I’ve written several drafts of this post. And every one of them makes me sound like I’m confessing. “Bless me Father, for I am nursing a 2 year old.”
I joke that I’m nursing the living crap out of this baby. Watch out baby, you’re about to get NURSED. Because not only do I nurse my 2 year old, but I nurse her all night long. Did you hear me? All night. Okay, let’s be honest. It is on and off all night. She goes to bed at 9 nursing, nurses until around 10, and rolls back to me around 3am and stays with me until we finally get up. While she’s not nursing, she’s sleeping up against my back or wrapped in and through my arms and legs.
And I’ve been asked why I’m doing this — why would I put myself through years of nursing and compromised sleep. Partly because she is my DaughterTWO yet she is my first successful nursing experience. With DaughterOne, I could not get breastfeeding together. I got her to latch at the hospital but the moment we got home it all unraveled. She spent her first night at home crying red-faced all night long — desperate wails, cracking lips, not latching. By the morning, she had enough elevated temperature to warrant us bringing her back to the hospital but this time to pediatric emergency. We gave her a bottle. She sucked it down. And so began my route to questioning every little decision I made with regard to my own child. I blame myself for not questioning others but for the most part they were the professionals so how could I have thought I knew better.
My history of nursing DaughterOne was very short. I tried a nipple shield. I curse those things. Never never never use one unless you have inverted nipples and even then I don’t know if they work. It didn’t work for me. I tried holding her against my skin. I tried different positions. And ultimately I got a hospital-grade pump and pumped for FOUR months. It was four exhausting months of pumping, filling bottles, feeding baby the bottle of pumped milk, washing pump parts and pumping again while baby napped in the baby swing. It was four heartbreaking months of feeling like I needed to tell everyone who saw me give my daughter a bottle that the bottle contained breastmilk.
For my second time around, my husband and I took a breastfeeding class through Capital Health. I read books and articles — it wasn’t stuff I hadn’t read already — but I felt I needed to feel prepared because if it didn’t work the second time there was no way I could find time to pump. DaughterTwo latched at the hospital and I never unlatched her. I let her sleep on my chest. I didn’t try to space out her feedings. She got unlimited breastfeeding access. When we got home, I slept side by side with DaughterTwo staying latched most of the night. I’m not saying it was easy. I had serious nipple cracking and I couldn’t sit comfortably after my labor so I was in pain.
But why. Are you wondering why. Obviously, at first it was the health benefits for the baby (and myself – although that was less important to me). And then I found the intangibles. I found the closeness, the sense of wholeness that I got from nursing my baby. And I felt so relieved that I could provide exactly what my baby needed. I found the infant stage easier. And toddler tantrums are more easily handled because soothing is a big part of nursing and getting over toddler frustrations. And no — my child will not need me to go to college with her. Someday we’ll just be done.
I have become a more relaxed mother to BOTH my daughters. This is the time when motherhood started to “click.” And it continues to feel right. Besides all the sources that recommend what is now referred to “extended breastfeeding,” and the fact that the US is so far behind other countries in duration of breastfeeding, it feels perfect and right.
I owe a big “Thank you!” to the Family Breast Feeding Association, my local La Leche League, the lactation nurse at our pediatrician’s office, and my husband. Without this support, I’m not sure what the landscape of motherhood would look like for me. Thank you.
Breastfeeding has been a game-changer so I am nursing the heck out of my (big) baby.