So, breastfeeding. I may have mentioned it here in passing, but that doesn’t accurately reflect something that’s been a pretty major part of my life for the past eleven months. Here we are, and I’ve almost made my goal of breastfeeding for the first twelve months.
In the beginning
Since the Cesarean birth was completely unplanned, I didn’t have much time to worry about the negative effect that it could have on initial breastfeeding. Gabriel and I has a few minutes of skin-to-skin time in the OR, while I was being sewed, cauterized, and stapled back together, but he did not have the chance to latch on immediately.
When we were reunited in the recovery room an hour later (I’m not really sure how much time passed — I know Matthew was really fighting to get us together immediately), Gabriel snuggled up and latched right on. With a bit of help from the lactation consultants in the hospital, we were off to a good start, despite our separation while he was in the NICU.
While there was some initial discomfort, I made the transition to breastfeeding fairly easily. As for Gabriel, well, we never got around to it, but we wanted to make a custom t-shirt with “Born to Suck” printed on it. Sir liked his mama’s milk.
Back to Work
I headed back to work when Sir was fourteen weeks old. We intentionally chose a daycare that is literally located right across the street from my office. With the exception of Monday when he stayed with grandma, I walked across the street and fed him during the day instead of pumping.
I honestly can’t say that I would have continued breastfeeding this long if I was pumping all the time, and my hat is off to those work-outside-the-home mothers who do so (and to those moms who stay home full time, because I don’t think I could do that, either!).
Six months and beyond
We introduced solids, using BabyLed Weaning methods, just after the six month mark. It was a slow start, but Sir gradually became as enthusiastic about grown-up food as he was about milk.
By the time he was nine months old, we went from five to four milk feeds a day, plus three solid meals, which is where we currently stand.
Bumps in the road
My breastfeeding experience overall has been smooth and positive. I credit the initial early help from the hospital lactation consultants and the support I received at La Leche League meetings for that.
I have had a few bouts of mastitis. The first, and probably the worst, prompted a visit to the doctor, where I accepted, and even filled, an antibiotic prescription. I gave myself twenty-four hours to start feeling better without the antibiotics, and, sure enough, my body cleared the infection on its own.
We’ve also gone through some rough patches with frustrating nursing strikes, mostly due to teething, I suspect. I was tempted to call it quits during some of these periods, but I’m glad I stuck it out.
Then there was the wondering if my dairy consumption was giving him problems. My dairy-elimination trials were inconclusive — at this point I would say that either dairy wasn’t the issue, or he outgrew it.
While breastfeeding has been a good thing overall for my mental health, I struggled at times feeling tied down, frustrated with the inability to do anything that took me away from my baby (or my breast pump) for more than three or four hours.
Size Doesn’t Matter
Though I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about my lack of cleavage (“nearly” A-cup, to be specific), I always thought I would have babies and breast feed and never really worried that my small breasts would be a problem.
Turns out, my “too small” breasts produce more than enough milk to adequately nourish a big, healthy baby.
I remember going through rough patches in the early days, telling myself that I could make it to the six month mark and then reevaluate.
Now that I’ve almost made it the full twelve months (my original, long-term goal), I’m pondering next steps. While I won’t go cold-turkey at the twelve-month mark, neither do I see myself nursing a five-year-old.
A story from a friend inspired the title of this post. She found her nephew (who sees her breastfeeding her baby) with a stuffed animal held to his chest. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m breastmilkin’ it.”