August in National Breastfeeding Month.
When I became a new mom in 2007, I didn’t know how important breastfeeding would be to me until I didn’t make it work with Ronin. Direct breastfeeding that is. In fact, I ended up exclusively pumping for him for 13 months (don’t ask me how I did it. I have no idea!) and I was definitely proud of that accomplishment.
But when I became pregnant with Ellie in 2009, I KNEW without a doubt something needed to change to make breastfeeding a success with her. I switched hospitals to a “Baby-Friendly”-designated hospital: Evergreen in Kirkland, WA.
And that truly made all of the difference. Great support. Calm and helpful lactation consultants that got me through the initial issues with her not properly sucking. And we prospered with breastfeeding. Last week Ellie turned 3 1/2 and I was still nursing.
I say “was” because for a while, especially with all of my travels this summer, she’s been gradually weaning. And then this past Tuesday, I went to my regular psychiatrist appointment, and we felt it was time to change my mental health medication. My doctor has wanted me to change my meds for about 2 years now, but would not do it until I stopped nursing. And I wasn’t ready. And Ellie wasn’t ready.
But as she hit 3 in February I was definitely starting to become ready to stop. I’ve been trying to encourage her weaning by never offering and sometimes saying no. She pretty much had been down to nursing before bed, when she woke up, and as comfort if she ever got hurt, scared or the like.
But as of Tuesday, after taking my first new pill, I’m saying no. She’s old enough to understand that because of my new medicine, she can’t have mommy’s milk anymore. And I think I needed that absolute reason to say no. Its drawn a line in the sand for me, and for her. She’s not terribly happy about it but its been OK.
I can still comfort in many other ways, and we have Almond or Coconut milk to drink. (My kids are mostly dairy-free.) And she’s been pretty good with that.
I am SO PROUD of accomplishing 3 1/2 years nursing my baby girl. She isn’t a baby anymore, but I know how invaluable the immunities, nutrition, bonding and comfort has been for her. And I have been so grateful to have a positive breastfeeding experience without the need of the pump. How I grew to hate the pump with Ronin.
I know breastfeeding isn’t for everyone.
But I also know that in our society there are many barriers to breastfeeding. From formula and bottle company marketing practices, to hospitals and doctors who aren’t breastfeeding-friendly, to hard-core lactation consultants and “lactivists” that scare new moms away.
And breastfeeding is often very difficult to get started. Its not necessarily the natural, beautiful, easy thing one would hope. Its easy to give up when there are so many other feeding options so readily available. Its easy to give up when faced with going to back to work and pumping, which can be so stressful and draining.
And honestly many women need to stop breastfeeding because of postpartum mental health issues and/or medications they’re taking. I would never tell a woman she HAS to breastfeed. BUT, I would always encourage trying to make it work. In my personal experience of 3 1/2 years, breastfeeding actually was easier and better for her.
- I got more sleep because I didn’t have to get up and pump, or make a bottle, or wash a bottle like I did with Ronin. I co-slept and nursed on demand and often slept when she was nursing.
- We saved money. I didn’t buy bottles, nipples, pump, pump parts, formula, etc. etc. which eliminated a lot of stress.
- Ellie didn’t have the dairy allergy issues Ronin had. My kids have dairy intolerance, which I didn’t know when Ronin was a baby. He had dairy-based formula (in addition to breastmilk) while I was getting my pumping up to speed. And he suffered skin issues like eczema, sleep disturbance and reflux symptoms. Not fun for a new mom to deal with, and a poor baby to live with.
That’s of course just my experience, but I can say it worked very well for us.
If you ever need advice or tips, please don’t hesitate to ask. From pumping for 13 months to nursing directly for 3 1/2 years, I have a good bit of knowledge to share. And I promise not to judge or pressure.