Just the word can strike emotion into the hearts of new and veteran Mamas. For some? It was easy from the get go. For others? The struggle was R E A L.
I would like to start by making a disclaimer:
A fed baby is BEST.
I don’t want to write this post as an argument that a Mother can only nurse her child. The reality is that many mothers, for a variety of reasons, are unable to nurse their children. THIS IS TOTALLY FINE! A fed baby is best!
What I would like to do in this post is give helpful tips and tricks which allowed me to nurse my baby one year and beyond and reflect on my experience as a whole!
You might be asking yourself, “Ok- so which Mama are you? The one that it came easy? Or the one who struggled?”
Oh, I struggled.
Then it got easy.
Then I struggled some more.
The reality for nursing Mamas (at least in my case) is that the breastfeeding journey can be like a rollercoaster. I struggled from the very beginning primarily due to the “trauma” I went through while giving birth to Theo. For those who are new to my blog or are interested in reading Theo’s birth story, click here.
Shortly after Theo was born I overheard the nurses say to me about three or four times, “you’ll need to feed him in 5 minutes or his blood sugar will go down..” While I am sitting there thinking … OK … well does anyone want to show me how to do that?
I actually didn’t learn to breastfeed until my older sister came into visit me and was able to show me some of the ropes. Crazy, right?
I had a VERY sleepy baby, trouble latching, and was overall fatigued from delivery. These components were the perfect recipe for having a baby struggle to get back to birth weight. At the end of my hospital visit, I was informed that my baby had lost 6% of his birth weight and they would be putting him (and me) on a three step program which included pumping and using donated breastmilk.
My milk came in the day I left the hospital… so let’s just add engorgement onto the list of struggles.
I was so discouraged.
It wasn’t until I was feeding Theo every 2 hours during the day (waking him up if he was asleep) and every 4 at night (again, waking an angelic SLEEPING baby) that he was finally able to get back to birth weight and the stress of his weight loss could be off my shoulders.
By 4 months I was enjoying breastfeeding and the bond I was able to form with my baby. It became second nature…. 1. cover on 2. unstrap bra 3. Latch baby boy! Unfortunately intermittently I was plagued with horrible clogged ducts that made the breastfeeding journey feel like a very real rollercoaster.
Here are my top four tips & tricks for being able to nurse my baby successfully for 14 months:
Probiotic: Near the beginning, I was desperate to find something to help with the gas bubbles and frequent spit ups that Theo was having after feedings. A friend of mine suggested a probiotic and although it was pretty pricey (eeek), it was completely worth it! Gas can be a struggle for the nursing Mama because the little baby may have problems latching due to how bad the gas is or it can even throw their appetite off in general. I put a few drops on my breast before nursing Theo and he was able to consume all the wonderful benefits of a probiotic. (Also, my first pediatrician told me that although breastmilk contains HUNDREDS of amazing nutrients- it doesn’t contain probiotic unless the Mom is taking a probiotic supplement.) A probiotic helps with putting GOOD bacteria in the body and helping with digestion. It CAN’T hurt!
Water: This one was a tough one for me! After pregnancy I was looking forward to the stress free living of not having to down liters of water a day but I was sadly mistaken. In order to keep up a healthy milk supply make sure that you are drinking plenty of water!
Supply & Demand: This one is BIG and incredibly hard to control! There were months were my supply would go down because Theo wasn’t nursing as much but whenever new teeth were popping through my supply shot through the roof because Theo was nursing all.the.time. If you are trying to build supply- try getting your little one to nurse more. If you are trying to decrease supply- try to supply with other food (when they are old enough) or distract them from the constant desire to nurse. This can be a bittersweet thing!
Perseverance: The final tip I have is to not grow too discouraged and PERSIST PERIST PERSIST. I can’t even tell you how many times I thought of giving up- but I knew that I had a goal I wanted to meet and I was going to show myself AND my son that I could do it! There will be ups and downs in the process but if you truly desire it- keep trying and reach out to others who have found success or lactation consultants that can help.
(Popped a squat in Target to nurse my one year old. Gotta do what you gotta do Mamas!)
Weaning my son after 14 months was bittersweet. I operated for the duration of the time I nursed him on a “you never know when the last time will be” mentality where I tried my best to embrace every time I got to nurse Theo but – I was ready. If I really think hard about the “last time” I nursed my son… it will spiral me into a heaping amount of really ugly sobs. I am sure other Mom’s can attest to the tearful goodbyes of nursing in general or of a specific child. It comes with its roses and thorns.
My time with nursing Theo taught me: how to “roll with the punches”, sacrifice, persevere through difficulties, embrace all the moments and breathe in the littleness that babies offer.
The days are long but the years are short, my friends.