I decided to breastfeed before I even got pregnant, but mostly for nutritional reasons. I read all about the health benefits of breastfeeding for both my baby and me and I felt it was my obligation to my unborn child to at least try to breastfeed. Diabetes runs in my husband’s family and I struggled with an eating disorder growing up, so I wanted my baby to start out on the right foot when it came to eating.
I had no idea, however, what breastfeeding would mean to me after my daughter was born. It was about so much more than food. And suddenly I deeply regretted the shock and negativity I had previously felt when I heard about friends who breastfed way into toddlerhood or the thoughts of how I would wean at 9 months to make it ‘easier on me to go back to work.’ As my daughter passed 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, I began to settle into the comfort of breastfeeding for both of us after my 10 hour work day and how it helped her regroup during times of major developments and her brutal teething experiences. Now breastfeeding a toddler is my normal.
I have had no issues working and breastfeeding. I went back to work when my daughter was 12 months old and my husband is home with her full time. I weaned her off her midday feedings before I went back, but once we were used to me being gone all day Monday-Friday, I went back to nursing on demand and I have never had to pump and I have no problem with milk supply. She pretty much attacks me when I walk in the house at the end of the day, but she barely asks for milk all day with my husband. I recommend mothers don’t stress about it and just allow the milk supply and nursing schedule to work itself out when they go back to work.
My midwife helped my daughter latch on when she was 10 minutes old and she taught me a few different holds over the first week. I received a lot of support from my midwives and from friends, informally. My midwives provided suggestions for roadblocks I met along the way. For instance, my letdown was very strong and I was taught to breastfeeding lying back to start and slowly sit up so gravity worked against the let down. My GP wasn’t supportive of my bed sharing but other than that, she was very encouraging of my breastfeeding, especially during vaccinations and other procedures.
The first week was excruciating and brutally exhausting. My daughter bruised my nipple with a bad latch the first day and I would dread having to switch to the left side and nursed only on the right until I was so swollen on the left I had to nurse that side too. I tried many different holds, but nothing helped. I thought I wasn’t going to make it through, but finally two weeks in my midwife prescribe Dr. Newman’s nipple cream and working two days the pain was gone and nursing became a totally different experience. Except for the cluster feeding! No one prepared me for that and I remember googling ‘6 day old baby nursing for 8 hours straight’ and seeing millions of hits come online with new mothers across the world asking the same question on chat boards. One answer inspired me to stick with it even though I was beginning to doubt nursing: just hold on through these first few weeks and you will have it so much easier on the other side. So I did and once I could nurse my daughter in the carrier, around 4 months, my whole life changed. I could go anywhere and nurse and walk and talk and she would be content.
The biggest challenge is that I thought my daughter would be losing interest in breastfeeding by now – 20 months – because I have seen friends whose children self weaned by now or only nurse before bed or in the morning. I think because I work full time, my daughter is more demanding of milk when I am around. When I am feeling drained after a long work day and longer night with frequent nursing, I remind myself how quickly this is all going by and that if I meet her needs now, she will be more independent in the future!
Yes, I breastfeed in all public places all the time. Other than my dad chiming in every few months that I should think about weaning or my friends (without kids) telling me about a YouTube video of a mom breastfeeding a 7-year old at and asking if I’m going to do that too, I haven’t had much negativity. In fact, I breastfeed, often without much coverage, in all public places imaginable and I have never received anything but smiles from people.
As I stated in the beginning, breastfeeding has been nothing like I imagined. I had no idea the instinctual drive I would feel toward comforting my daughter, the ease at which I would get accustomed to baring my breast in public and the magic ability of breastfeeding to regroup a hungry, tired or maniacal baby and toddler. Still no bottles, still nurse on demand.
I’d give new moms the same advice I read on a message board that first week, if you can hang on through the day long marathons of that first few weeks and months, it will be so so so much easier in the long run.