With baby No. 1 (my son), I needed a lot of help. Not with the latching – my son was a natural…but my milk didn’t come in for SIX days! It was awful, and my baby was losing weight and not passing urine or stool. Scary stuff. Thankfully, we have an amazing resource at Toronto East General Hospital – the family breastfeeding clinic there is outstanding (and free). They helped me every single day until we were back on our feet. With baby No. 2 (a baby girl), there were no problems at all – everything worked and I (thankfully) had another natural latcher.
Other than the no-milk, super-scary first week with my son, my breastfeeding moments in the first weeks and months of both my children’s lives stand out as some of the most wonderful and intimate times with them. Their little naked bodies curled up against mine for warmth and love, falling asleep because they were so calmed by nursing. In a way, thinking about breastfeeding them then is one of the only ways I can remember how tiny they really were.
My son self-weaned at 14 months and I went back to work at 15 months, so no problem there. My daughter, on the other hand, was 13 months when I returned to work and is an ardent nurser, showing no signs of stopping even now at nearly 23 months old! Fortunately, I am able to work three days a week – two of those from home – so there’s only one day a week that her nursing needs aren’t met all day. She normally nurses two or three times a day now, and the day I’m at work, she gets one or two sessions. But she enjoys whole cow’s milk, goat’s milk or Baboo most days anyway and never seems too bothered. My best tip is that you have to know what’s going to make you both the happiest – I knew that I didn’t want to HAVE to stop nursing just because of work, so if my employer hadn’t so generously agreed to my shortened and primarily work-from-home arrangement, I can honestly say I would have given going back a second thought. I’m so lucky that I didn’t have to make that decision.
My son bit me. Once, so hard that he drew blood. It was a short phase, but a painful one and if he’d gone on much longer, I probably would have stopped. But he did and we went on to have a wonderful nursing relationship for many months after. My second is hilarious when it comes to her “milkies.” She has called it “me-me” since she was nine months old and though I thought it would evolve as her language skills improved, it’s still “me-me” to this day. She communicates very clearly when she wants to nurse, pulling my shirt up or down, undoing zippers, pointing her finger at or banging on my chest with her fist – all the while with a look on her face that demands: “Give it to me now, lady!”
Looking back, if I was to do things differently, I wouldn’t focus so much on trying to get my son NOT to fall asleep while nursing. I was so worried he would become too attached to the boob-sleep combo, but I let this go when I had my daughter and she’s been just fine at going to sleep without it, too. I feel like I missed out on that extra level of closeness with my first that I’ve experienced the second time around.
My advice? Relax. Drink lots of water. Get as much sleep as you can. Eat well. All of these things help you produce more milk, and that’s often half the battle. Don’t give up! It takes some women six weeks to really get the hang of nursing. Get help; it’s not as “natural” as you might think and almost every mother I know needed help from a professional at first. If you get help but it’s not actually helping, seek out someone new. Not all LCs are created equally. Keep going until you find someone who’s determined to help you make it work. Know that not every woman on the planet is physically capable of breastfeeding – but this is rarer than you might believe, so be sure to get an expert opinion if you think you fall into this camp.
Every week gets easier. Every month gets laughably easier. By the year mark, you won’t even remember what all the fuss was about. Yeah, that’s more than one piece of advice – but I couldn’t help myself.
We lived in a big city when we were a family of three, and I never noticed anyone even looking at me while breastfeeding. However, now that we live in a much smaller town, I definitely get noticed when nursing at the mall or the community centre. Nothing negative but people tend to stare too long or too much. Fortunately, I’m not fussed by what others think of me but I do wish we had a more European sensibility when it comes to nursing in public.
There isn’t enough good help outside of major urban centres. All of my Toronto friends breastfeed much, much longer than my suburban friends. Not enough information is available from the mainstream; there’s too much of the extremist POV (like La Leche League), which turns potential breastfeeders off. There’s also not enough quality information in doctor’s offices during prenatal visits. If every mom-to-be knew how important breastfeeding is (and not in a talk-at-you but in a talk-with-you sort of way), and was armed with all of the information, I think more women would perservere.