Breastfeeding is an ever-changing commitment over the course of the first year of your baby’s life, this much I have learned. When I had my son, my goal was to make it to a year breastfeeding, assuming that there were no complications and assuming that it would work for us. As of now, he is 9 months old and we are still going strong! However, I must say that it isn’t always easy, convenient, or desirable at this stage. The cuddling, closeness, and connection that breastfeeding provides is unlike anything else, but as my son has grown stronger, started to wiggle more, and become more curious about his surroundings, sometimes I feel he sees me more like a punching bag than a close cuddly mommy.
Those freckles on my arms at eye level? Oh yes, they make for excellent pinching practice. And that hair that I forget to move off my shoulders? Oh yes, it makes for excellent pulling. And if mommy misses a pointy corner of a finger nail when trimming? Oh yes, that makes an excellent stabber for the side of my boob.
But, then there’s that sweet little smile when we make eye contact… and we’re back to our loving cuddle session.
In the beginning, breastfeeding was much easier for us than I would have expected. While still in the hospital after delivery, I used this Organic Nipple Cream right from the start and I really think it helped prevent any cracking or soreness. I honestly didn’t experience any at all. My son latched great right after birth, and it was smooth sailing from there. Of course, this is a skill that must be learned and I had never done it before, so there was a learning curve, but as far as pain and complications go, I didn’t have much to complain about. Over the course of the first few weeks, it became clear that my son was not interested in bottles. We tried different brands, different shapes, different everything and he didn’t take to any of them. At the time, I wasn’t positive how long I would be home with him, so I pumped and stashed a TON of milk just in case it would be needed. As the months came and went, I was still home and he was still resistant to a bottle… needless to say, the milk stash was irrelevant.
Now, at 9 months old, we’ve incorporated sippy cups with water, purees, and finger foods. Breastfeeding is still my sons primary source of nutrition, but the days of trying to get him to take a bottle are over. At this point, I feel we are so close to a year anyway, why bother? During the daytime, and not around a nap time, a normal nursing session for my 9 month old can look one of three ways depending on where we are. If we are in the car, it’s about 5-8 minutes long before my son is over it and wanting to look around the world. If we are at home in a room anywhere near daddy or the dogs, it will last 5-8 minutes (if I’m lucky) for the same reasons. If we are in his nursery, with a dim lamp on and the Dohm White Noise Machine turned on, I can usually keep his attention for about 10 minutes and if I turn the lights off and just have a faint nightlight on, we can get a full nursing session anywhere between 20-30 minutes. In other words, to make sure my son is getting at least 1 full nursing session each day, I have to stop what I am doing and sit with him for 30 minutes in the dark. Personally, I think it’s a nice little stress reliever and getaway, but I realize this is not ideal for most people, especially moms with multiples. I also realize that when our second child comes around, he or she will rarely have this luxury with his older sibling in the picture.
Breastfeeding is a full time job. No breaks, no holidays, no sick days, no vacation days. It’s a commitment and dedicated one at that. Simple pleasures like grilling out on a hot day and having a cold beer with dinner aren’t worth it for me. We’re currently going through a small sleep regression, so our routine is off and impromptu comfort nursing could be needed at an unpredictable time, so why risk it? That’s just one small example that comes to mind as I sit here looking out a bright sunny window, but throw in the mix working, pumping, another baby, or an older sibling and I can only imagine that this full time job can get even more tricky.
Have all the ups and downs, sacrifices, and lack of sleep been worth it? Yes. Yes times infinity, yes. It’s a closeness that I will miss so deeply when it’s over and a shared experience I know I will wish to reverse time and get back one day. Even now, at 9 months, I can find myself being sad that this could come to an end in 3ish months. If you are able to breastfeed, I so strongly encourage you to. If it’s hard in the beginning, it won’t always be, you’ll find your rhythm. As for our future, I do not plan to stop breastfeeding at exactly 12 months. I plan to feel it out, and wean as I feel appropriate for my son. Until then, I brace myself for our next obstacle to overcome…. teeth. 🙂