5 Things I Didn't Know About Breastfeeding | Parenting from the Heart

5 Things I Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding

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This post in no way is to cast judgement on those who choose to formula feed or formula feed out of necessity. This is my story and my path may not be right for others.

5 Things I Didn't Know About Breastfeeding | Parenting from the Heart
It was a few months before our due date with our first. My husband and I had just sat down in a classroom at Children’s Hospital, about to attend the breastfeeding class that came complimentary with the prenatal class we had signed up for. The nurse teaching us opened with the fact that the World Health Organization and Health Canada both recommended breastfeeding from birth past two years of age. She followed with, “Don’t worry, we don’t expect you to do that!” I scoffed at the initial suggestion and looked over at my husband as if to say, “Ya right.” The course proceeded and was filled with many useful illustrations of proper latch, how to position the baby, the breast, and so forth. Correlational┬ástudies on the benefits of breastfeeding were conveyed as well as how a proper latch should never hurt. We didn’t need convincing on the former. Breastfeeding was something I had seen modelled to me as a little girl – my mom fed my younger brothers. And, I knew my grandma nursed her daughters; my great grandmother her children, and all of the women on that side before them. Aside from it being natural, instinctive, and ingrained in me, there were loads of studies to back up our choice. We bought a nursing canopy, some lanolin, and were ready! But as is the case with so many facets of life, it hardly went the way I foresaw it unfolding.

Breastfeeding is a Labour of Love

I wish the nurse in my breastfeeding course had said something more along the lines of, “If breastfeeding is hurting, ask an expert for help on your latch”. Not, “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.” That set the perfectionist in me up to think that if I followed the rules, I would ace the test that would be my baby’s latch and it would be smooth sailing. My first two days were decent-ish. What I didn’t know (and what my nipples didn’t see coming) was that colostrum doesn’t turn to milk as quickly as my baby’s ravenous appetite would have liked. My daughter and I spent our second night with her perpetually feeding, as she wasn’t satiated. Day three through, probably, day ten of breastfeeding, I would soak my nipples in warm salty water, pat dry, lather myself in lanolin, and wince in pain as my daughter fed every 1.5 hours. My reassurance came from my mom who affirmed me, it was a labour of love and would only get better. My public health nurse came and visited at the tail end of this time and did offer a slight correction on how my daughter was feeding, which helped.

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The Convenience and Lack of Humility

Though late night feeds are exhausting, I was perpetually grateful to not have to prep bottles. I simply grabbed my sweet girl from her bassinet, nursed her, and set her back. At the time, we lived a ten minute walk from a beautiful shopping centre, and fifteen minutes from the beach. I just loved trekking out each day and being able to walk as long as my heart desired. As long as I had diapers, wipes, and food for myself, the two of us could stay out all day (again, no prep for her meals was great).
At first, our outings went off without a hitch, I could be relatively discreet with my nursing cover. By about two months in, however, my let-down became MUCH stronger. Using the cover was no longer a subtle, peaceful process, but actually started looking like a curtained Sea World show with flailing arms and whale-like sprays coming out every which way. By four months, my daughter hated the confines of the canopy and would no longer nurse underneath it. Shortly thereafter, I became one of those brazen breastfeeding moms who just let it all hang out. Frankly, I came to terms with two things during this time:
1. I was less comfortable hiding away and not going out than being out and somewhat exposed.
2. When I thought about it, I realized the only reason I might be uncomfortable was because society had sexualized breasts when really they were intended for what I was using them for.

Nutrition isn’t the Only Need

My pre-nursing self assumed that nursing was strictly intended for nutrition. And as such, I anticipated that once on solids, my babies wouldn’t need to breastfeed. What I had not yet witnessed or read about was how nursing actually increases self-regulation. The misperception is that toddlers who breastfeed are more reliant on mama when research has demonstrated breastfeeding leads to increases in serotonin and oxytocin, neurotransmitters responsible for mood balance. In both of my kids, nursing in toddlerhood has been a large player in a near-immediate shift from upset to contented.

 

5 Things I Didn't Know About Breastfeeding | Parenting from the Heart #nursing breastfeeding baby infant

Not Wanting to Nurse; Not Wanting to Wean

Despite its wide-ranging benefits and the fact breastfeeding has been a real success for both of my kids, there have been times I have wished I could just stop now. However, when it’s come to actually thinking about weaning, my heart has broken a little bit. Even though nursing drained me (excuse the pun), it is such a tender, sweet bonding experience between mother and child.
When I got pregnant with my son, based on research and my maternal instinct, I decided against weaning my daughter at just under seven-months-old. I had read that when pregnant, milk production decreases and then eventually turns into colostrum. Generally, children will wean as the milk tappers or when the less fatty colostrum arrives. Neither happened, and I was very comfortable with the idea of nursing both my babies when baby #2 arrived. When my daughter hit 18 months, I started considering weaning. It always winded me a bit to think of doing it and I couldn’t put forth a plan to do so because it went against my instinct as a mom.
One year after starting tandem nursing my two little ones, the heat of the summer hit. I found no matter how much water I consumed, by afternoon I couldn’t shake feelings of nausea and feeling headachy. It was time to wean my first. Because I was ready this time around, unlike failed attempts before, it went relatively smoothly. Now it’s one down, one more to go!

If there is any advice I could give any expecting mothers, or new moms, it would be to follow medical advice, but listen to your maternal instincts above all else. Only you and your babe will know what’s truly right for you!

What was your own experience? Any tips, advice, or things you learnt along the way? Please share!

xo Alana

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20 thoughts on “5 Things I Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding

  1. I’m pretty certain you know all the ins and outs of my breastfeeding adventures. ­čÖé I never thought I would nurse a toddler, but as a mother, it has felt so natural. You are so amazing for tandem nursing-and for so long!! It’s incredible what we can do when it comes to our children, isn’t it?

