I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. Where I grew up, and within my family, it wasn’t something that was encouraged or even talked about much. I know a lot of areas have an incredibly supportive communities for nursing moms, but that was not the reality I was living in as a new mother. I’m not going to lie, it was really hard at first.
I endured a lot of criticism and judgement along the way. It hurt to be scorned for something that I was biologically made to do. Not every woman makes this choice, and that’s fine, but I just wanted to be free to make my own decision and maybe get a little encouragement sometimes!
The following article was originally published on a webpage called Thirty-One:10. It looks as though that site is long gone. Lucky for you guys, I saved the draft of my breastfeeding journey up to that point.
This article was published back in 2013 when my 4th child was still nursing. I’ve had another kiddo since then, and I’ve recently completed my time as a nursing mother, which is what prompted me to finish the story and get this published on my own blog to share with you.. I’ve updated it at the end for you. I hope you enjoy reading about the ups and downs of my time as a nursing mother.
Breastfeeding – My Journey, My Struggles, My Victories
Breastfeeding wasn’t something I was even interested in when I first became pregnant back in 2004. In fact, at 20 years old, I hadn’t thought much about anything baby related.
That all changed when I had a miscarriage with that first pregnancy. I was devastated, and had very little support. I dealt with the loss by immersing myself in every pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding book I could get my hands on.
By the time I became pregnant again a few months later, I had really changed my tune. I wanted a natural birth and to breastfeed my baby until a year. That’s pretty much when all of the literature I had been mulling over stopped at, so I just assumed that would be when we’d magically be done.
My daughter’s birth was nothing like I’d hoped or imagined. My all-natural birth center water birth turned into 30 hours of all natural back labor, followed by 9 hours of pitocin, an epidural, and then 3 1/2 hours of pushing. Guess what the fun part was? Well, it wasn’t really fun at all – it was a Cesarean. NOT what I had planned.
After I had my daughter, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would NOT let breastfeeding be another battle I’d lose. Don’t get me wrong, I know that many women choose Cesareans and many women choose formula feeding and I’m fine with people choosing what’s right for them and their families. I just knew that in my mind, I already “lost” by having the C-Section, and I had to fight to breastfeed – at all costs.
No one in my family that I had talked to had ever breastfed successfully. From what I gathered from them, it was unnatural, gross, and not as good for the baby. Interesting since research doesn’t support that… but anyway. I had a family full of women, yet no one to support me in the decision to use my breasts as designed by God to nurture my young. I had to do it on my own.
WE DID IT!
It wasn’t easy, and we had many struggles, which I’m sure I’ll blog about in due time, but we DID it. I was victorious and did succeed! My daughter nursed well and I was so happy.
When my daughter was almost a year old, we met with a slight hitch. I had just found out I was pregnant again. Panic set in, and I researched if it was safe to breastfeed while pregnant.
After weighing the information, I decided to continue. I had no idea how long my milk would last or if my daughter would even stay interested. I had read that the taste can change or that moms could dry up while pregnant. I was ready for the challenge, whatever it might be.
When she was 14 months old, we moved into a house where she got her own room for the first time. Her night time nursings decreased, and then stopped. She had a tradition of coming into my room in the morning and signing, “milk,” to me. That stopped too. My milk had dried up. When she was not longer able to gulp and get quick milk, she quickly lost interest and wasn’t upset.
Our nursing relationship lasted 15 months. I cried, but my husband reminded me that in a few months, I would be able to nurse again.
It Keeps Getting Sweeter
Since then, I have had 3 more children (all stinky boys).
With my second child, we didn’t wean until he was 25 months old. By then I was about 3 months pregnant with my next child and I dried up again. I never thought it was weird to be nursing him at that age, even though I’d never seen anyone else do it before. I joined some online support groups and got some tips and tricks from them about some of the various struggles that extended nursers face.
We would nurse at home, rather than in public, once he was about 18 months old. Honestly, unless we were out somewhere for hours upon hours, he could wait until we were comfortably snuggling at home to have his milk. Nursing provided us with extra bonding time and quiet, relaxing moments for just the two of us.
