When I think about what has helped me reach my breastfeeding goals, three things come to mind.
1. A Supportive Co-parent
I never would have made it through the first month of breastfeeding, let alone year, without 150% of my husband’s support. In the early days, he thanked me for committing to feed our newborn breastmilk, especially on the days when it hurt so much I was crying every time she nursed. Our first time around we didn’t know the adage, “If it hurts, get help”. With his love and encouragement we toughed our way through it and became a breastfeeding MotherBaby. He would wake up during the night feedings to change diapers, refill my water, and bring me a snack. Once I went back to work, he learned not to spill the pumped breastmilk. Again, he thanked me and praised me for being willing to make work, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding work so that our Sweet Pea only ever got breastmilk.
As we added children to our family, he continued to demonstrate how much he values breastfeeding. During the initial bonding period, he would entertain the older Sweet Peas so our newborn and I could bond and get breastfeeding off to a good start. On top of that, he still made sure that I was stocked with food and lots of water when it was time to feed the baby.
We also made the decision to allow our children to self-wean. That has been a different age for all of our children. He even learned to “go with the flow”, so to speak, when what we thought was going to be a brief tandem nursing of maybe a couple of months, turned into two years. I was breastfeeding a two-year old and a four-year old – we never imaged that when we sat through our first Bradley™ class and heard that our instructor was breastfeeding older children. Yet, here we were doing the same thing. While he made noises about weaning our older nursling, he never forced the issue and eventually, that child weaned at 4 years and ten months of age without feeling shame about breastfeeding or pressure to leave the milk for “the baby” (who was two-and-a-half at the time).
2. Living Examples
Seeing other mothers breastfeed casually, without apology, gave me the courage to choose breastfeeding and never second-guess that choice. I never would have known I could breastfeed through a pregnancy if I hadn’t met and interacted with women who were doing it, or had done it. I never would have had the courage to tandem nurse if I had not seen it first. I was empowered to be confident in my choice thanks to the women with the conviction to breastfeed wherever and whenever their Sweet Pea was hungry. I learned to breastfeed in public without feeling ashamed because other women had gone before me and paved the way.
I am still drawing on their courage. Otter is well beyond the age I have ever nursed a child in public. I am getting to the point where I ask her to wait until we get home, however, that doesn’t always work for her! I am a little less hesitant to nurse a toddler in public because I know I am not alone. I can think of two women who I know that unapologetically breastfeed their toddlers at different events. Thanks to them I am willing to explore new territory.
3. Qualified Lactation Support
We are so fortunate to have amazing La Leche League leaders in our area. I am a “regular” and attend the monthly meetings in our town. It has been great to have my questions answered as they come up. I also have an incredible lactation consultant. She was available by phone when I needed her, or she would meet in person. She talked me through trying to wean and remain respectful of the child because I was pregnant; nursing through a pregnancy when it became evident that the child had no intention of weaning; and then with getting tandem nursing off to a good start so that both our newborn and our toddler were having their needs met.
By Sweet Pea #3, we had learned to get help immediately if breastfeeding was hurting. While there is a learning curve and some discomfort, it should never be to the point where your eyes water. In the age of the internet, almost all mamas in the US should be able to get some breastfeeding support, either online from the La Leche League site, trusted blogs like KellyMom.com, or even help from an IBCLC who is available to do web consultations using a laptop, tablet device, or smart phone with a built-in camera (see the link list below).
It has been an honor to be able breastfeed our children. It was a proud moment when I looked at them thriving before they started solids and realized that these baby were 100% mama nourished from the womb. The more I learn about breastfeeding, the more grateful I am that it has been a fairly smooth journey for us, all things considered.
Mommy Help Center
AZ Breastfeeding Center
Nursing Nurture.com – "special sauce": info about breastfeeding twins!
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Sara Chana Breastfeeding for Boobs