. This book is a complete game changer. Judy and I hope to teach you how to navigate food with your kids so they grow up seeing food as just food - delicious, enjoyable, and yet just food. Let’s break the cycle of chronic dieting, body bashing and shame surrounding food so our kids don’t have to struggle as well. If you're looking for a more step-by-step approach to this with your little ones, check out our Toddler Course.
Megan here. I had so many expectations for parenthood before I became a parent myself. I knew exactly how I wanted my kid to act, sleep, eat, learn and grow. Even though I had no idea what life with a baby was actually like, I pictured my future baby adapting to my life and my schedule with ease. I had high hopes, near impossible expectations for what my life as a mom would be.
I quickly learned that babies change everything. Yes, everyone told me that, but until I met my first child I didn’t quite believe them. Suddenly I was home alone with a newborn who refused to drink from a bottle and wouldn’t go to sleep for anyone but me. My friends didn’t understand why I didn’t want to stay out late anymore or couldn’t just get a babysitter for a girls’ trip. Even though I was completely enamored by my sweet baby, I felt permanently tied to her, trapped in babyhood, unable to find any semblance of my former self.
I didn’t know how temporary and fleeting this feeling would be, that I would long for newborn snuggles the moment they disappeared, that I would be that crazy lady fawning over babies at the grocery store.
Now that my children are 5 and 2, I am rediscovering my freedom and independence within motherhood. I have much more perspective (although I’m still learning every day).
I have realized how quickly these precious years disappear. I don’t want to take my girls’ time as children for granted. I want to make sure that not only do I enjoy them in every stage (no matter how hard it may be), but that I also have taught them the most important things about life, the big lessons that they will one day teach their own children.
What are these lessons?
I think about this often. What do I actually want my children to learn from me? Sure, I want them to be good people, to grow into hard-working, God-loving women who know themselves and trust their intuition, to become the best versions of themselves. I also want to teach them how to cook, how to drive, how to take care of themselves and their homes. But the main stuff, the big stuff...that's what sometimes keeps me up at night. Are they learning enough from me? Am I being the best mom I can be?
Then I realize one thing. I was always meant to be my girls' mom. I also know that you, my friend, were destined to be the mother of your child or children, no matter how they came to you. We are perfectly made for the roles we were given, no matter how challenging they seem. We will teach our children what they need to learn by simply being ourselves and sharing our worlds with them. They will be OK.
To celebrate Mother’s Day, Judy and I want to share the hopes and dreams we have for our kids. My kids are still little, and Judy’s are young adults (and her daughter just graduated from college this week!). Despite the age difference, our wishes for our kids are so very similar. That’s the thing about motherhood....while we all have different experiences raising very different children, our hearts are in the same place.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of motherhood, the stresses that this season brings, the changes it has forced upon our lives. Sometimes it’s good to step back and remember what’s important and why we do this good, hard, rewarding work.
Read on for our lessons, as well as the lessons from some of our sweet followers. We wish you a beautiful, restful Mother’s Day!
Judy's life lessons
And just like that you were all grown!
From the first time I held you and smelled your amazing hair and head, we were so deeply connected. That first kiss, and your touch against my chest (your body was so small!)... there was something no one can ever prepare a mom for. It is absolute paradise.
I tried so hard to be present everyday for every milestone and teach you the fundamentals of life and the basics of what it means to love and be loved.
Here are my hopes for you dear child.
You have been given everything you need within you to succeed. Follow your heart, even if it takes you to the ends of the earth. Just be true to yourself and know who you are.
You will make mistakes, and this is how lessons are taught throughout life. Pay attention to that inner voice. That is Grandma Sue and Grandpa Tony and Popy and all our family that have come before you and are willing to guide you. You just need to be quiet, and listen. And trust.
Remember, life isn’t perfect, but without the lows, the highs don’t mean a thing.
Before you know it, you will be all grown up and may even leave our nest. That is your job, It will be hard for both of us, but when you leave it means I did my job. And then off you will fly.
