The First Latch

Breastfeeding was never on my radar. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and rape, I had no interest in ever letting someone touch my body in that way. The idea of someone having on demand access to my body sent me back to being 8 years old and unable to say no.

I discussed my fears with my doctor and was brushed off, “breast is best” I was told as if I didn’t already know. I was told to push past my own insecurities for the good of my child. There was no effort made toward empathy, understanding, or support.

As the birth of my child neared, I experienced a wide range of emotions. I began to daydream about the idea of perhaps trying to nurse my child. I tried to reframe my thoughts, tried to ignore the voice inside me that told me “no.” It didn’t work. When I went in to have my daughter my plan was to use formula, I was totally comfortable with that plan.

Grace Florence entered the world on an icy January night. I had a long hard labor that ended with the delivery of a 9 lb 14 ounce baby girl. I was exhausted and exhilarated. Grace was taken from me immediately because of some complications but when they placed her tiny body on mine twenty minutes later, something incredible happened. No one who was present in that room, including the Ob who had brushed me off, knew what was about to happen.


The First Latch

When Grace was placed on me, she immediately began to root around, her tiny mouth looking for food and likely for comfort. My body recoiled at the thought but my heart began to soften. I recall this intense moment just before she latched on where we caught each other’s eye as if to say “it’s ok mama.” She moved her body upwards towards my breast, my heart was beating so fast I think I could hear it. No one else in that room mattered in that moment. The  nurses had been instructed that I would use formula so no help was attempted when Grace showed signs of wanting to nurse.

imageAfter a few awkward moments of positioning, she latched on and began to suckle. The healing that took place in those few moments is indescribable. My breasts, the center of a great deal of my abuse, suddenly became this magical source of comfort and nutrition for my tiny infant.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing. I struggled with anxiety and flashbacks frequently while nursing.
Especially in the night. I had to be gentle with myself, lower my expectations. I gave myself permission to stop at any time. I developed tools that worked to bring me back into the moment. I would rub her tiny feet or smell her delicious head and remind myself that she was my present, not my past. Sometimes nothing worked and she would have to wait a moment while I gathered myself. Nursing my daughter as a survivor has taught me balance. I have had to learn to balance her needs with mine and to honor my past.

Still going strong 2.5 years later.

Still going strong 2.5 years later.

Two and a half years later, I am still nursing her and her six month old brother. Tandem nursing presented new challenges that I did not anticipate, so we have been working towards weaning. The out of sync suckling sent my body into a panic and I have been unable to overcome that feeling. So again, I practice balance and through balance has come another degree of healing. As we move towards weaning, we nurse almost entirely on my terms. I have set limits that feel safe to me and stuck to them, and Grace has adapted well. I have taken control of my body while still providing my daughter the comfort she desires.

That first latch will rain etched in my memory forever. The subsequent thousands of latches teach me more about myself every day.

Sleepy snuggles.

Sleepy snuggles.


  1. Bethan Brooks on September 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you for sharing such an emotional story. You are an amazing, strong and inspiring women. Good luck and may your breastfeeding journey continue to help you mend the pain of your past.

  2. tricia on September 11, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.

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