Photo courtesy of Thinkstock/Yarruta
By Heather Tomoyasu
I don't consider myself a hippy dippy crunchy mom. I don't look down at parents who formula feed their infants or give their toddlers French fries. I did plan a natural unmedicated birth but made sure to educate and prepare myself just in case I needed drugs or medical assistance. And though I looked forward to breastfeeding my baby, I didn't put pressure on myself to do so for any set amount of time. I said, I'll give it my best and we'll just keep on going as long as it's working out for both of us.
Breastfeeding wasn't easy, especially during the first couple of months! The first five seconds of each session were excruciating. We're talking toes curled, hair standing on end, forced into Lamaze breathing kind of pain. My nipples cracked, scabbed and bled. And, of course, this occurred every two to three hours -- around the clock. Feeding my baby was extremely awkward, requiring multiple pillows, two hands and a towel to soak up the gallons of milk pouring out of the boob without a baby attached to it. Breastfeeding in public was the worst. I wore a cover but it just made everything that much more awkward, and you felt that everyone was looking at you and thinking you're the most unnatural and terrible mother.
Looking back, I totally should have seen a lactation consultant. But eventually, after about two months, everything just kind of got better, slowly but surely. My nipples healed and the latch-on pain went away. Baby and I both got the hang of it and breastfeeding became the lovely bonding experience everyone talks about. I had initially thought I'd breastfeed for six months to a year, but I ended up making my maternity leave permanent, so now I was home with my baby and had no reason to pump or wean. I introduced solids at around seven months and before I knew it we were celebrating his first birthday. But I kept breastfeeding because I saw it as reassurance that he's getting all the nutrition he needs, no matter how picky he is with food. I also saw it as boosting his immune system, and as a bonus for me, extra calories burned with zero effort! Yes!
That fear of breastfeeding in public faded away as I got more experience, and eventually I could whip out my boob (under a cover) anywhere -- and did! I breastfed on planes and trains, in restaurants and bars (yes, bars!). You name it, I breastfed there. The challenges of nursing a newborn were replaced with the surprises of nursing a teething baby (yes, there were a couple of biting incidents) to the insanity of nursing a toddler who can actually ask for milk, or better yet, run up to you in public, stick his hands down your shirt and start tweaking your nipples!
After his first birthday, we slowly started eliminating nursing sessions here and there, because he was getting more and more calories and nutrition from his food. By fifteen months we were down to three times a day, and by a year and a half we were down to just nursing once in the morning and again at bedtime. I've made the decision to go ahead and wean him completely by his second birthday, and to do so without risking discomfort or worse yet, another bout of mastitis (I've already battled that three times), we've been nursing just once at bedtime for a few weeks, and now we're at a point where I'll skip every third night. Even when I skip that night and go 48 hours without nursing, there is no engorgement whatsoever, which leaves me feeling kind of sad.
The end is near, and even though I know we're both ready, it is still very bitter sweet. Just like carrying your baby in your womb and feeling their little kicks and punches, breastfeeding your child is something no one else will ever be able to experience. It's something special the two of you shared (through the good, the bad and the ugly). Though he'll never remember it, it's something you will cherish for the rest of your life. As I wipe a tear from my cheek, I wonder if maybe it's time to start working on making him a little brother or sister...
What was your experience with breastfeeding? Did it not work out as long as you'd hoped, or perhaps like me, longer than you ever anticipated? Share below!