Don’t you just love it when people come up to you and tell you how TERRIBLE their pregnancy was? How their labour was 72 hours? And that breastfeeding was a complete and total nightmare?
Ya, me too!
So much, in fact, that I thought I’d tell you about how, in my case, breastfeeding has been and continues to be really, really awesome.
The choice to breastfeed or bottle feed didn’t really come up during my pregnancy. I figured I would pump so my husband or another caregiver could give Cub a bottle sometimes, and I supposed I’d stop nursing around the one-year mark. Even before pregnancy, I had made up my mind about breastfeeding a toddler: Old enough to ask for breastmilk? Too old to be nursing. (My opinions have changed, I’ll get to that later.)
I bought my supplies: disposable nursing pads (I’ve since switched to reusables), a nursing cover, nipple balm and a nursing pillow, sterilized my hand-me-down pump and stocked up on nursing bras. I diligently applied my nipple balm in advance, and I even tried pumping to induce labour, since I was getting really impatient (although Cub was actually born on his due date, I had convinced myself he’d be early.)
I didn’t really know much about latches, but I had an idea of the different positions to hold a nursling, and that it would hurt a bit at first, but that if it continued to hurt there might be a problem with latch or supply. I had heard that nursing a baby to sleep was bad, and would set us up for future sleep problems, so I vowed not to do that.
And then, Cub was born.
And within seconds, he was latched on, kneading my chest with his fists, reminding me of how my cats knead the couch cushions, a leftover kitten reflex.
And so began our breastfeeding relationship! I anxiously waited for my milk to come in, I think it took a couple of days. I remember my first time trying to pump some milk, determined as I was to build up reserves for future bottle feedings, and being very discouraged by how little I’d produced. But within a few weeks my supply was in and bountiful, and I could pump ounces upon ounces which I dutifully stored in the fridge.
Did it feel like he was nursing all the time? Sure. Did it hurt? Not after the first couple of days! Did he bite when he got teeth? Yup, but it didn’t take long for him to learn not to (it made Mommy really mad!).
For a while, Cub took a bottle from his Papa, but it was never really a success. And that was okay! I never experienced nursing fatigue and I never felt trapped or in need of my space, and almost two years later, I still don’t feel that way. Nursing has truly been blissful. I was always able, from even his earliest days, to leave the house for a bit without my Cub, which I think made a huge difference in my own post-partum well being.
Sure, there have been discomforts: waking up totally engorged and pumping a bit in the wee hours of the morning to relieve the pressure; blebs… which I have successfully dealt with using olive oil and warm water; having a let down of milk at inopportune moments (One time, in the car surrounded by my female colleagues en route to a Christmas party, one of my pals turned to the backseat and said “I love you guys!” and the warm fuzzy made my milk come in!)…
But it’s mostly just precious moments: the way his eyes roll back as he drinks, the milk drunk face he got when he was small, how he plays with my hair while he nurses, how I watched United States of Tara on my iPhone in the middle of the night while he nursed, how I once tandem nursed him and his best bud, how this morning for the first time he said “please” while signing for milk… how nowadays, nursing is an excuse for us both to be still.
So obviously at the 12-month mark I hadn’t weaned my Cub. I started working one day a week, and he drank some cows’ milk, but mostly water when in the care of his Great Auntie. At that point he started slowly asking to nurse less and less, but I continued to nurse more or less on demand until it started interfering with his eating habits.
I have nursed on the bus, at the bus stop, on the plane, in restaurants, poolside, at the park… everywhere! Nursing cover, nursing schmover… I quickly got over my need to shield my milk makers and have never had a negative reaction to nursing in public.
I nurse Cub to sleep most nights, and most nap times still, but he naps fine at day care without me and goes to bed fine for his Papa or grandparents. Nowadays we don’t nurse often during the day. Typically he nurses before bed, and then in the early morning hours. When he wants to nurse during the day, he’s usually hungry or thirsty, so I offer food and water or cows’ milk. But nursing remains a special comfort if he’s had a rough day or he hurts himself, and I treasure this special gift I have to make him feel better!
Gotta pay the bills...