The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #27
Today I am happy to host a guest post by Charissa. Charissa is a 26 year old mother to her beautiful daughter Lilah Kenley. They currently live in Alaska while her husband is stationed there as a Canadian Air Force member. Charissa blogs at Alaska’s Kids. Here is her breastfeeding guest post:
Intentions of Pumping . . .
I never thought I would be where I am right now. Even six months ago I could not have imagined nursing much past my baby’s first birthday, but nevertheless here I am, eighteen months into the amazing experience of nursing my daughter.
When I found out I was pregnant I immediately knew that nothing but breast milk would be good enough for my baby. But actually breastfeeding? It seemed awkward, weird, unachievable. The very thought of giving my boobs a real job made me uncomfortable. Instead, I had full intentions of pumping every single meal. I even purchased everything I needed to make that dream a reality, including a ton of bottles and an overpriced double electric breast pump. Little did I know that not only would pumping become the biggest nightmare I’ve ever experienced, but nursing my sweet little baby would give me the greatest satisfaction and feeling of pride I would ever experience in my life.
Even though I was not enthralled with the idea of nursing, I decided to at least give it a try. Within the first hour of my daughter’s birth, my nurse handed me my baby and told me it was time for her to eat. Although I’d read a few books on the subject and had the basic idea down, I was still apprehensive. Not only was I worried about the actual act of nursing, but I was also concerned that my brand new baby, who had never had to think about working for a meal in her entire existence, might not know what to do.
I needn’t have worried. My nurse handed me my baby and showed me how to cradle her in the ‘football’ hold. She showed me how to convince her to open wide and to latch on, devouring my entire nipple like a tiny little Hoover. It was at that moment that every fear or uncomfortable thought or idea just melted away.
Hang On, It’s Gonna Be a Milky Ride!
The next five days were full of tears, hysterical laughter, and (of course) milk. Everything taboo about breastfeeding just goes out the window when you’re a newbie. Every little thing to do with nursing became the topic of most conversations I had. I was amazed by the changes in my body and by the sheer ability to produce the only thing my sweet child would need for nourishment. I was not only the new owner of fancy bras with clips and tank tops with flaps, I was the proud owner of a new set of torpedo boobs. That’s right, fantastic, ginormous, 1970’s style torpedo boobs. I’d never seen anything like them. They were like two hard rocks. I found myself bumping into everything and thinking that this was the rack I had wished for in high school! In just 5 short days they grew 3-4 cup sizes. Amazing.
I was incredibly lucky to have fairly smooth sailing into the world of nursing. While I did have pain and discomfort from engorgement and raw nipples, I never experienced anything unbearable. Gel pads and lanolin became my good friends, taking care of the uncomfortable, and sometime itchy, sunburn-type feeling. I also befriended some reusable nursing pads. I was not prepared for the constant ‘let down’ I would experience. It seemed like every five minutes my breasts would decide it was time for her to eat. They would sputter and spray, soaking everything in their path. I’m pretty sure I spent the first couple of months sleeping on a towel.
Our first two months seemed to be one all you can eat, 24/7 buffet. It seemed like she would want to nurse every hour on the hour. Some days she would nurse for hours on end. Most days I didn’t mind though. Each time she would nurse I would have the chance to just sit and stare. Sometimes at her, and sometimes into space. It was those little moments each day that let me get to know her more and relax, guilt free, at the same time. I enjoyed watching her slowly doze off, slipping off and falling into a deep sleep. Nothing knocks out a little one faster than a drink from mum. We quickly fell into a rhythm that worked, and it began to just feel like second nature.
After a while we decided I should try to pump. We dreamt of how great it would be to have a stash of milk on hand ‘just in case’. We thought of how nice for daddy to get involved in feedings and to give me a night off every once in a while. Little did I know that the pump would very quickly become my worst enemy. I was not lucky in pumping. It would take me an hour to get just two or three measly ounces. It would take me an entire day of trying to pump in between actual feedings to get enough for just one meal. It didn’t take me long to abandon the idea of ever bottle feeding my daughter.
