The idea of whether or not to nurse never really occurred to me, since I had been given plenty of opportunities to see babies fed in this natural way. As far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was the norm and there was no reason to consider another option. It also never occurred to me that it might actually be a difficult thing to do. A few weeks before my daughter’s birth, I realized that if I tried, I could hand express a bit of colostrum. Fantastic! We were all set!
|Going Strong at 18 Months|
Now, here’s the part where I need to be really honest. I was more than happy to share my abundance of milk for the benefit of any baby, and I think doing so is the most natural thing this side of a mama nursing her own baby at the breast. I would donate again in a heartbeat, but I was relieved when my recipient family moved off island, bringing the donor relationship to a natural end. My problem was that I failed to build a connection with the family I was donating to. This would be fine for a one time donation of milk I had stored away for no one in particular, but I was sitting down for fifteen or twenty minutes each and every day to express milk for a baby I had never even held. Our meetings to exchange milk were quick and easy, with only one parent getting out of the car.
September 24th-30th is World Milksharing Week, celebrated to help raise awareness of donor milk as a viable option for babies who need something in addition to or in place of their own mother’s milk. To start off the celebration here, I’m sharing an updated version of an article I wrote at this time last year. Be sure to check tomorrow to read my personal milk sharing story.
In recent history, the cultural norm for infant feeding has been pretty simple: some women nurse or express breast milk for their babies, while others feed their babies formula from a bottle. Until recently, I had never met, in person, a mom who did anything else. It seems that when there are breastfeeding problems, or a mother cannot or does not wish to nurse, the natural solution is infant formula. I’m sure that formula companies are quite pleased that their products are the immediate go-to for the vast majority of moms when breastfeeding is difficult, or is not an option for one reason or another, but this is an unfortunate scenario for infants.
The following excerpt is taken from the World Health Organizations’s Global Strategy for Infant Feeding
“The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances…Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group.”
- Expressed milk from the mother
- Milk from another healthy mother, at the breast, or expressed and fed using another method such as an SNS, cup, or bottle
- Infant formula
As Annabelle is seeming more and more like a full-fledged child and very much not like a baby these days, I have been reflecting a great deal on our parenting practices. Some things have served us well, and others worked before but have required some re-thinking as Annabelle gets older, and still others have had to be changed completely. When it comes to breastfeeding, I am thrilled that we have managed to nurse for the past sixteen and a half months, and I plan to continue until Annabelle is ready to give the practice up. Still, there are a few things I would do differently if I had the chance, so I wanted to take a look at where we are now.
We had a bit of a rocky start to nursing, but all has been going well since just a few months in. We nursed exclusively until seven months, and then began the slow and gradual weaning process with the introduction of solid foods. I have seen very little noticeable decrease in nursing since we left the newborn period, except when we’re out. We do a lot less nursing in public now that Annabelle is more mobile and more engaged with everyone and everything around her. She may ask for milk, but nursing sessions on the go usually last little more than a minute or two before she decides there are far more interesting things to do. Her size and squirm factor definitely play a role as well. I can no longer nurse comfortably while standing, unless I’m using a structured carrier, so I find myself offering a snack or a drink of water instead when there’s no desirable place to sit down.
We’re dealing with two relatively small issues now, but they’re things that will definitely affect my decisions the next time around. First is the nursing to sleep deal. For the most part, I don’t mind it. It’s valuable cuddle time, but there are nights when Annabelle will nurse to sleep and want to stay latched for an hour or more after the point when she stops really getting anything. When this happens, I often fall asleep, too, and end up having to get back up to prepare myself for bed, only to find that I’m suddenly wide awake at 2am. So as I’ve mentioned, I’m attempting to nurse first and then put Annabelle to sleep instead of putting her to sleep by nursing. It went alright the first time, but then I got sick and took a break because I was dying to sleep myself by her bedtime. Now that I’m feeling better, it has been a struggle to go back to the new old routine.
If we’re fortunate enough to have another child, I’d like to avoid nursing to sleep from fairly early on if I can help it. This would also be nice because it would make having Andrew put our babies to sleep much easier, which would in turn make my life much easier by allowing me to take more breaks when needed. That would have been hard to do with Annabelle anyway, as I was solo parenting for the first eight months, but now that I’ve put it off well into toddlerhood, I really have my work cut out for me.
The only other thing I will (intentionally) do differently the next time is try to encourage good “nursing habits” from the start. The twiddling of the ‘other side’ has gotten pretty intense and doesn’t feel very good, so I’ve been trying to let Annabelle know that and give her something else to do, but that is proving to be a challenge. I know we’ll be able to do it, but I could have avoided the entire scenario and a good bit of discomfort along the way if I had never allowed myself to be pinched to begin with.
Other than those two small things, I still love that I’m able to provide Annabelle with milk, and she seems quite happy with its continued availability as well. A few fun nursing habits that have been making it all worthwhile this week:
- When Annabelle wants to switch sides in bed, she climbs on me and gives me a big squeeze until I turn over.
- When she’s really hungry, she squeals and makes super excited noises at the site of me getting ready.
- She absolutely loves milk in general, whether real or almond. I put a dash of almond milk in her oatmeal to cool it down sometimes and she throws her hands up in excitement before happily looking at me and signing “milk!”
- I get loads of grins, hugs, and hand claps. There is even the occasional unlatch to smile and sign at me, with milk in both corners of the mouth.
- While nursing actively, Annabelle still signs milk into the air every so often, as though to remind everyone around know what she’s doing.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I would write a thank you to the many people who have supported me in my right to choose natural duration breastfeeding, even when it means nursing in public. Stories of negative reactions to women breastfeeding in public places get a lot of attention, and for good reason, but there are many others who are left alone, or even openly encouraged. I wanted to highlight those today.
I’m not a poet, at all, but I thought I would have some fun anyway. Try to read past the virtually nonexistent meter and the all over the place rhyme scheme and tune in later this week for more World Breastfeeding Week related content. I’ll even write some in formats I have a reasonable command of ;)
Thank you for your smiles.
Thank you for your knowing nods.
Thank you for peeking in a way
that made me feel more comfortable than on display.
Breastfeeding in public is seldom discussed – rarely seen,
except where we nursing mothers convene.
So together we do our best,
to raise awareness and inform the rest.
Breastfeeding is not obscene,
and there’s no magic age by which children should wean.
It offers natural immunity, the best nutrition, and many other benefits
for infants, toddlers, and yes – sometimes even children of six!
I hear tales of women harassed,
others who get not a single smile from those who walk past.
As for me, I’ve never seen it.
You’ve kept quiet, or you’ve been in agreement.
Thanks to you, I’ve always felt safe and supported,
because of your warmth and the smiles you’ve sported.
You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.
|Photo Credit, Sarah-ji on Flickr.
Used by Creative Commons License
- Joella of Fine and Fair marks the Day of Silence by eloquently writing to her daughter about her own support of LGBTQ rights.
- Amy Phoenix shares a simple post at Innate Wholeness about giving children space and tools to work with their difficult emotions in Crabby Stretching.
- Wendy at Parenting Tips 365 wrote a thorough and informative piece, which is the first in a five-part series of posts Demystifying Midwife Supported Natural Childbirth.