Tuesday, April 28, 2009


This one's for Rachel, who asked for a post about nursing:

Since M was born, I've had a love/hate thing going with nursing. I had a really hard time nursing M for the first four months -- I was in pain every single day, and the two of us just really seemed to have a hard time getting it right. I think M was well over four months old before I ever dared to nurse in public, let alone without a boppy or the My Breast Friend pillow.

For those first few months, we weighed M every few days and kept meticulous track of how often and how much she ate. I pumped pretty much every day, usually twice a day, just to make sure my supply would be adequate. I was miserable, but not quite miserable enough to quit. Instead, I told myself every day that if at the end of the day i really couldn't do it anymore, then the next day I'd go and buy some formula. That permission to stop somehow made it much easier for me to keep on going.

And then, suddenly, things worked out. Nursing wasn't hard anymore, and I wasn't in pain anymore. From that point, nursing became a matter of convenience more than anything. It had become easier to pull up my shirt than it was to prepare bottles. M was happy, I was happy, and there we stayed.

I didn't start out with the intention of nursing beyond one year -- in fact, I'd been of the camp that thought "if the child is old enough to ask for it, she's too old to be nursing." But once M turned one and showed no sign of interest in weaning, I figured it was fine to keep at it. Yes, she could ask to "nuss," but that turned out to be ok with me. She was on solid foods, of course, so we no longer needed to nurse in public, but it was something both of us enjoyed at home. To the best of my memory, she probably nursed about four-five times a day -- definitely before nap, before bed until she was about 13 months old (at which point we weaned her to a bottle of milk), and usually at least once in the middle of the night.

I seem to recall that from about 16-21 months, I halfheartedly attempted to wean M. I followed Dr. Sear's advice on weaning, which amounted to "don't offer, don't refuse." That didn't work so well, as M (like her mom) never, ever forgot to ask to eat. That was ok with me, though, because though I would have been fine if M had weaned, I didn't particularly care that she was still nursing.

Finally, though, our fertility situation became such that I had to wean M. We decided to start a cycle of clomid in October 2007, which meant that M needed to be weaned by the time she was 22 months old. So I stepped up my efforts -- when M would ask to nurse, I'd explain that my breasts were empty. To my surprise, that seemed to work (though my memory here could be faulty. I know I discussed weaning on this blog, so if you really want to know what happened, you might check my archives for September and October '07).

Once I did decide to wean M, I was shocked at how easy it was. I think I'd given myself a month to wean completely, but it only took a week or two.

With E, nursing has been easy from the very first moment. I had some pain for the first few weeks of her life (and a brief period of vasospasms), but nothing like the pain I was in with M. Plus, E latched really easily and was much sturdier at birth than M was. I've barely used the Boppy pillow at all, and only use the Breast Friend pillow when I want my hands free to do something else while E nurses. Instead, E literally eats on the run, either in the Ergo while we're out and about, or just in my arms while I do other things around the house. With M, I think I spent the majority of her first three months on the sofa, just nursing (and watching TV) because I felt like nursing required all of my focus. With E, if I'm not doing something else while she's eating, I feel like I'm being a slacker.

E's attitude towards nursing is also totally different from her sister's. M was definitely a comfort nurser. Every time she was sad or hurt or upset, she would turn to my breasts for comfort. E does not. When she got her two-month shots, she did not want to nurse. She was pissed off, and wanted to scream it out! E's attitude certainly requires a little more imagination and effort on my part than M's did, since I can't just rely on using my body as a handy pacifier. On the other hand, it's nice that E is a little bit more independent, even at this age.

I don't know how long I'll end up nursing E. I suspect it will depend largely on her. As with M, I'm in no particular hurry to wean, especially since I know E's my last baby. I'll be interested to see if she's as avid a long-term nurser as her sister was.


Rachel said...

Thanks for all the information - I really appreciate it. I am trying to focus on breastfeeding as the big perk of not cycling again for a while, so the encouragement that you enjoyed breastfeeding until 22 months is much appreciated.

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