Name and age of your nursling? Jacob Adam, 19.5 months
What does breastfeeding mean to you? I had to think about this for a long time. Now that we're nearing the end of our breastfeeding relationship, I look back and I see how little it was about nutrition for me. Sure I chose to breastfeed, because it's healthy, passes antibodies, is gentle on their system, and provides all the nutrients they need. But, more than anything it was about bonding (and now, I'm crying. :')) I feel closer to my son than anyone else in this world. He and his daddy have the most amazing, fun, giggly relationship. But, Jacob and I have spent hours upon hours cuddling, staring at each other, and talking to one another. Jacob plays with my hair, points to my facial features while I label them and tries to stick his hands in my mouth. It's been a time of laughter, learning and playing. It forced me to relax and enjoy my baby when life got too hectic. It created a sense of calm for both of us on days when anything became stressful. I never felt as maternal as when I did while I was breastfeeding him. I will no doubt only look back on our nursing time with fond, sweet memories.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge? We were blessed to not have too many hurdles to be able to breastfeed well. If anything, my biggest challenge was keeping up with him while feeding on demand. From about 7-9 months, my son was waking up every 30 minutes to eat at night. We were cosleeping still at the time, but I couldn't keep up emotionally anymore. I was past the point of exhaustion. I wanted to quit. I spent most days (at nights) crying, wondering why it was like this for us. Why was HE like this? The guilt that came from those thoughts added to how horrible it was. As soon as I realized it would eventually pass as a phase, and that my son was unique and didn't fit the mold of a textbook, it seemed to be over. Eventually, nursing became pleasant for me again. And I'm thankful we made it through such a difficult time!
What do you love most about breastfeeding? What I love most about it is the connection, but also the convenience. Nursing on demand was fantastic! I didn't have to worry about feeding schedules, how many bottles to pack in our diaper bag on outings, or even a pacifier! He would let me know when he needed to nurse and I was happy to provide it. This kept him happier for longer in public, he could nurse/nap in our baby carrier while we were out and about, and we could go about our day.
Who (or what) has offered you support in your journey? My mom was the first person that helped breastfeeding become a real option for me. She nursed both me and my brother until we were about 17 months. It was normal, never odd. I'm so thankful to her for that.
We took a natural childbirth class from Candace McCollett and she offered wonderful breastfeeding advice. She explained the logistics of how it worked, showed proper positioning and latch and even visited us at home to help us further.
My midwife, Christie Sheffer, was also really helpful in the beginning. She was the first person that ever mentioned "on-demand" feeding to me. It had never occurred to me before! I'm so glad she did.
I also attended local La Leche League meetings for a while. I was encouraged just by seeing other moms in the thick of it. That was support enough to me. Women who fed covered, uncovered, and in public. I loved it. It was like, "I can do this too!" And every time I fed him in public it became easier. And then it was just normal.
My husband, Justin, was hands-down the MOST support to me to continue nursing for as long as we have. In the beginning, Justin would have a giant glass of ice water ready next to me as soon as he knew Jacob wanted to nurse. I didn't even have to ask. He would bring me snacks and meals while I got hungry during Jacob's cluster feedings. He would prop me up with pillows. And when I got frustrated, he would encourage me. He never offered for us to switch to formula (which I might have taken him up on a few times out of desperation.), and he said "who cares?" when I worried about what people would say nursing Jacob past a year old. I love that man.
Any other advice for moms who want to breastfeed? You can NEVER have too much support. Another mom told me this at a Leche League meeting and I'll never forget it. She was so right on. Motherhood is hard. Breastfeeding can be hard. You need other women around you saying, "You've got this. You're doing a beautiful job. Don't give up." And I say those same things to other moms, too. Because, we need to hear it. We need to encourage each other and not tear down. If you want to breastfeed, you can do it! Find a well-known lactation consultant that can work with you one-on-one to help you get it just right. If you're committed to breastfeeding, you can overcome any hurdle or challenge that comes your way. Don't let it stop you! You've got this. You're doing a beautiful job. Don't give up!