What I've Learned from Six Years of Breastfeeding

Our only NICU baby, Baby A. Talk about a stretching experience. I definitely understand pumping mama's. Such a difficult time. By God's grace, I got to nurse her until her first birthday, at which she weaned herself. 

Our only NICU baby, Baby A. Talk about a stretching experience. I definitely understand pumping mama's. Such a difficult time. By God's grace, I got to nurse her until her first birthday, at which she weaned herself. 

When I add up the total months that I've been nursing my children, the number reaches 68 months and counting. The way it's currently going, I have every expectation on reaching month 72 by this May. 

 

Thats almost six total years of just nursing.

We tried nursing as much as we could, but I could only be with her about three hours a day so most of her feeds were through the gavage tube or bottles of breastmilk. 

We tried nursing as much as we could, but I could only be with her about three hours a day so most of her feeds were through the gavage tube or bottles of breastmilk. 

 

Some of you may think I'm crazy. And some of you may find that number laughable, because to you, that's child's play. You may have passed me up long ago.

 

We all have our own journeys. Whether you tried for one minute, one week, one month, or not at all, we all have something to offer up in our choice to attempt and succeed at breastfeeding. 

 

My second-born, Baby C, 2008. I nursed him for 12 months until he weaned himself. 

My second-born, Baby C, 2008. I nursed him for 12 months until he weaned himself. 

Heres what I've learned over the course of my experience:

 

Breastfeeding is natural, but no mother is "naturally" good at it.

 

I recall being a timid, scared-outta-my-mind first-time mom back in November 2006. I was one of those that just mind-numbingly listened to all of the "expert" advice. At first. 

I remember letting the nurses take my baby away whenever they willed, I remember trying to get as much sleep as I could and not worrying too much about his lack of will to nurse. I was self-conscious, confused, and frustrated by midnight, three hours after his birth. 

I didn't know what "lactation" was, so when a woman in pink scrubs kept invading my room every few hours and had her way with me by grabbing my breasts and "assisting" the process, I was about to give up before I even really got going. 

I let the nurses "supplement" my little man because, clearly, I wasn't enough for him and he was ravaging at less than 24 hrs. old. (Not true, by the way.) 

I came home and was completely in shock at day four post-partum and the engorgement of the century. I was crying in pain. I was begging for relief. Anything!! The baby wouldn't wake up. He wouldn't latch. The nipple shield was too slippery. My breast pump was the cheapest piece of crap ever and broke within a week. I was sending my husband out for cabbage, warm/cold compresses you could stick in your bra, nursing bras, lanolin cream, ibuprofen, and taking hot showers to just let them leak while the water ran on them. It was miserable. 

My Baby E. She's our youngest and is still going strong at 18 months old now. She has been the worst biter, the worst cluster feeder, the most clingy, snuggly baby of them all. I see her stopping nursing....never.

My Baby E. She's our youngest and is still going strong at 18 months old now. She has been the worst biter, the worst cluster feeder, the most clingy, snuggly baby of them all. I see her stopping nursing....never.

After two weeks of that drama, I was donesies. Seriously, d.o.n.e. My mother came over after dark one night and just encouraged me. She said, "Alicia, you can do this. Don't give up yet, you've got this." 

And, I never gave up. I owe my whole breastfeeding journey to both her and my husband. But, it did NOT come naturally. Not even close. 

 

My first baby, Baby H, 2006. We struggled our way through those first three months: he with colic and me with post-partum depression, but we made it, and he nursed like a champ until his first birthday. He was my only that I didn't self-wean. You live, you learn. 

My first baby, Baby H, 2006. We struggled our way through those first three months: he with colic and me with post-partum depression, but we made it, and he nursed like a champ until his first birthday. He was my only that I didn't self-wean. You live, you learn. 

You love it, until you hate it, and then love it again.

 

We all go through that phase where once your confidence begins to build, you think, "eh, this isn't so bad! No bottles, no measuring, no trekking to the kitchen every two hours, it's warm, soft, and cuddly..."

 

But then, the cluster feeding begins. You know, those feeds that literally overlap one another?! The feeds where little peanut doses off after a good 30-45 minute session and you go to remove yourself from baby just.for.a.second and BAM!!! Awake. Screams ensue. You don't know whether to take that run to the bathroom you've waited hours for, grab that half eaten, stale peanut butter sandwich from two hours ago, or just assume the position again.

 

Then, after a day or two of just being a milk bank, you begin to question EVERYTHING:

"Will this never end?"

"If I feed him anymore, he'll get a belly ache, but if I don't feed him, he'll scream and get a belly ache, but if I keep feeding him, he'll throw up all over me, but if I don't, I'll never sleep again!!!!!....."

"Someone please just let me die now."

But then, eventually, things return to normal, for at least a little while, until it happens again....but, for now, you love nursing. Until....

 

Our fourth nursling, Baby O, 2012. She nursed the second longest at 14 months, and then one day, she just continuously pushed me away and wiggled down, and that was that. 

Our fourth nursling, Baby O, 2012. She nursed the second longest at 14 months, and then one day, she just continuously pushed me away and wiggled down, and that was that. 

....teething....

Bless you mama of a teething one. Bless you.

I should've been counting the number of times over the years I had to say "NO BITE!"....cause there's literally nothing worse. Nothing!!! When that freshly-spouted baby-sharp tooth comes chomping down as hard as it can completely unexpectedly, it leaves you reeling. And then, you just make it worse by yelling or shrieking, which makes them scared, which, in turn, makes them clamp down harder.

 

This is how our days usually went with Baby O. Tough life. 

This is how our days usually went with Baby O. Tough life. 

Nothing's sweeter than a snuggly, sleepy nursling lying at your side

It's true. It's the greatest part of motherhood to just naturally match your breathing to your baby's as your tummies rise and fall in unison. It's relaxing, it's sweet, it's so convenient to just smell and see all of them as they feel the most content with you. And in those moments, it's hard to wish it to end. 

 

It's complete sacrifice.

 

I cannot stress enough how important it is for a nursing mama to take care of herself. Years and years of pregnancy and nursing will wear you out completely. I'm not going to tell you to get more sleep, because, let's be honest...that's just a ridiculously frustrating comment. But I will tell you to eat right and well, and drink, drink, drink!!!!!

 

You are going to be the only one who can night wake and feed, you're the only one that can nourish and supply this rapidly growing child with enough sustenance to thrive. You simply cannot effectively do that when you're constantly running on E. 

 

If there's one thing I'm real proud of and have never regretted, it's nursing my babies. All glory to God for the ability to do so. And a huge thank you to my very supportive husband. 

 

What has breastfeeding taught you? Please share your stories with us in the comments!