A Look Back: One Year of Breastfeeding

Since my son will be turning one on the 22nd of November, I am going to reminisce about the past year, and the many things I have learned about breastfeeding. I can now say I am a “pro”, but I didn’t start off that way. These are just random thoughts, musings, tips, advice, and anecdotes about the last year.

Lactation Consultants are your best friend. If it weren’t for Michelle, my LC, who manually expressed colostrum for my baby when he wouldn’t latch, and who called every few days when we were home to offer words of encouragement and advice, I don’t know that we would have made it past the first 2 days. She was able to get my son to latch when I couldn’t, and assured me through my tears and silent screams that I could and would get past this. She let me know that babies need to learn to breastfeed and so do moms. That I was giving my son the best gift I could, and if I worked at it, it would become so. We visited her 2 times after being released in order to wean my son from the nipple shield, and because of her I have made it to one year! I am so grateful to have had what others have called a “breastfeeding nazi” because that is what I needed.

What I didn’t need was a pediatrician who came into my room and explained that not everyone can breastfeed. He told me his wife couldn’t, and pumped for 6 months instead. I almost had my out, and a way to escape the pain, but I still wanted to try.

Nipple shields are the best and worst inventions on the planet. When used correctly, they can save your breastfeeding relationship. I was given one my very last day in the hospital. We used it twice before I was discharged, and he was able to latch successfully and with minimal pain. I was still having pain from the blisters underneath, which were rubbed by his very tight and hard latch. It took 5 weeks to lose the shield completely. This battle was almost as hard as the first 3 days in the hospital. I had to commit to losing it, even though he latched perfectly with it. Essentially, he had to learn how to breastfeed twice. My supply never dropped, like some other moms experienced. I had an abundance of milk. Using a shield is the messiest thing. I remember sitting on my couch at 1 am, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and so on, and unlatching my sleeping baby from the breast, and having to slowly pull the shield off. Milk would leak all over!

The first time Fletcher nursed without a shield successfully was on the way home from my last session with Michelle. She was so encouraging, she made me believe in myself. We did it in the office, with her help. I stopped at Babies ‘R Us and shopped, then used the Mother’s Room. I denied myself the shield, which was tucked into a napkin and in a pocket. I put him on and it clicked. He got on, I was in no pain, and he ate for 15-20 minutes. After that we used the shield 2 times in the next couple of days, and then it was gone. Many times in the middle of the night I wanted it, badly, but I held strong. You have to pull the plug on it.

The revelation: Because our nursing relationship was extremely rocky, I used the ol’ cradle position. I used a Boppy, then bought a My Brest Friend. What a savior that was! It helped my back immensely, and got used a lot for a few more weeks until I decided to just go with a pillow for convenience sake. One day, I was extremely tired. I wanted a nap so badly, but the baby always slept in my arms. I was very anti co-sleeping at that point. I believed the hype that I would kill my baby, and since he only napped on me, the whole “sleep when baby sleeps” thing was out. I decided to try side lying nursing again. I had tried a few times, and failed. Our latch just wasn’t good enough yet. I put his neck on my arm and cuddle him close, then got him securely latched. It worked! I was so proud of myself, and then I fell asleep. It was amazing. I didn’t nap during the day for the first few months of my son’s life, and of course I was up all night breastfeeding him and slowly easing him into his cradle. It was an hour long process at least. Every 3-4 hours. I started using this method in secret during the day; I was afraid my husband would kill me if he knew I was co-sleeping. Eventually, I brought him to bed with me at night. Hubby was wary and insisted I put him back, but I said no. Soon, we were a part time co-sleeping family. In fact, we still are.

Trial by fire: Nursing in public was not something I started out doing. I hid in the nursery when guests were over, and went to a private room when possible when we were on the go. If there was no room, I used a cover. This continued until we took a road trip to NC, a 12 hour turned 15 hour drive. I had to nurse at McDonalds, in a rest stop, in the car, anywhere and everywhere. I stopped using my cover after it became a pain, and never looked back. By the time that trip was over I had learned a few tricks on how to be discreet. Covers are a pain!