I have to say that I’ve never had a harder more demanding job in my life than the one I’ve had as a nursing mother. It takes so much out of you. I spent the first few months being hungry all of the time. I would have my husband bring me scrambled cheese eggs and toast at 2am. The realization that she wanted me, and only me, all of the time was really hard. Just when you think you’ve given every last thing you can give, your beautiful child has the audacity to ask for more. I’ve spent many a day and night just sobbing with the thought of having to nurse her again, for the second time in an hour. I’ve cried because she’s cut out a feeding and I was convinced she didn’t want or need me anymore. I’ve cried when she would no longer slip easily into slumber after I’ve spent the past 30 minutes nursing her.
But still, we nursed.
I had never known anyone who had breastfed past six months. Being in the somewhat younger mom crowd (I was 24 when she was born) made it even harder to find support, as most young moms I knew went straight for the cans of formula. I had no idea how long I would do it for but decided I would at least try to make it until she was six months old.
Six months came and so did the introduction of solids. Along with this also came the first batch of nay sayers. I was told that “once my baby started solids she wouldn’t need as much milk from me.” I was told that “once she was eating cereal I shouldn’t nurse her during the night because she wouldn’t be hungry and she’d just form a habit.” It became pretty common to hear “you’re still nursing her?” from just about everyone we spoke to about it. It was difficult at times feeling like we were all alone in our choice to continue to breastfeed our daughter, but we knew it was the best thing for us.
The next six months were probably the easiest, not to mention more comical. Our feedings were routine and came as second nature. Continuing to nurse made naptimes easy and allowed our bond to grow. We became comfortable enough to even play around during nursing sessions, making faces and telling silly stories. Not much is sweeter than seeing a smiling, laughing face look up at you with your nip still hanging out.
Around the time of my daughter’s first birthday we began to plan a trip home to visit family. Around this time she also seemed to be slowing down her nursing. She began to cut out the random middle of the day ones while keeping any to do with naps or bedtime. I knew most people weaned around this point, but I didn’t think we were ready. I also wanted to at least make it until we were home from our trip. It was so much easier for all of us to have the familiar routine to keep us all grounded. It was also this excuse that kept the majority of the new batch of nay sayers at bay.
I think it was about 14 months in when I really started to feel alone. What used to be a praised relationship between my daughter and I was slowly becoming something taboo. Comments of congratulations were becoming questions and statements of disapproval. I was beginning to wonder if my continuing to breastfeed was the right choice. I was wondering if my daughter was ever going to wean, or if I should begin to set the scene for weaning. I felt as though I was the only person in the world who was still breastfeeding.
I decided to start searching online to find information on toddler nursing. I was so happy to find that not only are a lot of other people breastfeeding past infancy, but it also has a lot of benefits for both my child and myself. It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t alone. Even if I hadn’t actually met any of the people, it was incredibly helpful to read stories about the joys (and normality) of toddler nursing.
So here I am, eighteen months in. I still get questioned as to why I’m still breastfeeding my walking, talking, solid food eating toddler. The only difference is that now I know where to turn to for support, and now I have no problem backing up my decision to continue. So why do I continue? Probably because I can. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I ever would, and now I’m not sure when it will end. While I don’t want to nurse her forever, I do cherish the moments I have with her now. I am proud of the fact that I’m creating a healthier lifestyle for my child and myself. I love that I still have these moments with her to build an even stronger bond. I’m glad that I have it to turn to for those moments when she gets frustrated or when she’s feeling under the weather. I love that through nursing alone I can figure out what to expect, such as new teeth coming in, or if we’re going to need a stay home and cuddle kind of day. It’s amazing to have such a great tool to stay grounded. I am so grateful for those moments when we can take time out of our busy lives to just sit with each other. I wouldn’t trade these moments for the world, and I’m positive I’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Breastfeeding past infancy is full of laughter, joys, and heartbreaking tenderness. I am publishing a series of posts dedicated to the beauty of nursing toddlers in an effort to normalize this healthy and beneficial nursing relationship. But this isn’t just about me – I want to hear YOUR joys. If you are nursing a child who is older than one year, please contact me and tell me about your favorite moments. I will include them in the series and credit you, your site, or post it anonymously if you so desire. (This series was formerly called “The Joys of Breastfeeding a Toddler.” I changed the name to reflect the fact that we are celebrating women who breastfeed past infancy, regardless of the age of the nursling.)
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"The Joys of Breastfeeding Past Infancy #27"
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