1. I am the mother to a happy, healthy, breastfeeding 4-year-old girl,
Arianna. We stayed home together for the first three years. She is nowattending a Montessori preschool. We exclusively breastfed for… I don’t know how long anymore! I know I tried introducing solids at six months and she wanted nothing to do with it. By ten months she loved
eating beans and blueberries. I am patiently (and not-so-patiently on
some days!) waiting for her to be ready to wean. At this point she
nurses a few times a week. We have talked about not breastfeeding
anymore and it makes her sad. I am feeling that I am ready and want to
be done, but I am willing to wait until she is ready. I reserve the
right to change my mind if I get pregnant and it hurts like heck! We
are trying to conceive #2.
Thinking about our breastfeeding experience, here are some things that
come to mind:
I took a breastfeeding class, but I still needed a lot of help at
first, in part because I am nearly blind.
Ari was tongue-tied. Breastfeeding was painful for weeks, until I
decided to move forward with the procedure. I would do it again in a
heartbeat. The procedure took seconds and Ari nursed right away. After
that, breastfeeding was not only doable; it was beautiful, something I
could keep doing.
I have limitted experience with pumping. I did it a fair bit at first
thinking that I could get some sleep or go on a date with my husband
and my mom could bottle feed Ari pumped milk. Around two months, I was
sick and extremely exhausted so forgot to give her a bottle for a
couple weeks. That silly kid never took a bottle again!
I vaguely remember feeling so happy when I realized that she was
latching herself on. Breastfeeding was now an easy, smooth, bonding
process. Sadly I don’t recall how old she was at the time.
I remember her waking up to nurse almost every hour around the time
she turned one. That was incredibly hard. We opted to help her learn
to sleep in her crib. It is not what I wanted to do, but I was so
sleep deprived it was interfering with me being the kind of mother and
wife I wanted to be. My husband spent several nights helping her go to
sleep. We don’t believe in crying it out. I believe secure attachment,
where the baby knows that the caregiver will always respond to her
needs, is vital. And I believe that crying it out conflicts with
secure attachment. I also believe that different things work for
different people. This is what worked for our family, with this child.
Around 20 months our silly child jumped out of her crib! She has long
legs and she figured out early how they would be useful! We tried the
toddler bed and eventually we went back to cosleeping. There is
nothing in this world that I like more than one of her legs on my
tummy as she drifts off to sleep. We love to snuggle over here!
Around 23 months we night-weaned. Ari really loves mama’s milk and
mama was super tired with all the night wakings. I explained the
difference between day and night and told her she could have milk at
daytime. The first three nights were hard. I was right there with her,
reassuring her, holding her, rubbing her back, etc. Come night four,
we were able to cosleep and she was not trying to nurse every hour.
Overall, there have been difficult and frustrating moments, but there
have also been many moments when she nursed and we both smiled. I do
feel grateful for having been able to do this for my child.
2. I believe that breastfeeding in public is natural. I believe that
my child has the right to eat wherever I can eat. I take that back. I
believe that my child can breastfeed anywhere, even if it is not a
place where I can eat! Why do I believe this? Because eating is a
need, something we must do to survive, not an option or a want. If
what my baby eats is breast milk, then she will get her breast milk
wherever we are! If there are people around who may feel uncomfortable
about it, I am more than willing to ensure that nothing is showing.
But I do not see the need to go elsewhere.
3. My view of sustained breastfeeding has been evolving during the
past four years. When I was expecting I was hoping to breastfeed for a
year. When I was the mother of a newborn, I hoped to make it to one
year. But, frankly, due to my daughter being tongue-tied, every day
felt like a huge victory during those first six weeks. Once her
tongue-tie was resolved, I began feeling like breastfeeding was a
piece of cake! When her first birthday came and went I realized that
neither her or I were ready to wean. I don’t remember exactly when,
but, at some point between her first and second birthdays, I decided
that we would child-led wean. I have thought about changing my mind
every now and then, I will admit! But, here we are, at 49 months, and
I know she will be done any day now. She just went six days without
nursing. Then she got sick and asked to nurse twice. I am very curious
to see what will happen next.
Long story short: I strongly believe in sustained breastfeeding, but I
also strongly believe that a happy, rested family thrives and that
different things work for different families. I believe whatever gets
you there is what is right for you. If, like me, it means
breastfeeding, great. There are plenty of benefits for both mom and
baby. If weaning or partially weaning, such as night-weaning, will
help your family be happier, more rested and healthier, then go with
your gut. Any breast milk your child gets is helpful. Don’t minimize
your efforts if you nursed less than it is recommended.
4. I believe that adoptive breastfeeding is beautiful. Adoption is a
topic near and dear to my heart. I have been dreaming of adopting for
years. We have not adopted due to financial reasons. When we thought
about adopting, I thought that I would definitely try to induce
lactation or not wean my birth child so that I could breastfeed my
Long story short: breastfeeding a child, birth or adopted, is a
beautiful gift and very beneficial for the child. If mama can do it,
5. I am nearly blind. I have very limited peripheral vision due to a
rare genetic eye condition. This made establishing breastfeeding a
unique experience. Getting a newborn latched on is a very visual
process, something that was very hard for me to do. Normally, I would
use my finger to guide myself, but she was a newborn. So, just like
me, she didn’t really know what she was doing, so she would try to
latch onto my finger! We got through it because every single time I
was going to nurse during those first few days my husband would help
me get her latched on. He didn’t know what he was doing either. He had
never changed a diaper before Arianna, in fact! But he was there every
step of the way, daytime, nighttime, it didn’t matter. He was present
at my appointments with a lactation consultant. The three of us make a
great team and I am incredibly grateful for all his help during those
trying early days.
6. What I will do differently next time around is to go with my gut.
My relatives and friends shared many stories about breastfeeding,
sleep arrangements, etc. I went into motherhood being told that
cosleeping was bad, for example. Next time, I am doing whatever works
best for my family and I will not worry about others’ beliefs because
that is what they are, not facts.
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