Friday, November 20, 2009

Loving my breast-only baby

Fresh out of the tub: Ivey nurses for the first time

Even before I became pregnant with my first daughter, Suzi, I knew I would breastfeed. I thought everything would go beautifully. Then she was born. It started in the hospital with a nipple shield given with too little instruction. I had thought bottles and pacifiers were the only things that could cause nipple confusion, but they aren’t. Once we were finally rid of the nipple shield, which took great effort and many tears, the soreness was bad enough that I succumbed to temptation and gave Suzi a pacifier. We were in the middle of moving into our first house and my husband was unable to take time off from work, having just been hired. I had no business doing anything but lying on the couch nursing a baby, but instead I found myself cleaning and organizing the old house we rented at breakneck speed while my baby stayed with her grandparents. We didn’t think it would be safe to take her to the old house while we were cleaning, so during this time, she was bottlefed. It was milk I pumped for her, but I didn’t respond well even to a hospital-grade pump, and eventually I couldn’t keep up. When Suzi was six weeks old and I went back to work part-time, my supply suffered further because I was only able to pump once over a nearly seven hour separation. Suzi got a bottle of formula almost every day, which was exactly what I’d wanted to avoid. Still, our breastfeeding experience was beautiful in parts. She loved to comfort nurse, and I nursed her on cue whenever I was home. We kept going until she was 21 months old, at which time we mutually weaned partly because I was pregnant with her sister, Ivey.

I had learned my lesson and wanted things to be different this time. Instead of going back to the obstetrician who had delivered Suzi, I decided to go with a midwife. The one I chose had a deeper than usual respect for nature and the importance of allowing a woman to birth unobstructed. Ivey’s birth was a testament to the value of simplicity and trust in oneself. She was born in our bathtub on a rainy day in August. We climbed into bed and had our first blessedly uneventful nursing session—one of many. Her birth was the final deciding factor in exactly how I would breastfeed: Ivey has never used a pacifier or a bottle. This is a luxury to me, because I am now a stay-at-home mom. The difference it makes is astounding. My milk supply has been perfect—never too much or too little. I drank one cup of mother’s milk tea before I realized I didn’t need it.

We’ve found many benefits to going without the pacifier and bottle. We don’t have to worry, particularly during cold and flu season, whether or not the paci is clean. It’s less likely that we’ll contract thrush, which can be painful for moms. There are no bottles to sterilize either, and I am hoping to ward off ovulation for a few more months. We’ll never have to buy ten different bottles because she refused the first nine, nor will we have to go through the turmoil of taking the paci away when she is too old for it. I never have to wonder if Ivey is hungry or just wanting to suck; both scenarios end with her happily at my breast.

Of course, snubbing modern conveniences is always going to be met with a little resistance. We’ve heard from several relatives why it would be a good idea to give Ivey a paci. When she had her first portraits made, she cried a little and the photographer asked if she had a paci. “No,” my mother-in-law answered a little sadly. The pictures were adorable anyway; the photographer just had to get a little creative. Right now I am making a teensy sacrifice for her to remain a breast-only baby. My husband and I wanted to go to the midnight showing of New Moon, but we couldn’t. We have plans to take Ivey with us to a weekday matinee sometime soon. This way we can sit in the back and walk her or nurse her while we enjoy the movie.

The only drawback of our situation is that I must take Ivey everywhere I go. However, the greatest benefit is that I get to take Ivey everywhere I go! Everyone knows Ivey is coming too if they invite me somewhere. After my too-early separation from Suzi, every moment I spend with my girls is precious. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from birthing and nursing these two girls, it’s to not mess with perfection.

This post is my entry for Parenting by Nature's exciting Blog to Inspire contest. Have you entered? You have until December first! Please comment and let me know what you think of my entry.

Inspire Natural Parenting Contest


Anonymous said...

Hooray for the 'Blog to Inspire' contest! I have entered, and I'm glad you did too. :)

I experienced similar difficulties with my first child. She was premature and had latching problems, and then we used the nipple shield. It saved our breastfeeding relationship, but she was totally hooked on it and it was very difficult to get rid of. For my son there were no artificial nipples of any kind.

I find it easier this time to accept the fact that wherever I go, the baby goes. I think that having another child, I just know this time won't last forever. And so I savour the attachment while he's small.

Anonymous said...

love you to pieces, mama. it strengthens my heart to know that i played a little role in how much you healed by this birth and nursing experience.

The Accidental Pharmacist said...

Lovely post. Six weeks in I'm loving that she goes everywhere with me too. As for the paci, my hubby uses one. I struggled with whether to do it or not but in the end decided it was nice for him to have a way to soothe her during a cuddle (he's an at-home Papa). I'm sure he would've breastfed if he could. ;)

Marcela said...

Loved reading this! Great post! Good luck!

Every mama has a unique breastfeeding story.

In my case, working full time, I've been pumping for 15 months to be able to leave mama milk for my little one.

I have no thoughts on when to stop breastfeeding, like you, bring her everywhere with me and plan to stop whenever she is ready.

Lauren Wayne said...

Oh, just the thought of going right from your bathtub to nursing in bed sounds so lovely it's brought tears to my eyes. I think I would adore your midwife!

It's strange, isn't it, how obsessive the grandparents are about using a paci. Ours were the same way! Because, of course, if Mikko wasn't using a "real" paci, then he must be using me as one. Horror! I just tried to ignore the comments, but it's hard in those early days, especially if you're a new, sleep-deprived mama.

Glad you knew what you wanted this time around and that things are going so well!

Jenny said...

Hobo Mama - Elita at Blacktating has a good post on moms being accused of making themselves pacifiers. Until I read it, it honestly hadn't occurred to me what a bizarre notion that is!

Kristin said...

Loved reading your thoughts. Benjamin is 13 months now and never had a bottle either! In fact, he still gets about 95% of his liquid through breastmilk. He can drink with a cup now, but most days I forget to offer it! That's another benefit. Breastmilk is always there! Can't forget that! :-)

Red said...

Lovely post! I had two babes who were breast only babes, and I loved it. Sure it's hard work sometimes, but the rewards are so numerous! Kudos to you! Pacis are an epidemic it seems.

Parenting By Nature said...

I, too, loved taking my babies with me everywhere. They are only little once, and there will come a time (all too quickly!) that I know I will want them with me and they will be grown and on their own. I'm glad to have breastfeeding and babywearing as fond memories to think back to. :)

Thanks for your lovely post, and good luck with our contest!