Saturday, August 8, 2015

10 Things I've Found in 14 Months of Breastfeeding

I've now been breastfeeding for 14 months and we're still going!

Truthfully, we enjoy it. Last year I published 10 Things I've Learned Breastfeeding. This is edition two, a year later.

1. It gets so much easier. I realize that's not everyone's story. But for me, it definitely is. Probably
around the time I published that last year, maybe a month or two later, it got easy and it's never gotten any harder. The only challenge we had after that was after she got teeth and the whole biting thing. But other than that, it's just been easy. I mean, truthfully, being a mom is not easy. So it's not say there's not been challenges, but when I compare it to the struggle formula moms have with having to get up in the middle of the night, sterilizing, carrying those heavy bottles... This is just easier! You don't have to sterilize or pack anything to go anywhere (except a cover, here in modest India), at night I ended up co-sleeping so it was just rolling over and offering a breast, and once we got the hang of it (probably 2-4 months) it just didn't get any more difficult.

Do realize I'm a stay at home mom who doesn't pump though...

2. Pumping sucks. I haven't pumped much, but somewhere around 4-6 months I thought maybe I should have some breastmilk in the freezer so if I have to leave her for some reason she's not without. I must say, I didn't get my pump until she was about 6 weeks. If I had had it before then, when I was leaking everywhere like crazy, I definitely would have used a pump on the other side to save some of that. But I didn't have it then, and I was already starting to stabilize when I got one so I just had never even bothered to learn to use it.

So at that time I sat down with it and tried to learn to do it. And it was fine, but much harder than I realized to get anything and uncomfortable. I got very little each time (maybe 2 ounces... once I got four, but that was just one time) and I thought about how much I'd need to pump in advance to be a working mom.

If anyone reading this blog learns anything here today, if you don't know this already, let it be this: pumping is not the same as nursing and while it's important to provide pumping areas and times for working mothers, it'd be better to have longer maternity leaves and flexibility in the mom's day so maybe she can either stop in and see her baby or someone could bring her baby to the office so she could feed him/her. Something. But understand while allowing a mom the ability to pump if she works is essential, it does not and cannot equal her getting a chance to actually nurse! Especially if she has returned to work before it got easy, it may never get easy with all that pumping.

3. It can combat tantrums.  Yesterday Dreamer was messing with some wires and I told her no and removed her and she started sobbing, ushering in a toddler tantrum. I pulled her to my chest and she stopped crying to nurse and I turned to Ryan and said "Ugh, I dread having to deal with telling her no when I can't nurse her." Haha. Admittedly, she definitely still has tantrums where she doesn't want to nurse, but often they're coming because she's tired or hungry and nursing follow naturally; other times being told no really hurts her feelings despite being for her good and being snuggled close and nursing comforts her that I still love her and she stops. They say you should set boundaries early and there's less of a struggle; how much easier to set them when you can combat tantrums so easily!

4. Babies be crazy. They really don't understand your breast is connected to you. Dreamer's favorite thing is to be nursing on one side and lean up and grab the other nipple between her finger nails and pinch and twist. She gets so angry when I tell her no! She also will slap them and giggle like anything.

5. Biting is bad but not as bad as I thought. I was really scared for when she'd get her teeth. And silly me, I introduced a sippy cup about that time (around 8 months for Dreamer.) Well, she got nipple confusion! In order to use her sippy cup she had to bite to release the flow and she started doing the same to my nipple. Ow! Ow! Ow! That was the only time after the first two months I really wondered if maybe I should wean her... then I suddenly connected two and two with the sippy cup. We took it away and taught her to sip from a regular cup in our hands instead and, combined with me telling her no, she stopped biting within a week (though every once in a while for the next couple weeks she would try it, just to see if she could.) Eventually she stopped altogether. Also, we bought an Avent sippy cup with a hard spout that no matter how she bites doesn't release any more water than before, so she still has one. The other sippy cup (a Chicco, I think?) is still in our cabinet because there was nothing wrong with it, but I figure it's for when she's older and can understand... I admit I've been shy to test if she's old enough now, not wanting to risk her biting again.

