Monday, March 31, 2014

My Nursing Journey Summary

I've been working on this post for a while now. How do I adequately sum up something that means so much to me? Plus I kept getting all misty eyed looking at old pictures of my sweet, full, and happy babies. 

Just saying that word "summary" makes me feel a little sad. I know I've said in the beginning when I planned on nursing Claire I tried to be as passive about it as possible in case it didn't work out. In reality deep down I was actually really looking forward to it once she was born. Every picture in my head I was nursing my baby. Even picturing it made my heart swell with love for my child I had yet to meet. I was terrified I wasn't going to be successful. Every well check with Claire up until about 6 months (when we introduced solids) I was convinced they were going to tell me I would need to supplement. 

Claire 7 days old and milk drunk

Being a first time Mom I kept questioning if I was doing it "right". She was a slow gainer (a pukey reflux baby though), slept through the night (at least 6 hour stretches) and had the right amount of diaper "output". I still kept doubting myself. 

Claire! Look at those rolls!

Society or at least the PR for formula companies make us feel like every baby has to have formula. You hear the stories of babies not eating well in the hospital only to learn they were given a bottle without consent. It's no wonder they aren't anxious to nurse. Their tiny bellies are full! Formula companies have it made. They can advertise all day long about all the great stuff they put in their formula. You get handed samples at doctor appointments, samples show up in your mailbox, they seem to be everywhere. How do you advertise breastfeeding? Who makes money off of something your body produces for FREE?! Sure there is an occasional ad or billboard for it and the helpful "accessories" you can use, but in everyday life you rarely see it. 

Full, fed, and happy

Look at those cheekies!

My point isn't that formula is bad because it certainly isn't. Many wonderful moms choose to formula feed healthy kids and that's ok. My point is the seemingly lack of support a woman who wants to breastfeed often gets. I don't always think people mean to be unsupportive they are just uneducated. What people don't understand often scares them. In my own experience with Luke and his reflux well meaning people everywhere including those who support breastfeeding offered "advice". "Are you sure your milk just doesn't agree with his tummy"? "Maybe try some forumula and see how he is". "Formula helped mine sleep longer". "Are you sure all his screaming isn't because he is just not getting enough from you"? The list goes on and on.

Luke Full and happy just a few hours old

 Had this been my experience with Claire (she had reflux too, but not as severe) I might have caved and felt like I was failing her. Not because I was uneducated about breastfeeding and breastfeeding a reflux baby because I wasn't, but because I had not found my voice yet. 

Luke milk drunk

What I've discovered nursing 2 kids is often times a breastfeeding mother chooses not to chime in when others are discussing what their babies are eating or how long they are sleeping. Or when others talk about breastfeeding just wasn't for them. The Mommy wars have made breastfeeding Moms feel like they shouldn't say anything because they don't want to be misinterpreted as putting down someone who choose to formula feed. As a result Moms like myself often feel alone. I have had many days where I felt no one else near me could possibly understand how much this means to me and if I try and express it I worry that they will think I'm trying to be "better" than them which couldn't be farther from the truth. I have felt alone when I've gone to the car to feed my baby (because I refuse to nurse in a bathroom unless there is a seperate lounge) while everyone else is inside chatting and enjoying a meal. I've missed many conversations and laughs while I've shut the bedroom door while company was over to go feed my baby. In the early days with Claire I was terrified to nurse anywhere but at home. Even nursing in public with a cover deterred me from going places in the beginning. However the longer I nursed the braver I became. 

By the time Luke was a few months old if he was hungry I was going to feed him without feeling left out. I kept my cover in my diaper bag and used it most of the time, but he got so big and crazy it didn't always stay put. I nursed while at birthday parties, at the restaurant table, at the zoo, the mall, the park, if he was hungry I fed him without missing half the conversation.

I've also discovered having a supportive spouse is crucial. Eric could have cared less if I breastfed or formula fed, but he knew how important breastfeeding was to me so he whole heartedly supported my decision. When Claire was born and I was stressing over her weight gain he told me not to worry, that if I needed a lactation consultant we would hire one and reminded me I was the mommy and even if the doctor recommended I supplement (which she didn't) that didn't mean I had to. The one thing he wasn't fond of was nursing in public especially in the beginning. As time went on he quit fussing about nursing in public as long as I covered. To this day we still argue about the fact that he doesn't eat with something over his face so a baby shouldn't have to either. He does say other Moms nursing sans cover doesn't bother him just his own wife. Go figure.

It makes me sad to knowing I'll never nurse a baby again. I feel blessed that I enjoyed it so much and liberated in a way knowing I don't have to count my hours when I'm away from the baby. I knew Luke's time was coming to an end for a while. Getting him to nurse was a challenge for several months. Knowing he needed milk until at least 12 months I fought with him to pay attention long enough to get in a quick nursing sessions. Like Claire it wasn't the before bed time session he held on to. He dropped that about 11 months old. It was his morning "coffee" as we called it that he was reluctant to give up. I loved it. We snuggled and slowly woke up together although the older he got the later he slept and we were often interrupted by the crazy 3 year old going "I'm hungry, get up Mommy, Uke full now"! We would both laugh at her and his morning nursing sessions got shorter and shorter as each morning she woke up with greater insistence we feed her which of course distracted him. I had a feeling when our last nursing might be. One Saturday morning i knew I was going to have to leave the house to run an errand before the kids would be up. That would be our test to see if he missed it or not. However, the night before he randomly woke up which he had not done in a good 2 months and out of habit and knowing a sure fire way to get him back to sleep I offered him to nurse. He accepted and instead of going back to sleep when he was done he looked up  and gave me one of his adorable million dollar smiles. He layed there grinning and I smiled back then he sat up and gave me the biggest sloppiest kiss on my mouth. I couldn't help but giggle and kiss him back. I knew then that no matter how heartbreaking it was to me to close our nursing relationship that my sweet boy was telling me thank you and that he would always need his Mommy's snuggles. I cried as I laid him back in his crib and knew then that that would be my last time nursing him and I couldn't have asked for a more perfect way to nurse my last baby for the last time. 

I truly love helping others in their nursing journeys. No matter how long or short it is. I would absolutely love to become a certified lactation consultant, but the clinical hours required are just not feasible for me to do if I want to be a stay at home mom. So I'm researching other ways to help others such as becoming a breastfeeding counselor. I don't want to do it for money, but because I'm passionate about helping others achieve what meant so much to me. 

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