I have nursed 5 babies now (I admit-- with hugely varying degrees of success!) and I’m still learning new things about breastfeeding all the time. Henry is (surprise surprise) different from all my other babies even in the way he nurses. He is still thriving exclusively on mama’s milk here at nearly 4 months old! He has never had a drop of anything but breast milk and has only had expressed milk once. (4 ounces- which were painstakingly expressed over several days and were fed to him in a Medela soft cup feeder.)
With Henry I have felt like I needed a little more support in nursing so I have been attending LLL meetings which are wonderful! The lactation consultants there are very helpful and give practical tips for trouble-shooting. I’ve been so glad that I went! I’ve been learning a lot. Plus it is nice to be able to relate with other breastfeeding moms!
I do regret that Henry is very dependent on a pacifier, but he needed something when I couldn’t be immediately available during my December gig-season. I feel that the pacifier has negatively impacted our nursing relationship in some ways, but thankfully it hasn’t hurt our nursing relationship beyond repair. He still nurses and gets what he needs. It’s just not quite as easy as it could be sometimes. My babies who didn’t take pacifiers until they were older seemed more contented during and after nursing.
Henry is what I call a “fussy nurser.” I’ve learned that I do not “let down” easily which means that Henry really has to work for it! This is why bottles are not an option at all for my babies as they destroy my ability to breastfeed. They never want to nurse again if they get a bottle! So Henry works for it, but he complains loudly the whole time. He pops off and fusses about every 3-5 seconds until he gets what he wants. And then he complains again when it slows. And he hates being done (very much like Ephraim, I have to say!). So he’s never quiet or discreet about it. Gone are the days that I could easily nurse in church or Sunday school with hardly anyone noticing. At the LLL meetings I see other moms nurse their little babies and the babies are so quiet and sweet and then when they are done they are satisfied and grateful. Not Henry! You’d think he doesn’t get enough, but I know he does! It is frustrating to me at times, but oh well. Being a mom is sometimes a thankless job. I can deal.
With every baby I have had to remind myself to look at the baby, not at the scale. I just don’t have chunky babies who are always content and satisfied. Yet they thrive, have plenty of wet diapers, meet developmental milestones, and are definitely healthy!
I love the closeness that breastfeeding allows us and I love that he’s getting the best nutrition I could ever give him too. I love that my milk is custom-fit to his needs according to time of day, his age, and what bugs he may be fighting off. Breast milk is amazingly adaptable like that! It’s the miracle of God’s perfect design for moms and babies.
Because I have chosen to breastfeed and to breastfeed exclusively “from the tap” which I believe is giving Henry the best possible option; I also have to deal with what comes along with it. I can never be away from Henry for very long. Not that I ever really want to, but the occasional break would be nice! I do love being near him almost all of the time, but sometimes I have hard days when I’m feeling a little like I’m falling apart! And there are times when I am the only one who can soothe him. I have to be continually available for him. Not always easy!
- I can’t “get away” for a weekend, an overnight trip, or even a long date without Henry tagging along. It’s a good thing I like him!
- I never know exactly how much he is getting. This is generally not necessary anyway, but it would be nice to know sometimes!
- I have to make sure my clothes are nursing-friendly whenever I’m out and about. Well- I guess it’s not completely necessary, but I find it very helpful!
- I’m the only one that can feed Henry.
- I’m the only one that can feed Henry!
- It’s always ready. It’s always warm. It’s always the right amount (even if he disagrees…).
- Breastmilk is not only the optimal nutrition for a baby, it’s free!
- No washing bottles. (Like we need more dishes to clean!) No mixing/making formula or anything else for that matter. No need to refrigerate, warm, test for temperature… etc! No worries about it spoiling either.
- It’s custom made for him from month to month, day to day, and even hour to hour. It contains antibodies to whatever illnesses he is most likely to be exposed to through his family. It is a living food with enzymes and is the most easily digestible for him. The nutrients in breast milk are the most accessible and easily absorbable for him as well! The milk he gets in the morning is different from the milk he gets at night. It also changes in composition as his nutritional needs change. It’s truly amazing stuff!
- There’s nothing better for soothing an upset baby/toddler than nursing. It’s instant calm just when we need it sometimes!
- I don’t think there is anything quite as comforting to a baby as nursing. Close contact with mama (often skin-to-skin!), fulfilling the need to suck, getting a full belly… Good stuff! Breastfeeding has a calming affect on mom too! Did you know that? It’s good for both of us!
- It’s a really easy way to soothe a baby to sleep. It doesn’t work every time (at least not for me with this particular baby), but when it does work? It’s amazing!
- No getting out of bed at night! I don’t have to get bottles for him at night. And he sleeps right by my side so when he stirs at night all I have to do is latch him on. This is the best way for our family to get as much rest as possible. Some nights are (of course) more challenging than others and sometimes he does demand more soothing than just nursing which requires getting out of bed to bounce, rock, burp, change, or otherwise sooth him. That’s just life with a baby in general! However, on a normal night when his needs just include nursing and sleeping, not ever having to get out of bed is pretty awesome! Thankfully that is the more frequent course of events! There have even been a few nights when Steven and/or I have felt like we slept through the night despite there being one or more nighttime feedings. We have at times been able to essentially sleep through it all!
It may take a lot of sacrifice to make exclusive breastfeeding and eventually extended breastfeeding work long term; but if I’m able to do it for the health and general well-being of my kids, it’s 100% worth it. I think the pros by far outweigh the cons.
I don’t know that nursing can ever go absolutely perfectly for anyone. We live in an imperfect world, after all! I struggled a lot nursing Emily and Will. But for the most part, it has gone very well with Henry. I am so grateful that I am able to nurse him (so far anyway!) and hope it will continue indefinitely. I am in it for the long haul as usual and I am hopeful that he will be my little nursing buddy for a very long time to come!
I'll just give you a big Amen. I think every nursing relationship has sweet seasons and more frustrating ones. Right now we are in a sweet season. A month or so ago - not so much. But you get through it and nurse through the pain/problems and realize that even if it's not always easy, it is always the best!
I'll add getting new teeth and the subsequent biting or change in latch as one of the obstacles to nursing. However, even though there is pain associated with both those things it usually clues me in before she starts showing other signs of getting teeth (drooling, fussiness) that new teeth are on the way.
I went to LLL with Marlowe, too. I loved it. I had more "problems" with him--thrush, weight gain (which wasn't a problem for me, just the ped. We changed peds after that), and nipple eczema, which is horrible, and I still deal with it...still nursing. So anyway...it was nice to have that support while working through those probs.
I love calling breastfeeding "nursing", because, especially as they get older, it IS more about nursing a relationship/a connection/a care than about feeding so much.
I remember feeling those exact pros and cons. Clyde nursed just like that and would hold his little arms straight out. Some kids are just harder to nurse. You're doing a great job...like always :)
Great post, Rebecca!
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