Whether or not to breastfeed is something every expectant mother thinks about. Just over 80% of mothers leave the hospital with the intention to breastfeed, but less then half are still exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months. Like many first time moms, I heard breastfeeding was “natural”, but I had no idea how challenging a biologically normal process could be. But when I read the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of breastfeeding for two years and beyond, I knew it was something I wanted to do. So I read La Leche League International’s book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. We were also told the basics by our childbirth class teacher.
When Eva was born, she was immediately placed on my chest and we had 1 hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact prior to being moved from the Hospital Delivery room. During that hour our Doula helped me bring our daughter to the breast and begin nursing. I was amazed at how easy and magical that first experience was. I felt confident, and assumed from the beginning that I knew what I needed and was going to be successful.
However, I soon learned that that was not the case. The hospital gave us a chart to keep track of feedings, and each nurse would check in. We went to bed, and the next day, the hospital’s Lactation Consultant stopped by to ask how things were going. I felt that they were going well, and so she left without ever watching us nurse of checking the latch or position. Since Eva was slightly jaundiced, we stayed another night in the Hospital. In the middle of the night, with a crying baby and NO IDEA how to fix it, a CNA stopped by to check on us and gently told me, “that’s a hungry cry”. She helped me calm Eva down well enough to latch. Then walked through nursing positions that might work better, and gave us some advice.
We went home from the hospital with a better understanding and continued nursing. At Eva’s 1 week check-up, they noticed she had a broken collarbone from delivery. Which is why she was not nursing well. We switched to a nursing position that helped put less pressure on her healing fracture. But we still needed help, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Breastfeeding was slightly painful, but not horribly so. And I wrongly assumed that some amount of pain in the beginning was normal, and that my nipples just needed to “get used” to it. When in actuality, breastfeeding should never be painful when done correctly. I ended up with cracked, scabbing nipples, but I used lanolin and soldiered on. Eva was gaining weight, and things seemed fine. Eventually we muddled through whatever unknown issue she had, and my nipples healed.
Around 1-2 months, the Pediatrician mentioned that she wasn’t gaining as quickly as she had before and suggested pumping and feeding in a bottle to get an idea of how much I was producing (which is actually bad breastfeeding advice, but I digress). Even though she never mentioned needing to supplement, I was frantic. I was so desperate to exclusively breastfeed until we introduced solids at 6 months, and the idea that she may be slowing down on her growth curve was frightening. So I did some digging and found a free community Milk Bar, where Lactation Professionals gave basic help and advice. So we went for a few weeks, and realized we needed a few tweaks and then we were ok.
By around 3 months, I finally felt like it was becoming easier. By 4 months I had successfully nursed in public without a cover. And when we introduced solids at 6 months, it was the first time Eva had ever had anything but breastmilk. And now, having just passed her 2nd Birthday we’re still nursing (although it’s definitely not as much). Even a new pregnancy hasn’t changed anything. I’m in my second trimester, and she’s still just as interested in nursing as ever!
I know there are people who might wonder…. So let me just say: I have no plans of pushing her to stop. She only nurses around nap, or bedtime and sometimes when she gets hurt. Nursing through age 2 has offered a lot of benefits as well. When she’s sick and can hardly keep food down, I know she’s still getting some nutrition. On days when she’s picky about eating, I know that breastmilk will help fill in any nutritional gaps in her diet. And I trust that when she’s ready, she’ll stop on her own. Whether that means she stop before our new baby is born or after.
Breastfeeding has been such a special journey for us both. And I treasure the bond that it’s given us. Children grow up so fast, so I’m content to let her take steps of independence in her own time, trusting that she will wean when she’s ready. And if not? She’ll just have to go to College close by to make nursing easier! (Totally a joke. Get it??? LOL)
Stay tuned for future blogs with breastfeeding tips, and advice on reaching your goals.