In honor of World Breastfeeding Week I thought I’d finally write about my breastfeeding journey with Jack. And boy does calling it a “journey” make me sound like a hippie. So be it.
Jack is now four days away from being 18 months old. He still nurses frequently during the day and sometimes (often) at night. I never thought we’d be doing this still at 18 months. He’s walking and running. He has teeth! We’ve arrived here rather accidentally. It was never my intent to have a nursing toddler. I’m well aware of what the world can think of a mother nursing a toddler. Hippie. Nutjob. That chick on the cover of Time.
But here we are.
We live on Manhattan’s (far) Upper East Side. I enjoy a nice pair of designer shoes as much as the next girl. I like my perfume and wine to be French. I like cashmere in the winter and linen in the summer. I believe that pearls make any outfit better and that diamond studs are most definitely a girl’s best friend. I don’t think I look like a hippie. Or a nutjob even. But there’s my kid at the playground wanting to nurse again. And so we do.
When I was pregnant I made the decision to try to breastfeed. Roger and I even took a two hour class in preparation. I read lots of articles and somewhere stumbled upon the advice to make short term goals for breastfeeding. Take it day by day if need by. Alright I thought, and made my first goal to just TRY.
Given the mess that Jack’s birth ended up being, breastfeeding should have been very difficult for us. He was born after an unplanned cesarean section following almost 24 hours of labor (including 2 and half hours of pushing). He had gone into distress at least once and the whole thing was incredibly stressful. After he was out I was shaking and crying for well over an hour. I couldn’t hold him and he went to the nursery.
Not a very hippie move on my part.
When Jack and I were finally reunited it had been almost 4 hours since his birth. Roger told the nurse something along the lines of “she’s freaking out to breastfeed him” and so she helped me get propped up on a million pillows and guided Jack to my breast. The funny thing was she kept trying all these c-section approved holds and I had to push her away after a few minutes. It was awkward. I just wanted to hold him. So I cradled him like you cradle a baby and he latched on like it was his mission in life and I thought, “Huh. That feels a little weird, but not as weird as I was expecting”. We were off. The kid had a perfect latch and I had colostrum.
My milk came in four days later. THAT was weird. No mistaking that feeling. Holy boobage.
Around six weeks in Jack and I shared a nice case of thrush. That was uncomfortable, but treatable and once we cleared that hurdle it was smooth sailing. I had my moments of doubt like I imagine every new mom does. Is he eating enough? Am I doing this right? What if I’m NOT doing this right? Luckily I had three women in my life who made all the difference in those early days. This is where I like to say I’m an accidental breastfeeder. I had no idea what I was doing going in. I did some research like I said, but you really just don’t know what it is and what it means until you’ve done it. Luckily I had three women who knew that to breastfeed you need support. They gave me support before I even knew what was going on.
My sister-in-law, Susan. She arrived with a double electric breast pump (!), a copy of Kathleen Huggins’ “The Nursing Mother’s Companion” and a tube of some really nice lanolin. She sent me emails from time to time asking how it was going. She let me know how she felt when she was nursing and offered me an ear and a shoulder if I needed it. She’s a rockstar.
My dear friend, Janis. She arrived one snowy afternoon to escort my pregnant self to our local breastfeeding shop, Yummy Mummy. She marched me in and had me fitted for a proper nursing bra. We also selected one nursing top so I could see if I liked that type of thing. We browsed the pump supplies and other accessories and Janis simply made sure that I was prepared to be comfortable. She was gunning for me to purchase nursing pajamas too. I regret that I did not make that purchase. Seriously. Janis also sent me to the Yummy Mummy breastfeeding support group – a group that become my home for almost three months.
My mother. Out of four children my mother only successfully breastfed one of us, my sister, who was born prematurely no less. The first week of Jack’s life my mother did all she could to keep me calm and rested and FED. She cooked and cooked and cooked and made sure I drank copious amounts of water. When my feet and ankles swelled to the size of balloons she propped them up and forced more water and rest on me. She told me to stop worrying. Repeatedly. A nursing mother needs lots of calories, lots of water and lots of rest. Stress will negatively impact your milk production – my mother viewed it as her mission in life to keep me stress free that week. God bless her it was a hell of a job.
My support crew made it possible for my goal to move from simply trying, to 3 months and then to 6 months. I’ll get to 6 months with no solids, no water, nothing but breastmilk I thought. And I did. Alright, let’s see if we can get to a year. We made it to a year and well before that I realized that Jack had no plans for weaning. He still doesn’t and come to think of it, neither do I really.
Accidentally almost, I have grown to view this as normal. Probably because it IS normal. Plenty of people nurse their toddlers. I didn’t think it was for me, this nursing a toddler business, but it turns out it is. It is right for us and that is all it needs to be.
When he was a newborn I loved comforting him and giving him all he needed from me. He grew inside me and continued to do so outside me, but in my arms. As he grew I loved being able to venture out without having to worry about bottles. Have boob, will travel. When he was sick, I loved having a way to give him comfort and nourishment he could keep down. With a toddler I love knowing that we can fill in the gaps his picky eating leaves. I love being able to do that for him. And yes, there’s the comfort factor. Nothing else will soothe his overwhelmed toddler woes like this.
I was blessed to be able to easily feed my infant and now my toddler with my own body. I was blessed because I had so much support that I wasn’t even aware of. These women in my life knew what was what and set about supporting me and my child before he even arrived. That support has made all the difference.
Thank you from the hippie on the playground in her black ballet flats, skinny jeans and designer nursing top.