I spent hours and hours reading about techniques and methods and prevention. I went to a couple of classes to learn from experts in the field. Funny thing about learning is that sometimes it takes hands-on engagement in order for a student to truly understand how something works. Even more, sometimes a student needs one of those experts to lead, guide, and direct during the experiential learning so that the concepts are mastered. I wish I had known how important it was to have someone like that by my side when my journey began in July 2008.
Did you know that August 1-7, 2016 is World Breastfeeding Week, coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and they partner with UNICEF, La Leche League International (LLLI), and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)? I honestly had no idea that this was World Breastfeeding Week until yesterday, but I figured I would help support this movement because the topic of breastfeeding is so very important to my family and especially to me. Note: this is NOT a post about “breastfeeding is the ONLY way to go, and if you didn’t/wouldn’t/couldn’t breastfeed your baby then you suck as a mom.” You won’t find any of that here.
My eldest was born in July 2008, and I was dead set on breastfeeding him for 12 months because that’s what I read was best for him developmentally. Even after starting solids, my milk would continue to provide many nutrients and antibodies. I was ready. Let’s do this. Then he came, and there was NOBODY there at the hospital in Fort Worth who was knowledgeable enough to help me properly begin nursing my hungry little man. I’d latched him improperly, and he nursed until I bled. A sweet nurse saw me later that evening, but she was also unequipped to help me and gave me poor advice that a licensed Lactation Consultant later said to ignore. The LC was amazing. Aside from her gorgeous and intriguing Scottish accent, she gave tender care to support me and was available via phone several times after I went home. I’m so thankful she was able to correct our latch. I’d looked at pictures and read tips before Big Banana was born, but breastfeeding requires more than just textbooks and pictures.
When the Big was a year old, I found out I was preggo with #2. Exciting! Wait…can you nurse during pregnancy? At some point during Big’s first year, my husband supported my decision (based upon more research, of course) to keep nursing him until…..? But now I was pregnant; could I keep nursing? Would he deplete baby #2’s milk supply? At that time I had no idea how to get in touch with a lactation consultant, and I didn’t even know what La Leche League was, so I went to research mode again. Enter “The Adventures of Tandem Nursing“. If you’re pregnant and nursing or nursing two babies (whether older and younger or multiples), this is an excellent read. Thank God for Amazon and for IBCLCs who write amazing books. That book was at my side for the next 41 weeks as I figured out how I’d handle two nursing babes.
Big Banana nursed until he was 27 months. Yes, that’s a little over two years. Yes, I received many weird looks from many people including family members and friends. They were concerned that I was scarring his psyche, that I was spoiling him, that he was a “Mama’s Boy” because he was “still attached to the boob”. I’m sure more discussion happened outside of my hearing, but I don’t care. I did what I knew was best for my son, and he’s healthy, thriving, sociable, and not a Mama’s Boy. My husband never balked. I’m so incredibly thankful for his support. My Medium Banana nursed with his brother (though rarely simultaneously) for about five months. It felt like the craziest thing I’d ever done, but there were some really amazing moments as well. There’s nothing quite like trying to juggle a four-legged, four-armed octopus. Medium Banana breastfed for 25 months.
And then there is Tiny Banana. Golly, he was a tough one. Big Banana was rough for the first three weeks while I tried to figure out motherhood and how to get this tiny little thing to properly get his milk. Medium Banana was a piece of cake aside from sharing the goods with his brother for five months. But Tiny Banana? He’s been a mess from the beginning. I recently shared about the uphill, rocky battle with breastfeeding my little booger. I couldn’t bear to give up. My husband was my rock the whole time, and my good friend (and flipping awesome IBCLC) Jenn Majors was always available to help. A very thick upper lip and posterior tongue tie were to blame for our struggles…but we persevered. Tiny Banana stopped nursing about two or three weeks ago after self-weaning very slowly. Haha. He was 25 months when he stopped.
My mom nursed me until I was 17 months old, but here’s something I find interesting and didn’t realize until someone said something similar a few years ago: before I breastfed my eldest son, I had never seen another mommy breastfeeding her child. I had no idea what it looked like, how it worked, what it was for, and why. Not a clue. It wasn’t even a topic on my radar until I was pregnant. In the last eight years, though, we have seen a significant increase in publicized articles on the benefits of breastfeeding, even extended, “brelfies” (a pic of yourself breastfeeding), and world organizations are working that much harder to encourage moms to return to breastfeeding.
So, while my story is just one out a bajillion, I hope that it encourages, inspires, and helps other moms. We can get over the bumps, we can get past those hours of absolute fatigue, and we can be successful at breastfeeding. However, mommas of this world, we should not try to do it all alone. It’s too hard. Put aside your Women Can Do It All empowerment for ten minutes and ask for support. If you don’t have someone to support you, go find some. Find a La Leche League near you. Do research. Join a Facebook support group. Don’t do it alone. Your breastfeeding journey will be far more likely to succeed if you have even just one person who has your back on those days when you’re ready to give it all up, someone who will remind you how important this is to you. I’ve heard from too many moms who gave up on nursing because they didn’t have the help they needed and wanted. They have so many negative feelings, and it breaks my heart. And to the mommas out there who have been successful, don’t hide it in a closet. Be a gentle encourager to new mommas and those who are struggling. Don’t throw all the facts and “you must do it this way”-isms in their faces. Be a sister. Hold her up, and hold her hand.