And collect sticks for your own nest.
And just like that you are all grown up!
Life lessons from our sweet mama followers
"I want my littles to know and understand that they are so loved, and to love others in that way. The 1 Corinthians 13 kind of love!!!"
"I want my LO to know that everything I do is for her. I want her to value her family time and always want to spend holidays with her mommy and daddy in the future when she’s on her own. And most importantly I want her to appreciate the things she has and have a heart for people."
"I want my boys to learn the value of a strong work ethic. It's one of my most memorable qualities and I want my boys to be remembered for this too. You will always be successful at whatever you do if you work hard to succeed."
"The biggest thing I want my daughter to learn is to love herself. I had so many self-esteem issues and I hated my body for most of my life. My inner voice has been mean and cruel. I didn’t take care of myself at all. I want her to learn to take care of the body she was given, to love it and fuel it."
"My hearts desires is to be a kind example of unconditional love, and to also teach how important it is to have a sense of humor, especially when the going gets ridiculously tough."
"KINDNESS. Open-mindedness. Sense of humor. Love. Life is a journey: embrace it."
"I want my son to know how to love others. I want him to know he's privileged (as a white man in America) and use that knowledge to help others. I want him to know I'm not perfect, none of us are, and that working hard to do and be better is the goal not perfection. I want him to be independent, strong, empathetic and compassionate."
"My daughter and I go through the same “check list” all the time:
Are you beautiful? YES!
Are you smart? YES!
Are you strong? YES!
Are you kind? YES!
Each one gets a different emphasis from her at different times, but I love them all."
"A love for Jesus!"
"I hope to teach my child how to be humble, care for others and use her determination to change the world! She is the most persistent, determined, and stubborn 8 month old I know, but I know she will use all of these qualities to make a large impact on those around her and I hope to teach her how!"
Life lessons from Megan
I am a sucker for music lyrics and love sharing all types of music genres with my kids. To add to the emotional sob-fest of celebrating Mother's Day, I want to offer my lessons as favorite song lyrics. Click on the lyrics to hear the entire song via Spotify.
“Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” You are perfect exactly as you are. Every feature of you, inside and out, tells a story about your family, your past, your life until this point. Your curly hair matches your bouncy, silly personality, and your blue eyes look just like your daddy’s. Every cell in your body has a purpose, is important, is worthy, is exactly as it should be. Don’t fall into the traps of perfection, comparison, or self-doubt....because to me you are perfect.
“Don’t reach for the moon when you’re going to Mars.” You have more opportunities than any generation of women before you. Don’t take that for granted. You can and you will do hard things. It’s how you get better, how you grow. You will define your own successes as you get older, but whatever you decide to do...put your whole heart into it. You will always be proud of yourself when you try your best.
"I hope you're somewhere prayin', prayin' / I hope your soul is changin', changin' / I hope you find your peace / Falling on your knees, prayin'." Sweet child, may you never forget that you are loved by God. It is impossible for us to fully understand this life. Trust that there is something much bigger than you and the pain that you may experience in life. Ask for help. Talk to Him. Always keep your eyes and your heart open for signs that God's presence is with you. You will find a greater peace than you have ever imagined.
"All you need is love." Treat everyone you meet with kindness. You never know that path others are taking. Try to put yourself in others' shoes, and show empathy, patience, kindness and grace. Be known for the positivity you put into the world.
"Shake it out, shake it out, shake it out / Shake it out, shake it out, ooh woah." Trust yourself. You know the right answer. Don't let stress of school, work, relationships, money, family, friends, anything keep you from living a full life. Take risks and be spontaneous. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Things always look better in the morning - "it's always darkest before the dawn." Shake it out, girl! (This song was my birth power anthem with Hannah. It always reminds me of strength and letting go. We are so much stronger than we believe!)