At 5 months I decided that I finally had breastfeeding down. Yes, it took 5 months for me to decide this. I could do it anywhere, anytime, anyhow. My son was also great at it, and could find my boob in the dark. He could latch himself if it was available. Unfortunately, this meant I never pumped anymore. I used to occasionally pump milk and have my husband take a feeding so I could sleep. The usual reason was actually to let my breasts get a break since we had soreness in the beginning also. I needed a breather. Once things were 100% pain free, and I no longer resented nursing, it was easier to nurse than pump. This also ruined any chance of me getting out of the home. He forgot how to use a bottle, and if given one, would chew it. I only recently discovered that at 11 months, he will take a bottle of whole milk. I like to stick with sippy cups, but he is not a pro at those. We gave him one bottle recently and he drank a few ounces.

Teeth: Before I was pregnant, I never thought I would breastfeed. The idea seemed kinda gross to me! While pregnant, I figured I would do it. The further along I got the more I wanted to. I dreamed about rocking my baby and nursing him. I also loved that I would be saving lots of money on formula and bottles, and that it was the food he was meant to have. When he was born, I knew I would nurse him until he got teeth. My LC assured me teeth could be overcome, but I was doubtful. However, after realizing how hard we worked to be successful, I decided we would overcome teeth. I set my goal to 1 year, and anything after was icing on the cake. I also have a secret limit of 2, but we shall see. He got 2 bottom teeth first, so his tongue covered them. Soon after came 2 top teeth. He was very good at not biting on purpose, but it happened. I would quickly unlatch him and say a firm “no.” I wouldn’t put him back on for a time. He got two more teeth, and then started forcefully latching. I got small bruises on my right areola from the middle two teeth rubbing, and the force at which he latched. This lasted a few days. Currently, he is still latching on hard but the pain is minimal and short lived. It is definitely better than full on biting!

Time: In the beginning, nursing sessions would last over an hour, and they came what seemed like every half hour to hour. I was a 24/7 milk machine. I can now proudly (and somewhat sadly) say that we are down to 5-10 minute sessions, and only 3-4 times a day. At night he sleeps with me and nurses 2-6 times, but only for comfort. It lasts 2 minutes and he is asleep. Who knows if he is even getting much milk. While I am a little sad that I am not his only source of food, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I love nursing my son. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gone through the blood, sweat, and tears I did. But, I am secretly excited about being able to leave him at home with his dad for a few hours. It has happened once. The longest my son has gone without nursing is 10.5 hours! This was an unusual day, but it is good to know he can do it. I have been lucky not to get my period yet, but I know as he eats less and less, it will happen. But it is welcome. Soon, my son will need a little brother or sister, and I will get to start off as an experienced breastfeeding mother!

I am extremely proud of making it to one year. Only 14% of mothers in America do. A sad fact, but I made it. It was easier than I ever thought it would be. The hardest part of breastfeeding only lasts a few weeks. The benefits of making it to one year and beyond last a lifetime. And they benefit you as well. Breastfeeding past one year, and nursing multiple children decreases my own risk of breast cancer. Indeed.

Fun Facts:
I have nursed my son in 10 States. (this includes layovers and driving through)
I have nursed my son in a plane across the United States, and next to complete strangers.
I have nursed my son in a duck boat (a car that can be driven into water)
I have nursed my son in the USS Constitution, the oldest floating naval craft in the US.
I have nursed my son on a paddle boat.
I have nursed my son in a boat on a lake between US and Canada.
I have nursed my son in a cave.
I have nursed my son in a moving vehicle by putting my boob over the carseat, and was seen by a man next to us at a stoplight.
I have nursed my son at the base of a waterfall with my feet in the water.
I have nursed my son next to the ocean in Florida.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a slideshow with my breastfeeding photos from the past (almost) year.

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