Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On nursing our little one: 5 things I've learned in the last year of breastfeeding

I wrote the rough draft (read: outline) of this post months ago.  Little was around 10 months old and I thought that my milk supply was decreasing.  I had been hoping to nurse him until at least one year and in that moment, I was so disappointed and worried that it wouldn't happen.  He's almost a year and a half and I'm excited to say that we made it!  I'm also excited to get back to the blog to finish this post with a sigh of relief, thanksgiving, and a little bit of uncertainty on how long we'll continue. Little has weaned himself at night and now only nurses when he wakes up and once before his nap.  I'll be traveling some in the spring for a couple of weddings that I'm in so I'm hoping that we can naturally wrap it up before then.

Nursing our little has been one of the most special parts of mothering thus far for me, but it certainly was not always easy.  Today I'm sharing some of the best tips that I received and learned during the past year of nursing.  I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination and while I have been nursing for a year - I've only nursed one baby so I can only speak to that experience.

I felt so functional in the first few weeks of motherhood.  Remember this post, about how hard it was for me when we first brought our little home?  I just remember sitting in the same spot on the couch for what seemed like weeks nursing.  People would come over to see the baby, enjoy him, ooh and ahh, and then he would start crying and they would hand him to me.  "Must be hungry," they'd say and then smile.  Except it wasn't that funny to me because it felt like he had just eaten (and many times this was the actual case).  I have a distinct memory of a google search in the middle of the night once, that read, "is it ok to hate breastfeeding"?  And of course there were plenty of posts that were often hilarious regarding breastfeeding and I somehow felt reassured about my exhaustion being awake at all hours with a baby attached to me.


But then a magical thing happened.  I got used to nursing and my baby got more efficient at it.  I started to really see nursing as such a special and beautiful thing.  It was time that I got to just snuggle up with the little.  And in that moment - I had all that he needed for nourishment, comfort, safety, and rest.  And I felt really thankful.  I felt thankful to be able to nurse him.  Thankful that he was doing such a good job at it.  Thankful that I had these special moments with him that no one else could have.  It was just him and me.  And so, here are the top five things I have to say about breastfeeding. 


It's natural, but that doesn't mean it's easy and/or always comfortable.    
This little nugget of perspective came from a wonderful lactation consultant at our pediatrician's office.  In the first week of nursing, I was so unsure if I was doing it correctly.  So often, it hurt.  Badly.  And I didn't even have to deal with cracked or chaffed nipples - it just wasn't comfortable.  When I asked the LC about this, she helped make sure that we were in fact doing it correctly and reassured me.  "You can find a lot of information online," she said.  "People will go on and on about how beautiful breastfeeding is - how natural it is and so on and so on.  They'll also say that if it hurts, you must be doing something wrong.  But, I don't know anyone who starts out nursing being already used to having their nipples routinely sucked to the back of someone's throat."  I laughed in the moment, but I remembered her words when I left the office.  That's not to say that you shouldn't ask someone if it hurts or is uncomfortable, because there could be something wrong or a way to make it more comfortable.  But in my case, she was right.  It just took some getting used to.

If you can commit to nursing for a month, it gets a lot easier. 
From a friend.  She was right.  Remember that magical thing that happened about getting used to nursing and baby getting more used to it as well?  It took about a month for us to really be in our groove.  I'm thankful to have had this perspective.  It gave me something to look forward to.  It was a lot easier to think about giving it a month and seeing how it was going that thinking that I had to make it a full year.  I also spent a lot of time in that month searching for tips to make it easier and what I could expect.  I really found this site to be helpful.  There are also very helpful boards online and there are local La Leche Leagues with coaches all over the place that are eager to help nursing moms.  I really think that having support is critical. 

If it causes crazy amounts of stress and frustration, you don't have to. 
This is from my mom.  She has four of us kids.  I was born 8 weeks prematurely and wasn't able to nurse, one of us was breastfed longer, and the others are twins and it was really hard for my mom to nurse two babies while simultaneously chasing after two others.  And all of us turned out well.  We hear so much about how breast is best and the importance of breastfeeding.  I'm glad for that, because I really do think there are so many benefits to breastfeeding.  BUT, I readily acknowledge that there are often reasons that women are unable to breastfeed and/or choose not to.  My mom was totally right on this one.  If nursing causes you tons of stress, you don't have to.  Your mental health and well being is important, too.  You've got to take care of baby and that means making sure baby is fed.  But you've also got to take care of you, because baby needs more of you than just food. (I also know of more than one mama for whom their milk just didn't come in - and they were perfectly healthy with wonderful little babes.  They tried, sought help, it didn't work, and they and their babes continue to thrive.)  There are a lot of right ways to parent and not very many easy ones. 

