This post is part of a series of posts from bloggers with babies who have breastfed. In honor of my journey of breastfeeding ending with my son, I asked five different bloggers to share their breastfeeding stories with us all. My hopes with this series is to share the differences in each woman’s experience. I also want to highlight the fact that not one of these mothers did the same thing in their breastfeeding journey and that all of their babies are beautiful and healthy. Moms— Do the best you can do for you and your child. That is what counts!
The Experience of Breastfeeding: Sarah & Isaac
When my breastfeeding journey began on September 9, 2011 around 8 am with an 8lb 9oz new born I never dreamed I’d still be doing a year later with a 25lb toddler. Feeding my son from my body is like nothing I ever imagined it would be. It has been difficult, yes, but rewarding in so many ways.
I honestly didn’t consider any other path for feeding my son. I know that my mom nursed my sisters and me and that my husband’s mom nursed all four of her kids. My husband was all for it too. Two things that really helped solidify my desire and make me excited for breastfeeding were the book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, and my Bradley Method Childbirth classes (which I very highly recommend if you’re interested in natural childbirth). Both the book and the classes stressed not only the nutritional value of breastfeeding for the child but the relationship/bond that a positive breastfeeding experience can be for both mother and child. But there is really nothing that can prepare you for the actuality of breastfeeding. When my son was finally on my chest, cuddled up under warm towels I wasn’t thinking about feeding him, then when the nurses started to tell me he needed to nurse I tried, but he was so tiny and wobbly. I didn’t know how to position him, what a latch should look like, how it should feel when he did start eating. It took a few weeks to really feel like we had a hang of it and a few months to feel like we were really good at it.
The first three weeks were the absolute hardest of our breastfeeding experience. It HURT. Everyone said it wouldn’t. Everyone that is, except my mom, whose advice when I asked her was “Don’t give up. The first month it really hurts and you want to quit, but don’t give up.” There were times in the first three weeks of nursing that I would cry because I knew my son needed to eat, but I was in pain (I had mastitis on my left side) and I WANTED to feed him, knew it was the best thing for us both (lots of rest, empty breast!) and my husband would hand him to me and tears would stream down my face as he suckled. But, the mastitis did heal (and even the sore went away eventually) and I was SO glad I listened to my mom and to my instinct.
When my son was about 7 months old and he giggled while nursing. I accidently blew on his face and he thought it was funny. He started giggling but didn’t stop nursing. We played like that for a few minutes. Moments like that came more often as he got older. He wasn’t always falling asleep at the breast and sometimes he wanted to play a little bit too. He loves stroking my hair while he nurses. It isn’t all love and giggles, though. He gets rowdy sometimes, kicking me in the face, pinching, biting. That’s when it was really important for me to set boundaries. When he kicks, bites, etc. I usually say “Ouch!” really loudly and sometime I have to put him down. He might cry, but if he really needs to nurse he’ll settle down and listen to me. It’s amazing how much he can learn about interacting with me just through our breastfeeding relationship.
We tried solids around 6 months and he wasn’t ready. He just spit out the banana we had mashed up for him. Around 8 months we tried again and he was tentative; I had made a whole batch of pureed sweet potato and he spit it all out. Next we tried rice cereal. I hadn’t wanted to start with that since I had heard and read about the benefits of just starting straight in on fruits and veggies. It really works great for some kids but not for mine. He really started gobbling cereal down when my parents came and my dad would feed him warm rice cereal at dinnertime. He thought it was great fun to have Papa feed him! So, rice cereal at 8 months, phased in pureed veggies around 9 months, and went quickly to table food. Now he eats just about everything. I can never believe how much he eats! My advice for solids is: don’t worry! When your kiddo is ready he or she will switch over. Keep trying, even if he or she spits out the first bite, try again. But, don’t stress if they don’t seem to be getting much or liking what you offer…if they are still BFing (or eating formula) they are getting ALL the nutrition they need from you. Also, it’s great if you can make your own baby food, but buying something doesn’t make you a failure or a bad mom. Do your best, but don’t push yourself so hard that you don’t have any joy in spending time with your little one.
My son is nearly 14 months old and we haven’t weaned yet. My goal was 12 months but when he turned 1 it wasn’t like a magical switch flipped and he was just done. We are now in what I consider the bonus phase of nursing. And, honestly, I love nursing him! But I’m starting to see signs of self-weaning. We started offering cow’s milk around 1 and he wasn’t really interested. About a week ago I offered it again and he liked it! Then, the other day he didn’t even ask to nurse for about 7 hours (a long time for my little one). As I see the frequency of his nursing going down I see the intake of table food and cow’s milk increasing. It’s an interesting transition. My guess is that he will be weaned without a whole lot of work or thought by about 18 months, which is just fine by me! I just want to be emotionally ready for the change in our relationship. For me, nursing is such a great tool. Not only does it nourish my little one, it can put him to sleep, soothe ouchies (lots of those with toddlers), help him calm down, stop bad behavior, or give him a moment of peace.
A few tips for breastfeeding:
- Have a good support system around you! My husband was my number one supporter. He was never weird or awkward about me breastfeeding our son and he was such an encouragement in those first few weeks. He always let me turn on the light to get situated during the middle-of-the-night feedings when I had to sit up and prop up pillows, and get a tiny newborn to latch. He gave me space when I needed it and reminded me that my new role as a mom was beautiful to him. Our doula was also wonderful and was able to give me lots of advice about breastfeeding positions, my son’s latch, proper nutrition for breastfeeding, etc. I had many friends who were/had also breastfeeding and both my mom and mom-in-law offered support and encouragement. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it is from your mom (or mom-in-law), a friend, or a lactation consultant. While we were at the hospital I literally asked every nurse who came in to check out our latch!
- Get some really good nipple cream (I LOVE Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter, it doesn’t stain like lanolin). It’s little things, like taking care of sore nipples, that will help the transition go better. USE your Boppy pillow. I didn’t use it for a while (not sure why) but when I started it really helped me not be so tired from supporting my little one.
- Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. At times it might seem unrealistic; and, in my experience, there were things that got left out. But, every time I read it I felt empowered, part of a community of women, trust in my body, and joy in the relationship I have with my child.
- Take care of you. If you can, get a nice long hot shower while your partner watches the baby. Go on walks (even if you have to strap you little one to you or push a stroller). Listen to music you enjoy while nursing. Invest in an Ereader—they are perfect for nursing! Go out to dinner with your partner, the baby will be fine with a sitter for a couple of hours. Let people help you with dishes, laundry, shopping, cooking (especially if you get those offers when the baby is a bit older).
- Trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, check it out, ask questions, get help. Remember, you’re the best mama for your baby. You’ll make mistakes, but you love him more than anyone else and you will figure out what it is he needs.
Thank you to Sarah for sharing her story. To read more of Sarah’s tips and experiences in motherhood visit her blog The Serendipitous Life! Follow along this week to read other mother’s experiences with breastfeeding!
OH, and… today is Sarah’s Birthday! Wish her a big happy birthday and leave her a comment on her awesome story!
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