6. Covers suck, but so does being isolated. Here in India, it's just not appropriate for me to just "whip it out." I totally support this freedom though, and wish it was, but it's not. When Dreamer was a newborn every time I was out and she wanted to nurse, I was ushered into a seperate room. It was so depressing. I'd had two months of bed rest, then 6 weeks "confinement" and when I finally get out I was being put in another room for 45 minutes (how long it takes a newborn to finish!) I was losing my mind. I'm an extravert! Covers are so much better. Eventually I got more confident and started staying and covering in most situations. I'd decline the separate room, saying no thank you and pulling out a cover. Next baby I will be more confident from the get-go.

Truthfully though, Dreamer hates covers. She tries to yank them away. And of course in the heat, it sucks. At home, I just don't use them. But for going out, they are so much better than being isolated and it's just not the kind of culture where I have a third option.

7. Breastmilk is meal, snack, and beverage. Sometimes your baby needs to have a full meal. Sometimes they just want a quick two to five minute snack. And sometimes, they just want a sip of milk. She'll start whining and I put her to the nipple and she'll finish in less than thirty seconds and happily toddle off and play and I think "Wow, she got like nothing... but she was whining and now she's not. I guess she just wanted a sip!" Go with it. I have never scheduled nursing because there's no point. I understand the importance of scheduling meals (though with Ryan working a different shift every four weeks we just have no such thing in our household) but trying to apply a schedule to nursing will only make it difficult on yourself because babies don't see the breast as a meal alone, but also as a beverage (and we drink all the time, or if you don't you're likely chronically dehydrated.) Don't try to schedule feedings unless you have no other choice. It's much easier in the long run, because your breasts stay stimulated. Scheduling likely will diminish your supply with time.

They also go through moods after you introduce solids. Some days she's in the mood for more milk, some days she prefers more solid food. They tend to eat to their caloric needs, which is hard to predict because you don't know if they're growing a lot that week or not. But just be faithful to offer both the breast and food and they'll eat if they're hungry (or at least Dreamer does.) Her grandparents, my in-laws, don't seem to understand this and always panic when she isn't that hungry and try to force her, but she was born in the 8th percentile of weight and at her 1 year appointment she was in the 50th! As long as they are growing just fine, try not to force anything; remember by the time they are eating solids they're far more at risk for over eating than under eating.

8. You're not going to get it back. Obviously, we haven't finished yet, but I've wondered many times when will we? As I said, around 8 months when she was biting I considered it. I worried we'd stop at a year since then she was eating so much more food, I thought maybe she'd eat less. But no matter how weary or tired I am, I can also see the beauty in this stage of babyhood. Actually, with her being 14 months and a tiny toddler I comfort myself that at least she's still enough of a baby she wants to nurse! Haha. The few times I thought about giving up, I'd remind myself how most of the time I enjoy this intimate, sweet, purely babyhood time that I am not going to get back when it ends. Sure, I may have more babies, but there's only one Dreamer and I don't want to wish this time away, but enjoy it while it's here.

9. You don't have to introduce solids at six months, but shouldn't before then. Okay, I realize this is controversial, but please look up the science on open guts and the increasingly fascinating field of microbiotics. Introducing solids too early can have issues; I am not saying to condemn anyone, some babies are ready for solids earlier, but you can't really know who is who without a fecal test. Baby behavior like mimicking eating or sitting up doesn't tell you if the gut is open or not. But also understand if your baby isn't ready at exactly six months it's okay too. Dreamer wasn't interested in food yet, so we didn't start until about six months three weeks I think. And even then we introduced like less than one new food a week because she really just wasn't very into it. But it changed and now she eats everything we eat.

10. You don't have to know when you'll stop. Truthfully, I don't know how much longer we'll go. When I was typing the beginning of this post, talking about how I did one of these last year, I thought "if I am still breastfeeding next year, will I advertise it on my blog by writing another of these?" There's a lot of judgment for those who breastfeed past two.

Right now I do know I am aiming for two years or self weaning. If Dreamer decides no more nursing, it'll be sad, but that's fine. But the World Health Organization recommends two years, so since we find it easy and enjoyable, I'm going for that. But truthfully, I don't know what the future holds. Will I flat up wean then? Or maybe just encourage her to nurse less? I don't know. And I don't need to know. I have ten months to go until two, who knows what will change in that time. Heck, pregnancy takes less time than that, maybe I'll have a new one at the breast by then (no, I'm not hinting at anything, ha!) I'm just saying I don't need to know much longer I have, I'm just being thankful for the time we have.

Speaking of being thankful to God for the blessing of my life, like breastfeeding:

50- for purses
51- and friendships
52- for adventure
53- and the comfort of the familiar
60- for cozy chairs

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