"Go after your dreams, crazy as they may seem / Go chase all the stars in the sky / Baby I'll be paving the runway / 'Cause I know that one day you're gonna fly." I love that Judy and I finish with analogies about flying, but it's really true...my job is to help you fly, my darling child. No, I don't want to see you go. Yes, I wish I could cuddle you in the safe, comfortable nest forever. But how will I know how high, how far you can fly if I don't let you go? How will I know the beautiful color of your wings, the uniqueness of your feathers, if I don't let you stretch them out in all their glory? Sweet baby of mine, please never forget that I am always, always here for you, no matter what happens in your life. I am always a safe place, a shoulder upon which to rest your head, an ear that will listen. I promise to respect your thoughts and to create your own path - yes, independent of my own - and I hope and pray that you will never forget how much you are fiercely, irrevocably, forever loved.
Megan here. My oldest baby turns five tomorrow.
I am stunned and perplexed as to how this happened so quickly. Everyone told me it would, and I literally spent days staring at my child when she was a newborn, begging her not to change and grow quite so fast. I cried every time I put away each size of clothing. I took about a billion pictures (and a lot of videos), and I even made Shutterfly books every four months during her infancy. That's THREE BOOKS BY THE TIME SHE TURNED ONE. Ridiculous. I even kept a private blog detailing every developmental step, every funny word said. I didn't want to forget a thing. In case you can't tell by now, I'm a sentimental sap who adores babies...especially my own babies.
Despite all of my attempts to savor her babyness...she still grew up too fast. Some days I feel like I missed it all and can hardly remember the details of her as a sassy threenager or what she smelled like as a sweet nursling. I love who she is today and the young girl she is becoming, and yet I can't help but wish I could rewind the clock and hold her for the first time again and again.
I bet you can relate, too.
You see, motherhood is transformative. Not only do we watch a little newborn evolve into a walking, talking person with an independent soul, but we also are transformed into new people along with them. When I think of the past five years, I can't help but reminisce on how much having a child has changed me and altered the course of my life permanently.
When I was thirty-seven weeks pregnant with my first baby I was laid off from a job I thought I'd have for a long time. I then got in a car accident on my due date and almost had an emergency C-section because of it, but my sweet girl stayed in for another eight days before making her debut. A sudden job loss and potentially dangerous accident seemed big and overwhelming then, but what really changed was my life after giving birth.
I call my daughters my angels because they saved me in many ways. They made me more kind, more patient, more focused. Feeding Littles wouldn't exist if I never became a mom. I wouldn't know so many wonderful humans - including Judy - if I never began this journey almost 5 years ago. As much as I hope to influence my children, I will always tell them how much they have changed my life for the better.
In celebration of the big "five," Judy and I wanted to share some of the lessons motherhood has taught us. You see, the reason I love Judy so much is that not only is she a brilliant practitioner, she is also a wise mama. Her children are in their twenties (and are amazing humans themselves), so she shares a perspective about life on the other side of childhood. Of course, she's very close with her kids and is still actively involved in their lives, but she has had the benefit of seeing them through middle school, teenage years, and the ups and downs of college life. Perspective is helpful when you're in the thick of mothering young children, and that's why I love that she will share some of her wisdom about motherhood now that she has been doing it for a while.
If you're reading this and you're struggling to get pregnant or create the family you hope to have, please know that you are not alone and that we know this is a sensitive, lonely topic for many. We share these lessons about motherhood for everyone, not just for people who describe themselves as moms, and we pray that you find peace and resolution on your journey.
Judy's kids (a boy and girl) are two years apart and are now in their early twenties. Judy also works with about 30 families a week in their homes doing feeding therapy, so she gets to know many new moms each month.
My girls are 2.5 years apart and already have very unique, strong personalities. I grew up with a sister and am excited to see how their relationship develops and changes as they get older. I am lucky to get to work with many new moms and want to share some lessons that came hard for me, especially about new motherhood. (Judy and I have some similar themes in our words of wisdom!)
We wish you joy in the craziness of motherhood. Thank you for letting us share our thoughts. Don't forget to share yours below or on Instagram or Facebook!
