I breastfed my firstborn for eighteen months. I knew from the beginning of my pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed, or at least try. I knew it’d be hard, as natural as it is it can still be a stressful and difficult experience. The hospital where I delivered my daughter had an amazing staff of lactation specialists, they answered every question at any hour of the day/night while I was there. Latching was a little bit of a struggle and so I was introduced to a nipple shield. Once I was home from the hospital I began to stress and worry. At the time my friend had just had her second baby and was pumping over six ounces. That’s where I made the mistake, I compared myself to another mother and felt so much doubt. Was I producing enough milk? Is my baby still hungry? Should I just supplement with formula? I was pumping in between feedings, a few ounces but was that enough? When my daughter was only a few days old I took her to see her pediatrician. That’s when my mindset changed and I felt so much more confidence; I was confident that I’d made the right decision and continued to breastfeed. Her pediatrician encouraged me to continue to breastfeed and re-assured me that my daughter was a healthy and happy baby.
The first few days were definitely a struggle. Not only was I sleep deprived but I was also trying to figure out how to play my role in motherhood. My alarm was set, every four hours I was up nursing her at night. At the time, I was working full-time so I continued to pump in-between feedings once she was able to go longer stretches without eating at night. I also did this to give my husband some bonding time with our baby girl and have him bottle feed. Although I was tired, literally drained, it did get better with time. Nursing my daughter was a special moment for me. It was an amazing bond we shared, seeing her little eyes look at me during each session is unforgettable. She was so easy to nurse, she’d take her time nursing and each session could last up to 30 minutes. I loved it, there was nothing more important to do than to hold and feed my baby.
Three months later, I returned to work and continued to pump. I was very close to the people I work with, still am, and they were very supportive with allowing me to pump as needed throughout the day. So while I was gone, my daughter was fed the milk that I pumped. When I was with her, I breastfed and it worked out great for eighteen months. I remember her last nursing session, the sun was shining and we were on the couch. I looked down at her big brown eyes as she nursed, snuggled her a little tighter, and just watched until she was finished. Once she was done we sat and cuddled. I experienced such a wonderful journey breastfeeding my daughter that I just wanted to hold her when that journey was over.
Although breastfeeding is something completely natural, I was never comfortable nursing my daughter in public. I’d see other brave mamas nursing and I secretly wished I could do the same but I never had the courage to do so. I only did it a handful of times with a nursing cover.
The moment my son was born it was an instant connection, he latched right away. He was born a few weeks early and the only obstacle I faced was him falling asleep on my breast. I was given a few tips from the lactation specialist at the hospital. So, I’d stimulate his little hands, his tiny feet, and his chin when he was on my chest. Once we were home from the hospital, I desperately wanted to pump. I wanted my Madisyn, who was only two at the time, to bottle feed her baby brother and share that bond, that love. I no longer work and have been nursing my son on demand since he was born. The first few weeks were more painful with my son, but I was determined to stick to nursing him, just as I did my daughter. This time has been very different though. My JJ has never nursed for long stretches at a time and gets distracted easily. Loves playing with my hair, although pulling my hair is more of an accurate statement, I love nursing him. He’s been more of a snacker, nurses for a few minutes and is done. He always wants to see what his older sister is doing and is intrigued with what’s going on around him. Usually nurses for longer periods when we’re in bed together, that’s his favorite position. My husband often walks in from work to find all three of us in bed. I nurse my baby while reading a book to my daughter. It’s all about finding a balance and figuring out what works best for you. I have also been able to nurse in public, with and without a cover! I’m incredibly lucky that my husband has been so supportive throughout my breastfeeding journey.
Now, here I am. Two babies later, one that I nursed for 18 months and the other just passing the 12 month mark. I sometimes get asked how long I’ll nurse my son for. To be quite honest, I don’t know. My body is not the same, never will be, but I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.
The moment you enter parenthood everything changes. Although you read dozens of baby books, receive baby advice from countless people, and stumble on tons of baby forums, your journey will be different. Remember that situations vary from person to person and everyone’s way of thinking is unique. Make sure to follow your mommy instinct and simply… trust yourself. Trust that you are doing right with whatever decision you make. Whether you choose to breastfeed, bottle feed with pumped milk, or formula feed, we are all striving to be the best parent we can. Your journey is just that, YOURS. Don’t compare yourself to others, enjoy your journey and be happy.
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