By the time my third child was born, breastfeeding was becoming old hat to me! By the grace of God, I have had easy nursing relationships with all of my sons. I believe that I learned so much during my daughter’s infancy that I own just about every breastfeeding book and have all the best breastfeeding websites bookmarked. I always have answers at my finger tips if something comes up that I am not sure about.
My third child nursed until he was 27 months old. You know, until I was – you guessed it – about 3 months pregnant with my 4th child. He had been the most interested in nursing and seemed to sort of take it personally that there was no milk left. Sometimes he would hop into the bath with me and look at his milkies and become sad and hug them. It was a little awkward, but I trusted my gut and after doing that about 3 different times, he must have forgotten about it and didn’t do it again.
Now my fourth child is 16 months old. We still nurse, and I love that I am still experiencing private, sweet, quiet bonding moments with him on a regular basis several times a day and at night. Not only that, but he’s still receiving excellent nutrition through the milk I’m making for him. I have absolutely no idea when I’ll stop.
I’m not sure if we’ll have more kids or not, so I don’t know if I can rely on the “Dry Up at Three Months Pregnant” weaning schedule I’ve used in the past. 🙂 I do know that when we do stop, it will be because we’re both done.
What I’ve Learned
I’ve learned that people are going to question your parenting decisions. YOU have a choice in how you address that.
Even without support, it’s possible to make decisions that those around you may not know about or be able to help you with. There are online support groups, playgroups, books, websites, and magazines that can encourage and enlighten you. It’s amazing how easy it is to go from feeling alone to feeling empowered just by doing a little research!
For me, breastfeeding is something that I wanted to do and worked hard to achieve it. I will never let another person make me feel like what I am doing is wrong or inferior. What I’m doing is between me and my little one.
I feel honored to be the parent to a little miracle. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to spend sweet moments alone to regroup, bond, and nourish a precious person.
Have you ever nursed a little one past one year?
As I mentioned at the beginning, the post you just read was written quite some time ago! Since then, I weaned my fourth child at 24 months of age, when I was about 3 months pregnant with baby #5!
My youngest son nursed by far the longest. I really had no idea how I was going to wean a kid without being pregnant again to dry up my milk. Right at 40 months old, Ethan stopped asking for milk. Leading up to it, he was only asking for it once or twice a day and was only doing it until milk actually came out and then he would stop. It was almost like he was just trying it to see if he could get some.
Having a 3 year old nursling was pretty special. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity, because he was able to tell me that my milk tastes like chocolate milk and would often tell me he wanted my “doobs” (boobs) when it was time to eat some milk. He is a funny kind of guy, and is definitely a mommy’s boy in every way these days. Our breastfeeding journey ended gradually and I think it allowed us both to wean from the relaxing snuggle sessions. He still likes to cuddle, but he never asks for milk anymore.
The picture below was taken about 2 weeks after he weaned. Look at all of my little (former) nurslings! In case you weren’t counting, I was able to nurse a total of 131 months! That’s without tandem nursing. I can’t think of anything (besides being a mom and my marriage) that I’ve dedicated so much time to. I had no idea that extended breastfeeding was going to be such a huge part of my life.
I’m so thankful for the special time I’ve had with my kids. The many hours spent nursing them has been an experience that is like nothing else. Would I have bonded with them if we had chosen bottle feeding? Of course, without a doubt. Was it incredibly special to be their sole source of nutrition for a time and then their pacifier and soother for quite a long time after that? Yes, most of the time.
I really got touched out sometimes. We co-slept with each of the kids for at least 14 months, so we were together a lot. Somewhere around the one year mark, I really wanted to just be my own person for a while, so I usually took off for some mom nights about then so I could get a break from putting the baby to sleep by breastfeeding.
I hope that any woman who is wanting to give breastfeeding a try, but doesn’t have a good support system, will give it a try. Make some new friends who will give you positive feedback and advice. Contact the La Leche League or a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor. Join some message boards or Facebook groups. Do your best, try to enjoy whatever time and experience you get, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.