In honor of world breastfeeding week, I wanted to write something profound, unique and beautiful about breastfeeding. After reading several other stories in honor of breastfeeding week, I quickly realized, however that nothing I say can really captures the mystery of the breastfeeding relationship. So, I simply decided to share my own personal relationship with breastfeeding. Part 1 talks about my breastfeeding relationship with my kids. Part 2 will talk about my relationship with other breastfeeding mothers.
When my first child was born, she was at my breast within a few moments of her birth Once the initial whirlwind of emotions began to settle, I attempted to latch her on. My first feelings were, “okay, this works - but yikes, this hurts.” Thankfully I said something because up until then, everyone approved of her latch. That was when I learned that if it hurts, something isn’t right. We readjusted and were on our way to a very healthy, yet challenging, breastfeeding relationship. The challenge was when I was away from her and needed to pump. When she was six months old, I started a new job doing student recruitment for a community college. This new job had me out in local high schools, college fairs and community events at various times of the day and night during both weekdays and weekends. While I was up for the challenge of pumping, the challenge was always finding a place to pump. When I was on campus, there was a little corner in a basement bathroom where I pulled a sheet between me and anyone else in the bathroom’s lobby. This wasn’t so bad when there is no one in the lobby, but it did get a little awkward when several students were preparing for a performance and had clothes. make-up and themselves strewn about the lobby floor. “Um, excuse me,” I would uncomfortably say,” I need to use that space in the corner. Don’t worry, you can leave all your stuff there, It’ll just be a few minutes.”
I pumped behind a display stand in an exhibition hall. I pumped in the car several times, covering myself with a coat or sweater parked in the back of a lot, under a tree if I was lucky. I pumped in a bathroom bar with graffiti littering the walls. I pumped in a high school bathroom with a stall barely wide enough for me and all my equipment. “What’s that sound,” I remember the young girls saying on the other side of the door.
I hadn’t committed to a timeline of breastfeeding and pumping for my daughter, but the time came to put it all away when my daughter was two years and one month old. I was pregnant with her little brother, my breasts were extremely tender and supply was decreasing. The day I told her that there were no more nursies, she replied, “Go get some more.” I asked her from where. “Go to the store and buy some,” was her matter-of-fact response.
My second child latched easily and without pain. A month after his birth, I started a jobshare in a new position. I took the new position, because it offered a more consistent schedule in a single location. This time pumping happened primarily in the same basement bathroom corner protected by a sheet and in a sometimes vacant office. I did have to pump once on the freeway when a friend and I were on our way to run a half marathon. Since my daughter has nursed for two years and one month, I felt I had to be equal with my son. So, at precisely two years and one month, I stopped nursing my son, cold turkey. I would not recommend that. He cried and I cried. He cried more and I cried more. Once the crying was over, I wore red cabbage leaves in my bra for a week to help the soreness of my engorged breasts. We finally made it, we had weaned. But, I still reflect and wish I had thought through that experience a little more.
We have just celebrated my third child’s second birthday. So, that two year and one month marker is looming. While I look forward to having my bed back and can’t wait to go dancing until the wee hours of the morning to celebrate having no one attached, I am not so sure I am quite ready to let go. Or, rather, I am contemplating waiting until he is ready to let go. Le Leche League recommends letting children self wean. Based on how much this kid nurses, that is not going to happen anytime soon. My husband is also ready to have our bed back, he probably more than me. He has made several comments about counting down to a night without nursies for baby. He asked recently straight out, “when are you going to wean him?” I replied that I didn’t know and asked what his plan for weaning was. And for today, I think I’ll leave it at that - my husband can wean the baby and I will continue to nurse.
Caption above: My youngest nursing at two years and two weeks.
Caption below: Nursing is a family affair.