    1. Thank you and I agree that it’s incredible what we can do for our kids. NEVER would I have guessed I’d breastfeed two kids or a toddler!!
      Your post gave me the push to write mine. Like Rachael, I’ve had this one sitting in my head. I can so relate to your feelings about weaning and that’s what gave me the desire to write this!

  2. I agree completely that you must listen to your instincts. I feel badly for the mothers who weren’t able to nurse or continue with nursing and had to withstand scrutiny from the nurses and the public for bottle feeding and also on the other end for the moms that are criticized for nursing older children. I nursed until my son was 13 months and I went back to work. Now when I see him drinking from his sippy cup and he gets the glazed over “nursing” eyes it makes me pine a little bit for the days of cuddling up together and nursing him. It’s a bittersweet day when you say goodbye to that chapter of your relationship with your child.

    1. I LOVE your ability to relate to both sides. It breaks my heart to think of women who can’t breastfeed being judged. Part of the reason I wanted to write this post was for the latter – women being criticized for nursing toddlers. We’ve gotten to this weird paradoxical place where it’s terrible not to nurse but equally as terrible to nurse beyond a predermined, arbitrary time frame. Hopefully one day, the mommy wars wont be as bad.
      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment <3

    1. We’ll thanks ­čÖé I have felt very blessed. If the alternative to extended breastfeeding is four beautiful girls under the age of four (I’m really looking forward to the posts on that topic), you’re boundlessly blessed <3 thanks for stopping by and again, I cannot wait to hear more about your four!

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  4. Very interesting post! I think it’s so important for moms to share their story. Breastfeeding isn’t as easy as it looks. I remember firmly wanting to stop with my son at one but then a year past and we made it into the second year. I went 18 months with my daughter. She was a little easier to wean.

  5. That’s awesome that you are tandem nursing! Hats off to you! I nursed my son for 14.5 months. We stopped because he just was more into food and he kept biting me all the time. I was lucky in that we were both ready to be done around the same time. Of course, him biting me the last time we nursed helped remove any sadness I felt over weaning haha.

  6. I nursed my babies for 13 and 14 months respectively. My first had latching issues and wasn’t gaining weight fast enough. The lactation consultant told me something that helped me a lot. She said that it was a two-way street: I had to provide the milk and situate baby on my breast…but baby also had to eat. It wasn’t necessarily something I was doing wrong…we had to get it right together, as a team. It turned out that my nipples were too flat compared to my engorged breasts, so baby was struggling. We used a nipple shield for a little while, until things evened out, and we were good to go! With my second, the latch and the eating was fine, just SO painful the first few days. Time eventually healed all, and we kept going until he was 14 months…and then I was so sad to wean him. I am super impressed that you kept it going when pregnant…god for you!!!

    1. Thank you, Meredith! It wasn’t easy. I’m so impressed with you having to use a nipple shield, and going through that whole endeavour. Wow! For something natural, it sure ain’t easy!!! Good for you for nursing until 14 months!

  7. When I set out on my breastfeeding journey, I hadn’t given it much thought. I went into with the attitude of “if I can I will”, it wasn’t until after Evan was born that I realized that I was the first woman on my side of the family to breastfeed (my mom, aunts & maternal grandmother all bottle fed). Initially my family had questions about whether baby was nursing too much & they would be uncomfortable when I nursed in public but everyone became more comfortable as time went on. When I became pregnant with Lila & continued to breastfeed Evan I heard many concerns about the possibility of having a miscarriage & baby not getting enough nutrients to grow properly but again my family became more comfortable as time went on. When it comes to weaning, I never had a predetermined age to stop. Evan stopped nursing at 17 months, I was 6 months pregnant with Lila & we would need to lie down to nurse as my belly was too big for us to get comfortable being the busy guy he was he wasn’t happy with this arrangement & chose to drink cows milk exclusively at this point. Lila turned three in August & is still breastfeeding, she has never had a bottle & outright refuses cows milk. I never anticipated nursing a three year old & sometimes when talking about it I feel uncomfortable yet ultimately it’s completely normal for Lila & I as we’ve been nursing since day 1….it seems that my breastfeeding journey is quickly coming to an end as Lila is only nursing once every 1-2 days & my supply is diminishing. Like everything that comes along with parenting I think breastfeeding is something that you need to wait & see where it takes you, you can only plan so much and even so those plans rarely turn out the way you had hoped for ?

  8. This is such an important topic to write about. And I love that you are on both sides! I tried and tried and tried to breastfeed. I used the shield and that seemed to help a lot but I knew it just wasn’t perfect so we just switched to formula and everything was fine. Now with #2 on the way, I am hoping to seek out a consultant shall we have the same issues as baby #1 so that I can continue to BF as along as we both need.

  9. I tried nursing, but my daughter just didn’t take to it & wasn’t gaining the weight she needed to gain etc…. everyone around me, including doctors were just like give up, especially since I was recovering from a c-section…. so I listened….looking back now I wish I would of tried a little bit harder with my daughter regardless of what the people around me were saying….

  10. Breastfeeding is the best thing in the whole world… I nursed my twins past their first birthday but because I was pregnant my milk dried up… They weaned very naturally and it was great although I wanted to go longer… Now Luke is still nursing at almost 15 months and even with work and visitations getting in our way, we are still managing! I’m so glad because neither of us are ready to wean. Although I can tell my body is struggling to produce as much as it used to, I’m determined to keep going as long as possible… As close to 2 as we can get is my goal, but we’ll see. Good job mama!!!

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