on breastfeeding

Did you know that breastfeeding saves a family about $1500 the first year of a baby’s life?

Just think of all of the swaddling blankets and cute onesies or pedicures and massages this money could go towards!  I’m thinking: fun family vacation to the beach! a date night a month!

I recently came across this great resource from The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health:

Breastfeeding Resource Action Kit

(via)

I was able to breastfeed my son into my second trimester of pregnancy with my daughter.  I knew that I wanted him to comfortably and naturally make the decision when he was done breastfeeding and, because of the new pregnancy, I prepared myself for the possibility of tandem-nursing.  I picked up an excellent book called Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond and learned all I could.  If nothing else, this was great education for me in offering other moms realistic and solid advice on the advantages and disadvantages of tandem nursing.  Although nursing a child beyond the first year is a rarity in our culture (a disappointing 22% of mothers even nursed through the first year), I am proud to breastfeed my babies and rarely shy away from an opportunity to talk about it.  I was very surprised by the number of people who expressed shock and concern that I was nursing my son while pregnant with baby #2.  So much so that I often declined to talk about it.  (Luckily at that point we only nursed a couple times a day, usually at morning and night when we were home.)  This never deterred me from making the choices that I thought were best for our family but it did make me more aware of the perception of nursing in our culture and the need for more education.

As my pregnancy progressed and my belly grew larger, my milk supply naturally decreased.  My son, never one to simply nurse to be pacified, stopped nursing.  If he expressed interest in nursing, I would allow him but as the days went by, he showed less interest and eventually stopped nursing altogether.  He was 18 months old.  I feel like the experience and process of weaning was perfect for both of us–I don’t remember a specific last nursing session, we just naturally gravitated away from this practice.  I never had to withhold nursing from him and we never had any tears over ending.  (On his part at least!  I’ll admit to mourning the loss of that special bond with him.  Nearly 600 days of nursing him every day is not easily replaced.)  I came to appreciate the few months break I had between weaning my son and delivering my daughter. (My husband and I took a babymoon trip to the California coast!)  It was nice to regain some ownership of my time and body (as much as you can while pregnant!) and prepare myself mentally for the unique nursing bond I would be able to develop with my daughter.

My son doesn’t remember nursing.  In some ways this makes me sad.  That part of our relationship meant so much to both of us during the first year and a half of his life. I was prepared for the possibility that he would want to try nursing again once my daughter was born and he saw her nursing.  Luckily he’s never shown much interest in me nursing her and doesn’t seem to think twice about her “getting milk-milk”.  While I nurse my daughter, he often sits with us to read books, sing songs and cuddle.  I appreciate that I am able to normalize breastfeeding for my exclusively-breastfed son even though he doesn’t remember his experience.

Shortly after my daughter’s birth, my 2 year old son questioned whether Dada could give his baby sister “milk-milk” or, for that matter, why he himself couldn’t nurse her.  It was fun to see him discover the obvious lack of resources the boys possess although to this day, chests are referred to as “milk-milk”.  (For example, last night when he was drying off after a bath he let us know his “milk-milk cold” while pointing to his chest.)

I’m glad to live in an area with so much support for nursing mothers while I nursed my babies.  My husband has always been an unwavering cheerleader as have any babysitters left to deal with bags of frozen breastmilk.  Working while nursing is an obvious challenge but I was able to work very part-time since having my son and took a break from work altogether the first year of my daughter’s life.  At least twice now my mom has travelled with me for work training or graduate school functions so that I could have my baby with me and not interrupt nursing.  The statistics indicate that not all women have the support and education necessary to make breastfeeding possible.  I hope to play a small part in changing that.

I’m no stranger to the challenges of nursing.  Despite the fact that I had worked as a labor and postpartum nurse and assisted women in initiating breastfeeding before I had children of my own, I found the first month of breastfeeding to be one of the most challenging obstacles I’ve overcome.  From oversupply of milk, a couple of bouts with mastitis, multiple visits to a lactation consultant, a baby who refused to take a bottle of pumped milk and difficulty developing a latch that worked for both baby and me, I understand that learning to breastfeed is HARD!

At this point in my life I have about 2 1/2 years of breastfeeding experience under my belt.  I’ve gone from being a bit self conscious about nursing in public and therefore always using a nursing cover to feeling confident to breastfeed discreetly in public without needing to hide.  I vividly remember those difficult first weeks of nursing (and although it was easier the second time around, there were still challenges!) but I have never regretted my decision to breastfeed my children.  Those early challenges seem trivial in comparison with the hours of one-on-one time breastfeeding has afforded me with my babies, not to mention the nutritional and immunological advantage.  I do not exaggerate when I say that breastfeeding my children has been one of the most profound experiences of my life.

My daughter turns one this month.  We’re still nursing often during the day and night.  She is my last biological child and I may or may not have mentioned to my husband that I intend to nurse her forever. I kid! I’m sure we’ll find an acceptable middle ground for weaning.

 

What’s your biggest motivation to breastfeed?