Breastfeeding My Firstborn

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Early Days of NursingMy experience with breastfeeding my daughter is a memory that I will treasure all the days of my life. I had always wanted to nurse my children. However, I was alarmed and even worried by the number of stories I had heard from mothers who had tried to breastfeed and were unsuccessful. My heart’s desire was set on nursing and I ached at the thought of not being able. But, I kept coming back to the fact that, throughout all of history before the last century, breast milk was the only option for nourishing a baby and if a mom wasn’t able, then a wet nurse had to be found or the infant would not survive. I remember talking with a doula early on in my pregnancy and asking her about breastfeeding and she said, “I can tell you a mother’s chances for success at breastfeeding based on how many bottles she has in her house.” She said that while nursing can be H-A-R-D, your chances of succeeding are much greater if you don’t have a Plan B. I took this to heart.

The very best resource I found on breast feeding was/is the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League. While I skimmed it before Lydia was born, I cannot count how many times I referenced it over the next years with specific questions. About the only thing I felt like I had down before Lydia was born was that nursing should not hurt. So, when she was born and her latch HURT I asked for the lactation consultant at the hospital. She was wonderful and showed me (and especially my husband who was a tremendous help and support in the beginning!) how to make sure Lydia was latched on correctly. I remember her saying it is “breastfeeding” NOT “nipple feeding” which is what Lydia wanted to do.

_10_00016_edited-1I’m really thankful I persevered in the first couple weeks to make sure Lydia learned to latch on well or I really don’t think I would have been able to continue nursing her. This was really the biggest issue I faced. From the first day Lydia had a strong suck. I remember many nights in the beginning just aching and being in pain with engorgement but I was absolutely determined to persevere. This all subsided after the first few weeks and then it was just total enjoyment to get to nurse my daughter. I loved the fact that, no matter who was holding her, she always got to come back to me every 2 hours or so!

By the time Lydia was 4-6 weeks old she nursed so much in the evenings I was convinced she wasn’t getting any milk. Again, I think this fear was fueled by so many friends I had who had doctors tell them they didn’t have enough milk and they should supplement. I knew this was a slippery slope for as soon as you do this, your milk supply will decrease and then you really will need to supplement, and the cycle will continue. I realized that overall, we really don’t have a “culture of support” for breastfeeding moms in the west. I had no idea that around 6 weeks your breasts settle into a routine and won’t feel as full; I also didn’t know that there’s always milk even when you don’t feel full.

When Lydia was four months old we moved overseas.  We traveled a lot while she was young and nursing made it easy.  I would sling her and nurse her about anywhere, one time I even nursed her while walking through an outdoor market in Africa!  As she grew I taught her how to use sign language for “milk” and then it was easy for her to ask.  We had a wonderful nursing relationship and it was an extremely hard decision for me to wean her a few months before she turned two. (Living overseas, we really wanted her to have a sibling close in age and I did not have a menstrual cycle nursing.)  To this day, Lydia and I are extremely close and I believe our trusting relationship has its roots in our nursing relationship.

Nursing my baby truly is one of the most special memories I have with my daughter. I’ll treasure it in my heart all the days of my life. Now I’m on the other end of nursing.  She has not only weaned, she is in school and growing up so fast!  But I know the time we spent together nursing laid the foundation for a strong relationship that will affect us for the rest of our lives.


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