In which we discuss breastfeeding…

November 17, 2011

I was able to breastfeed August into my second trimester of pregnancy with Eliana.  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 August while pregnant with baby #2.  So much so that I often declined to talk about it.  (Luckily at that point August 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.  August, 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 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 August and delivering Eliana.  I 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.

August 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 August would want to try nursing again once Eliana was born and he saw her nursing.  Luckily he’s never shown much interest in me nursing Elie and doesn’t seem to think twice about Elie “getting milk-milk”.  While I nurse Elie, 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 Elie’s birth August questioned whether Dada could give Elie “milk-milk” or, for that matter, why he himself couldn’t nurse Elie.  It was fun to see him discover the obvious lack of resources the boys possessed although to this day, chests are referred to as “milk-milk”.  (For example, last night when August was drying off after a bath he let us know his “milk-milk cold” while pointing to his chest.)

I’m glad to have lived in an area with so much support for nursing mothers while I nursed my babies.  Josh 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’ve been able to work very part-time since having August.  At least twice now my mom has travelled with me for work training (when August was 7 months old she came with me to Colorado Springs for SANE training) or school functions (this month I was able to take Elie with me to grad school orientation with the help of my mom) 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.

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