I have breastfed for over 52 months. Fifty. Two. Months. Looking back, it flew by. I hardly remember nursing my first baby, and now I'm about to wean my second. In fact, her last day breastfeeding will be tomorrow, the day before I leave for a trip. She will have nursed (nearly) every day for the last 2 years.
Breastfeeding is one of the most emotionally-charged topics of motherhood. It is a joyous experience for some, an impossible one for others. Some women love it. Others hate it. Many women who were unable to breastfeed harbor guilt and hard feelings about the whole experience.
This is not a post about breastfeeding being better than bottle feeding or why everyone "should" breastfeed. I am a believer in feeding your baby in a way that works best for mom, baby and the whole family. As a mom, I have loved breastfeeding my babies and I feel lucky that I was able to do it, but as a dietitian I am well aware that breastfeeding just doesn't work for everyone, for a variety of reasons.
If thinking about breastfeeding hurts your heart, please know that I am sending you a virtual hug and that I am proud of you for figuring out what worked better for you and for baby. Sometimes feeding issues teach us the first of many hard parenting lessons - we are not always in control.
I want to share some of my personal thoughts and recommendations about breastfeeding, as my experience - like every mom's - is a bit unique. I hope that in reading this you learn something new, can relate to something you've experienced, or find healing in your own story. Of course, this post could be much, much longer than it is. I am not an IBCLC and I know many of these topics could be greatly expanded upon, so I hope you find the help and support you need if you're struggling.
Get educated. Breastfeeding seems easy - what do you need besides boobs and a baby, right? Most of us haven't grown up surrounded by breastfeeding. Many of us were not breastfed ourselves, so we don't have a tribe of women ready and able to teach us what to do. Both my mom and my mother-in-law breastfed, but this isn't always the case.
Some aspects of breastfeeding aren't logical, either. I've had clients who think that feeding a baby less often - when their breasts seem fuller - is the best way to get baby more milk, As you may know, feeding infrequently can hinder your milk supply because baby is removing less milk overall and not telling your body to produce even more.
Those first few days after birth are critical in establishing your milk supply and learning what breastfeeding is all about. Read about it before having baby, or better yet - take a class. Many hospitals, birthing centers, and breastfeeding support groups have breastfeeding education classes. If you're local to Phoenix, check out Modern Milk or Babymoon Inn to learn all about breastfeeding before baby arrives.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Feeding your baby in the early weeks and months is very overwhelming because it's 'round the clock. I felt like I went from an independent woman to a mom tethered to a baby, literally overnight. My babies never liked bottles, so it was even more overwhelming to be their only food source.
Take it one day at a time, mama. Make a goal of 1 week, then 2, then 1 month. If you can get to 6 weeks you've likely gotten over many breastfeeding humps.
Believe it or not, once you figure out breastfeeding, it can be much, much easier than pumping or bottle feeding. In fact, one reason why I continued to breastfeed into toddlerhood is because it was easier than weaning (true story). You don't need special equipment or gear when baby is with you. No washing or heating bottles, no cleaning, no worrying about sanitizing equipment.
Remember that this is a temporary time in your life. It will be all done before you know it (insert sobbing here).
Find an IBCLC, especially one trained in understanding tongue and lip ties. If you have issues breastfeeding, a consult with an IBCLC is the best money you can spend. Seriously. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are God's gift to new moms, and many are even covered by insurance. WIC employs IBCLCs as well. If something seems wrong, trust your mama gut and get help. I promise you won't regret talking to a pro.
I could not have breastfed without the help from Amey Clark, and there are so many wonderful IBCLCs (including Stephanie Nguyen and Lori Isenstadt) who are willing and able to help you navigate this new world of feeding your baby.
Both of my babies were severely tongue and lip tied, and it takes a trained practitioner to identify and revise these ties. Make sure your providers know how to revise - or who to refer to for revision. If your provider doesn't "believe" in tongue ties and breastfeeding isn't going well, I strongly consider that you shop around for a second opinion.