It's easy to say what you will and won't do when you have kids before you have kids. 
This.  I was certain that I was going to introduce a bottle early to our little so that I wouldn't have to be the only one that could feed him.  We did introduce a bottle that he used when I was working or away for little bits of time.  But, I found that I wanted to nurse him.  I didn't want to be away for very long because I wanted to keep my supply up and I was uncomfortable if he didn't nurse.  I say this just to say that you just never know.  It's easy to say what you'll do when you have kids before you have kids.  Then you have kids, and you just realize that there isn't an instruction manual.  And what your friend did so successfully might not work for your little - because they are all so very different.  And that's okay and wonderful and exciting.  We're all just trying to take the best care of our kids. 

It is really wonderful and special.  
I don't think this requires a ton of extra explanation.  We're recently celebrated Little's first birthday and I feel so thankful that we've made it.  He is still nursing before his nap and in the morning, but I can feel him starting to pull away some days.  I know that there will be things that I will enjoy when I'm not nursing anymore - bras without clips, wearing whatever I want, etc.  But there will certainly be things that I will miss.  I haven't totally decided how or when we will really start to wean during the day and frankly, I'm leaving that largely up to my little for now.  But I know I'll miss it when it's over.

I love being this boy's mama so much, y'all.  I know I say it all the time, but it's true.  I am thankful everyday to be his mama, and there are days when I am almost certain that my heart will just burst from all the love.



I'd love to hear your breastfeeding stories in the comments!  What helped you along the way?  How was the weaning process?  

 

6 comments:

  1. Breastfeeding is not wonderful and special for everyone. Sometimes you want that so much but it's jut not in the card. Our journey hasn't been easy. In the first few days of Peachy's life I asked for help from so many people and some of them did more harm than good. Their forceful ways ended up making Peachy dislike nursing. I often wish that I didn't allow anyone to "help". I would have been better off just figuring it out on my own. I ended up having to pump while slowly working on our nursing relationship. It took months before Peachy would be accepting of it. She still doesn't love it but she will nurse. In the end I was nursing and pumping every day.

    I started weaning when Peachy turned year old almost two months ago. Peachy has no problem drinking cow's milk instead. I think she prefers her bottle. We're down to just one feeding before her nap these days. I think Peachy is ready to leave breastfeeding in her wake. I'm pretty sure that it's me who is holding on. Even though it's been hard, it's still difficult to let go. The only thing that's making it easier is that the top tooth that has just popped out is causing me pain. Now the second one is coming too. I can feel them when I feed Peachy and it is not a good feeling. I think that will ultimately be the reason why I'll stop. #bestandworst

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! You are totally correct that it is not for everyone - even if you want to breastfeed and I think it's so important that we remember that. Sometimes, it just doesn't work like you want it to. I appreciate you sharing your story. I was really thankful to have support for my nursing as well as support if I chose not to. feel really thankful for our experience, but acknowledge that it is not the same for everyone.

      It sounds like you are doing a great job with your little one! And I completely understand mamas wanting to hold on sometimes. I am right there, too!

      Thank you for stopping by!

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  2. What an excellent post! Thanks for sharing! I had an amazing nursing experience and actually realllly miss it haha but I can 100% understand how hard it can be and also how demanding!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! We've had a really good experience so far - but it has definitely not always been easy. You are not kidding about it being demanding!

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  3. This is all so interesting, Mary! I've got to say that I obviously know NOTHING about breastfeeding (and I'm hoping that's still a ways away for me! haha), but it's intriguing because it's such a different world than I'm in! I'll say that it's interesting to hear a mom say that I'll probably change what I'm currently thinking I will/won't do with kids now when I'M actually a mom!

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    1. Thanks! I think I could write a book on all the things I was sure I wouldn't do when I had kid(s). It's so hard to know beforehand.

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