Prior to having children, I never pictured myself as the type of person to breastfeed. I always looked at those women as being “nature freaks” and relentless in their strong ‘au naturale’ beliefs. I am a woman who is quite endowed and just the thought of trying to get a baby to work with the two bags on my chest seemed more like an act of torture for both the baby and myself than any act of bonding. As like so many other thoughts I had before my children, my views changed. The wonderful thing about nursing is that it is a personal choice between you and your baby. The two of you choose to take the plunge and enjoy the “Dairy Queen” you become. The two of you choose to exclusively nurse or not, the two of you decide when, where, and for how long you continue to nurse. It’s an experience that only the two of you share.
Just like any newly expectant couple, my husband and I went to all the child birth classes, CPR classes, and breastfeeding classes that are typically offered. It was at the breastfeeding class that I started to actually rethink my naive ideas about nursing. When they stressed how good it is for the baby’s immune system and brain development, I was sold. I remember saying to my husband, ‘I think I want to give that a try.’ I’m sure he raised his eyebrows in approval knowing that he’d be able to catch a glimpse of my huge cantaloupes several times a day if I did…..men.
They had told us in our classes how easy it would be to nurse because “the baby sees the breast as a bullseye and will go directly to it.” I thought, honey, there’s no missing these bullseyes…..it should be a piece of cake. Well, guess what?….IT WAS NOT EASY. It was quite difficult maneuvering my huge breasts and holding a newborn (remember, I was a brand new Mom). I honestly had no idea what I was doing and from the looks of it neither did my son. Still, we kept trying. I resorted to pumping and feeding him with a bottle while in the hospital. Once I was home I continued to put my boy to my breast but we still couldn’t figure it out. I called lactation consultants and they gave me advice as to what to try. I pumped and finger fed him. I would have a very thin hose, connected to a bottle, taped to my pinkie finger that would allow my son to suck and draw milk out the hose-like straw. I then was to work up to taping the hose to my breast so it would allow him to get milk quick and easily from it — positive reinforcement, sort of like Pavlov’s dog. Nothing that I tried really worked. Maybe it was my inexperience, lack of confidence, and exhaustion that made it difficult for us…but we were getting no where except frustrated.
I was so stressed out about not being able to nurse that I was driving myself, and everyone else around me, crazy. Finally, my mother and husband tried to convince me just to pump and let someone else feed my son while I got some much needed rest. Not one to throw in the towel easily, I resisted, but ultimately went with the idea. Over the months I tried to nurse my son, but we never really did it. I think he got too used to the bottle…and so did I. I did pump for 11 months and he got breast milk 99.5% of the time. It was a lot of work pumping but I was determined for him to get the essentials of breastmilk. I always regretted not trying harder with nursing him but vowed that when and if I had another child I would try again.
When my second son was born and I put him to my breast he showed interest. I knew we could learn how to nurse. In the beginning it was difficult because his tongue muscles were weak and he couldn’t even suck a bottle easily. Then I had a wonderful nurse who really worked with us and taught me to stroke my son’s tongue with the nip of the bottle. This would teach him to curve his tongue and get a good suck going. I brought him home from the hospital on a bottle but I was more than willing to keep trying to nurse him. There was a lot of screaming, so much so that I thought I was smothering him with my boobs or something. It wasn’t the tranquil, peaceful experience I pictured. It was a lot of hard work and worrying, but luckily I had a friend that gave a lot of support. Without her help I would have ripped my hair out in frustration. Ultimately we learned and I nursed my second son for close to 11 months.
Around 11 months, my son just didn’t show any more interest in nursing and I knew we were finished with it. I remember feeling sad about it. It had created a bond between us. It was a challenge that both of us met. It was an experience only the two of us shared. My sentimental feelings surprised me. I never expected to feel a sense of loss or sadness over weaning. Our experience taught me a lot about my son and a lot about myself. I am grateful we shared that together.
When my daughter was born I had the easiest time nursing her. I don’t know if it was confidence on my part or her personality, or a combination of both but we were nursing right away. I always planned to nurse all my children for at least 12 months. Because my daughter is the last child we planned to have, I figured I would nurse as long as I could. I knew this was the last time I would ever get this wonderful opportunity.
Nursing truly is an experience exclusively between you and your baby. To know that you have nourished your baby with the best there is to give her and to watch her grow and thrive from your nourishment is a wonderful feeling. When she looks up at you while nursing with a loving stare or laughs with your breast in her mouth a memory is made, a bond is strengthened, a mother and child are one. This experience is one that should only be ended when the two parties involved decide it should end. Since it’s a shared experience between you and your baby, only you and your baby should decide when it’s time for you to hang up your nursing bra.
Sadly, my nursing journey with my daughter was ended…by someone other than my daughter and I. A few days after Christmas I had en eardrum rupture and needed to go to the ER (it was a weekend). A physically short, curt, and smug ER doctor saw me for a total of 30 seconds and explained what I would need to do. He was going to prescribe two antibiotics and pain medication. I informed him that I was nursing and asked if he could find medications that would be safe and not pass through my breastmilk. He was out the door, in the hallway, and proceeded to tell me no antibiotic is safe for nursing. He asked, quickly, how old my child was and I told him she just turned 12 months. He looked at me, judgingly, and says, “yeah, you may want to stop nursing now, it’s about time.” I was steaming. Who did this egotistical, short, balding man think he was? But you know what they say….short man, big ego. I guess when you’re a short man you need to feel big in some way and I guess it made him feel good to judge us.
I didn’t like what he told me but I did rationally think about it. I had met my goal of nursing my daughter for 12 months. I was down to nursing only first thing in the morning and before bedtime. I figured the morning feeding would be easy enough to cut out as long as I got her breakfast as soon as she woke. The bedtime feeding I was more concerned about…that was “our” time.
I needed to take the medication so I really didn’t have much of a choice. Thankfully, my daughter was fine with it. More fine with it than I was….it was time and she was ready. I resent the fact that the choice was not ours to make but some cocky doctor who by my experience with him probably never bonded with anyone but himself.
I am thankful that I was able to experience the world of nursing. I am happy and proud that my babies and I took the journey and found moments that only we will share.