Above all else, keep seeking help if you're not getting the support you need. There's someone out there who can help you make breastfeeding successful (or at least understand when it's time to switch to another feeding modality).
If you use a breastfeeding pillow, bring it on trips. It's so much easier to nurse a young baby with a pillow if that's what you're used to. I brought my Boppy everywhere when we traveled. It's helpful on the plane and is critical at your final destination. Plus, you can wash it when you get home!
If you don't respond to a traditional electric pump, try a manual pump or hand expressing. I was a breastfeeding unicorn in that I could never pump much milk but could hand express 5-8 ounces of milk at a time. (I had massive over-supply. Normal pump output when breastfeeding full-time is 0.5-2 oz between both breasts.) It was a little freakish. For some reason, I never did well with an electric pump. I have friends who did much better with manual pumps instead of an electric pump too. Don't get discouraged if pumping isn't working - try other options! Your IBCLC can help you with this.
Don't cover - or do. Basically, do what makes you feel comfortable. I always applauded moms who nursed without covers, but I personally didn't feel comfortable doing it with my uber-distracted babies (who whipped their heads around at any slight noise as they nursed). The cover actually kept them focused as they nursed.
I did master breastfeeding in the Ergo uncovered, and that was a great option while grocery shopping or traveling. I think the baby's height, mom's torso length, and mom's breast size all influence how well upright nursing in an Ergo or other carrier works, but it's worth a shot. (I even nursed in a carrier while teaching classes at Babymoon and Modern Milk - talk about redefining working mom, right!?)
Don't feel pressured to stop breastfeeding at age 1. (Above is my first baby nursing sometime in her second year of life. Gymnurstics.) Breast milk has an important role for toddlers too - it helps fill their nutritional gaps and can provide extra immune protection as they become more mobile (and more adventurous with what they touch). The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until at least age 2 - it's not uncommon for women across the world to breastfeed until 3 to 5 years of age.
Do what works best for you. My goal with both girls was 2, and with my first I was sad to stop at 28 months - I was 5 months pregnant and didn't want to tandem nurse! My second is only breastfeeding once a day but is pulling back hard as she nurses, which really hurts. That's one reason why she will be done about 2 weeks after her 2nd birthday.
Take pictures and videos of your baby breastfeeding. I know this seems silly, and you don't ever need to show these to anyone (although I think they're absolutely beautiful, so show me!), but I think breastfeeding photos are some of my most cherished keepsakes. I treasure the professional ones from Jenn Hydeman, and I also love the ones I took myself in those sweet, quiet moments.
Cherish your time with baby. Breastfeeding forced me to sit down, slow down, and focus on my sweet little infant (or toddler). Both girls have had fun routines and quirks around breastfeeding that I will never forget. My eldest loved saying, "Switch sides!" and I adored that my youngest would demand, "Light OFF!" and smile as she got ready for her naptime routine. I loved how breastfeeding seemed to solve all infant problems. I loved hearing my girls exhale a quivering sigh as they settled into their feeding rhythm, or make small coo's as they relaxed and started to fall asleep. I loved the lip shake they made as they stayed latched for comfort, or the sweet gummy smiles they gave me as milk poured out of their toothless mouths. The sound of a breastfeeding baby is magical. It literally makes my uterus hurt.
I don't know if I will miss breastfeeding as much as I will miss what it meant - peaceful time with my babies, where there was nothing more important in the world than being with them. I will always be grateful that my breastfeeding experience was a wonderful one (despite tongue/lip ties, clogged ducts, mastitis and thrush). I don't remember the hard parts - I remember the pure magic.
Remember that breastfeeding is successful only when it works for both mom and baby. There is much more to feeding and being a good mom than the type of milk baby gets. Give yourself grace to do what works for you and your baby, whatever that may be. I wish you joy and peace on your feeding journey. Never forget that you are an amazing mother, and your baby was perfectly designed to be yours!
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!