The one about breastfeeding

Jack at almost 5 months old. Photo by Deneka Peniston.

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.

Freaking hippie.

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.

Thank you from the hippie on the playground in her black ballet flats, skinny jeans and designer nursing top. 😉



The one about breastfeeding — 11 Comments

  1. Beautiful post! There needs to be a new name for non-hippie hippies. How about nippie? I met you at BlogHer on Saturday at the copy editing breakout. I’m the one with 5 stepkids who does sound for Jersey Boys. Great to see your blog!

    • I agree – we need a name! So great to see you online-told Roger about you, I was so excited to meet theater people at BlogHer!

  2. I love this post! I’m also a non-hippie extended breastfeeder and I think you really explained that feeling well. People don’t look at me and think that I still nurse my 17 month old, but I do and I will until she’s done. It’s nice knowing that someone else who does it isn’t a lactavist or “mommunist” as my husband calls it. Keep it up!

    • I seriously never met ANYONE who nursed a toddler until a year ago. And she was embarrassed about it, almost apologized to the playgroup. I wish I could go back in time and high five her. I have learned so much having this little boy and nursing him.

  3. Jenny, what a FABULOUS post! So well-written! I was laughing reading the first part because I just wrote a post this week, too, that started off with a similar sentiment – there are these stereotypes about moms who nurse toddlers, but I’m just not it! I LOVE my skinny jeans, too! I’m so glad you wrote this. As more moms who don’t fit the stereotype speak up about nursing toddlers, hopefully people will realize that LOTS of moms do it!

    • Thank you, Ellie! I really hope things change too. People make the most bizarre comments and the “is she still breastfeeding???” questions have got to go. We’re just moms being moms doing what we do. No big deal 🙂

  4. Way to go, Jenny! I’m so glad you had the support you needed, too! Support is huge, and I’m glad you had that in the women around you.

    Great job on breastfeeding for 18 months! That’s wonderful. I breastfeed for first son for about 2 weeks (major lack of support), my second child for 6 months, my third & fourth children for 2 years each until they both self-weaned at 2yrs. old. And I’m currently breastfeeding my 7 month old baby girl. 🙂 I’m going to let her nurse until she weans. We’ll see if she weans herself like her brothers did at 2 yrs. old.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing your experience.

  5. I loved reading this entire post! Twenty four years ago I decided to nurse my daughter (after a 37 hour labor and emergency caesarian)and it was definitely something not done by most mothers at the time. Some people called me Earth Mother or hippy, but I chose to take both as compliments. I was blessed to nurse her until she self-weaned at 18 months.
    I wouldn’t have changed anything about my experiences nursing both of my children. And when my daughter chose to nurse my grandson, I was ecstatic! She definitely had more support, as well as more acceptance from her peers.
    In spite of the stereotypes that still seem to exist, there has been progress. Things have changed for the better, and it’s wonderful to see a new generation adding to the positive changes!!
    Happily visiting from SITS Girls

  6. Pingback: Dog Vomit & Vibrators | JM Randolph, accidentalstepmom

  7. Hey, look at this, I read this of course, ages ago. But now, it’s me! Including pumping at work for a toddler. Just invested in a bunch of nursing bras again, since she’s not stopping anytime soon. She’s about to move to toddler room at daycare and it’s starting to be traumatic. Nightmares every night. I suspect someone will be at the boob a lot the next weeks.
    Since WHO recommends nursing to 2 years, and I live in Canada, I don’t get too much flack for this. But will be interesting to see what happens much later if she goes past… it’s her call. But I guess at some point the pumping will have to stop. Maybe after 2 🙂

    • Wow pumping for a toddler is dedication! Go May! I’m so proud of you – big, big hugs and high fives! It can be exhausting, but it’s just so amazing to know what the body can do and how good it is for our babies. Going past age 2 gets…interesting. But that’s another post – I got/get A LOT of heat for past two. C’est la vie 😉

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