Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come easy to everyone (or anyone I know), and it takes lots of hard, sometimes painful, work and determined dedication. Once you get through the initial, sometimes extremely difficult, struggles and you come out of the newborn, nursing-baby haze, you have a tiny human looking up at you as you feed them the most perfect substance made just for them, by you. Our bodies really are amazing, and the more I learned about the science behind breast milk, the more encouraged I was to continue nursing.
I learned about breast milk jewelry when I was nursing my first baby. I wasn’t super interested in it and, honestly, thought it was a little weird. However, once our breastfeeding journey came to an end, I was a little emotional and actually found myself regretting not making some type of commemoration for a time when my body instantly and flawlessly fed my child.
Now I am nursing baby number two and will definitely be commemorating this with a piece of breast milk jewelry. It isn’t a new idea, but it also isn’t very common. A breastfeeding mom can have her milk made into any type of jewelry she wants. The milk is mixed with a preservative and placed into her choice of a ring, pendant, charm for a bracelet, or necklace, or it’s made into a locket or piece of art to wear. It can be simple or intricate, engraved or not. It all sounds a little weird, huh? To be honest, I have forgotten all the reasons it does, though. I am sure it does sound strange, because when I mention it to people (even other breastfeeding mothers), they scrunch their noses, raise their eyebrows, and sometimes scoff a little. But I don’t see the weirdness anymore.
I use breast milk for everything, from it’s number one purpose – feeding my baby – to healing any number of ailments in our household. Pink eye? Put some breast milk in it. Eczema? Put some breast milk on it. Burn, cut, scrape? Breast milk. Sick older child? Give her a breast milk popsicle. The list goes on. It’s a magical substance, often referred to as liquid gold, and for good reason: breast milk has numerous antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Aside from the scientific reasoning that breast milk is so amazing, there is no other time in life when a mother will be as close with her child. While it isn’t for everyone, those who are able to breastfeed feel an extremely strong emotional bond with their baby. Attempting to breastfeed my firstborn was beyond difficult. We had numerous issues, and I was experiencing excruciating pain. There wasn’t one nursing session those first few weeks in which I wasn’t in tears. She would latch, and I would suck in a hard breath and have to remind myself to breathe through the pain. My husband hated seeing me in so much pain, and while he offered quiet reassurance that I didn’t have to breastfeed, he never discouraged me from continuing if I felt that’s what I wanted to do. I thought it was normal to hurt, so I dealt with it. Little did I know, it’s actually not normal to hurt and there were reasons it was.
I really can’t think of a better way to honor this time than to wear a piece of this liquid gold around my neck and over my heart.
After having a small, quick procedure to fix her latch, things got better for us. We continued to nurse for just under two years, and I will never forget the last time I nursed her. I rocked her in the same chair we had been in since the sleepless, painful newborn nights, and I quietly told her that after that night, she wouldn’t have mommy’s milk anymore. A few tears trickled down my face as I watched my tiny cherub baby suck her magic liquid from me for the last time. As she fell asleep and unlatched, a little dribble of milk made it’s way out of the corner of her mouth just like it did when she was brand new. I stared at her for a little while, then scooped her up and hugged her close to me while I cried some more; we rocked some more and I soaked in our last breastfeeding session.
What began as a harrowing journey turned into something more special than I ever could have imagined. I had a way to calm every cry, cure every sickness, remedy any anxiety, and comfort my baby through any trying moment she may have experienced. I had a hard time giving up this superpower that was bestowed upon me at her birth. Of course, I would be able to comfort her and help her physically and emotionally heal in other ways, but nothing would ever be as consequential for me as breastfeeding. It was something we made happen together, something that taught me more about myself than anything in life had up to that point. I had a confidence in myself as a mother and a person because we triumphed through those rough days without giving up.
As I hold and nurse baby number two, I feel all those same things. But this time, when our breastfeeding journey comes to an end, I will have a piece of jewelry to celebrate this time in my life, and I really can’t think of a better way to honor this time than to wear a piece of this liquid gold around my neck and over my heart.