In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would write a post on my own personal journey through the past year of having my little nursling. I know that breastfeeding isn't for everyone. Not everyone can do it, whether it be for time reasons, health reasons, having multiples (and for those who have multiples and nursed or pumped, that's just amazing), etc...But breastfeeding is an amazing way to nourish your child and spend that bonding time with them, building a lifetime relationship that is like no other.
I will admit, before I was pregnant, I was one of those non-moms who was not a fan of breastfeeding, especially not in public. I always had the thought "how is a mom supposed to explain to her young kids that the mom over there with a child to her breast is just feeding her child?" With the shows on TV that oversexualize women, it can be a little tough to justify breastfeeding uncovered to someone who may not understand. So I was the skeptic. I was all for the idea of just buying formula, making a bottle, and having one ready. For whatever lunatic reason, it seemed more "convenient" to bottle feed. Uh...milk on tap at 2am or get up, make a bottle, warm it up, and feed from it, then wash it. Hmmm...I'm glad I got a little wiser! But I seriously wasn't such a fan on the idea of a child clinging to my chest all the time. I don't know what made me change my mind, maybe it was friends who have breastfed successfully and loved it, or maybe it's the mere fact that formula is a huge expense and my husband and I are both teachers. A summer baby on formula? Not smart, there's no money for all that nonsense if I've got the milk for free, a 24-hour dairy bar!
The first day breastfeeding, July 28, 2010, was not the easiest. I suppose for some women, it comes so naturally to them and their child. Isabella wanted to nurse, she desperately needed to. She spent a lot of time rooting around, but she just couldn't get a good latch. I refused to allow them to feed her from a bottle, this was something she had to learn to do. A c-section, although the best to birth Isabella, since she was breech and still all over the place during the section, is not good for breastfeeding, as the morphine makes all your body tissues soft. Poor little newborn couldn't get a good enough latch to nurse. I'm thankful for a night time nurse who knew exactly what my baby needed-something to help her latch on, despite my soft tissues. So she brought in a silicone shield. I only used it for the first 24 hours, until I was no longer on the morphine. It helped so much. Isabella was a pro at nursing from the beginning. Although she would fall asleep mid-feed, what newborn doesn't? We worked through it and she made breastfeeding seem easy and well worth it.
When my milk came in 5 days postpartum, I wasn't ready for the engorgement and pain that goes with it. I was warned, but I don't think you are really prepared for it. Poor Isabella again could not latch on very well. I found myself pumping an ounce out each time I wanted to feed, just to relieve some of the engorgement until she could empty out the rest of my milk. It all just became routine. What mattered to me was that I had this uninterrupted time with my beautiful daughter, where it was just the two of us, doing what we did best. Those first few weeks of breastfeeding were wonderful. It was a bonding activity that I am thankful we were able to share. It helps as a new mom to really make you feel needed, useful.
Our breastfeeding relationship was perfect. She nursed on demand, but got herself onto a good schedule...and then the day came to return to work. She handled it better than I thought she would. I'm the one who struggled through it. Getting into a good pumping routine is hard and I suspect that is when a lot of women throw in the towel. I stuck it out, fell into a good routine, and continued that through the end of the school year. It is not easy, pumping twice a day just to have the milk to give your child and to relieve the engorgement that ensues in those first few weeks of changing the routine. But we worked through the changes and our breastfeeding relationship became perfect again.
We worked through the intolerance of dairy fats. She didn't have an allergy, just a sensitivity to milk fats. So I had to cut out all dairy that had fat in it. She did fine when I had skim milk, but that was about it. Cheese? Nope. Ice cream? Forget that. Yogurt? No way. Mommy made sacrifices to make it through those first six months or so before she outgrew her milk intolerance. But like all experiences in life, you change to meet the needs of your child.
When February came and her first cold started, she continued to nurse through it. I suspected an ear infection, but every time we took her to the pediatrician, they said it wasn't that at all. Finally, a month after the cold first appeared, we encountered our first nursing strike. Yes, my 8-month old was striking. I was at my wits end. She wanted to nurse but when she would try, she would then scream in pain. I had to pump a lot those first two days of this nursing strike because it was the weekend and we had a bridal shower and a baby shower to go to. We finally got her in to see the pediatrician after day 3 of the nursing strike and sure enough, her one ear was badly infected. So, she was put on Amoxycillan and sent home. Ten days later, the dose ended and the next day, the second nursing strike began. Yes, this time, I knew what was going on. Those ears were not better. So we took her in again and this time, it was a double ear infection. Poor baby. Poor Mommy. She was put on Cednafir and given a well-check appointment to recheck her ears a day after the antibiotic was done. Ears were clear, nursing was back on track. A few days went by and then, on Easter Sunday, the fever started with the runny nose and the nursing strike. Thankfully, this time, I had the ear numbing drops to help with the pain, so she was able to nurse once the drops kicked in. Three ear infections in a month in a half, which equals three nursing strikes. And yet, I pushed through it, we continued our journey through breastfeeding, even if at times, it's a frustrating journey.
In late June, she started with yet another nursing strike, the fourth one in our relationship together. That one was hard because we weren't home. We were on the road visiting family and she was in pain from something and wouldn't nurse. Well, her top middle teeth were working their way in and she does not teeth well. So she couldn't muster up the strength to nurse through the gum discomfort until some Tylenol was given to her. Poor baby. Poor Mommy. But just like all the times before that, we worked through it and in the end, she was still nursing just fine once those teething stopping pushing so hard on those sensitive gums.
Just before her first birthday, she was running a fever on a Saturday, but we didn't make it to the pediatrician because we had nursery for a friend's wedding. Sunday came, she was still running a fever. Motrin would take it away, but as soon as it would wear off, it would be back. She embarked on another nursing strike until five minutes post ear numbing drops. Once those drops were in, she would nurse again, through the stuffy nose and all. Sure enough, she had her fourth ear infection. The majority of her nursing strikes are from ear infections. So we work through them and get by.
We've now been on this journey together for a year and nine days. There is no end in sight, though I am planning on weaning fully by 18 months. Then, it's time to get my body back in gear to plan a second child. But for now, we're contentedly enjoying the most of this relationship together. It has taught me a lot as a mom. No matter what I am doing, I am never too busy to let my little nursing suckle. No matter how frustrated we both get, we can get through it with some patience, creativity, and persistence. No matter how many things change around us, we have our routine and it works.
I'm glad I got a little wiser when the time came to choose breast or bottle for how to feed this beautiful child of mine. And although I always swore I would not nurse in public, I have, many times, though most of them covered. I survived the glares, the comments, the cackling. It's all par for the course. It's all natural, my baby needed to eat, to drink. People just need to know more about it before they make comments or give stares. It's just part of life, you feed where and when you need to based on your child's needs.
I make milk. What's your superpower?
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