Does the Body Good

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let this post go down in history as "the one where she rambled on about breastfeeding". Correct. So if you aren't up for it, you can stop reading now, no offense taken.
Last week, on Thanksgiving day, I finally came to terms with ending nursing Matilda. This might actually surprise some of you, thinking that a pregnant lady is crazy to continue to nurse at all. Actually, though it may be against popular belief, it is often totally and perfectly healthy to continue breastfeeding even if one becomes pregnant. I knew however, that since Matilda turned one and then finding out I was expecting, the clock was ticking on our nursing days. I didn't want to tandem nurse (this is when very courageous, albeit a bit crazy, women nurse their toddler along with their newborn - whew). This is a valid choice, but I just felt like nursing was such an incredibly intimate bonding experience with the newborn that I didn't want to "split the time" with my toddler as well. And, let's be honest, I didn't want to just sit around and be milked non-stop all day. Nor did I want Matilda to feel jealous of the newborn because of nursing (I'm sure we'll have our challenges in this department as it is - so why push it.)
Anyhow...I had been trying to switch Matilda to regular milk, without success. It was making her very sick and she didn't like the taste of it. So, I continued to nurse her only in the mornings and at night before bed. Within a couple weeks of finding out I was expecting again, I noticed behavioral changes in my girl. The happy natured girl who was once so chipper suddenly seemed...well, emotional. It wasn't just a clingy day now and then. It was like I was watching a teenage girl with raging hormones with no outlet for communication except screaming and crying. It was like watching a Lifetime Original Toddler Movie of the week every time the littlest thing happened. It was weird. Something was wrong. Something was making her...well, hormonal.
I tried to look up information about nursing while pregnant, but everything I found was about the health of the mother and the unborn child - nothing was saying "your toddler might be freaking out because you are pumping her full of your pregnancy hormones" or anything...still, my motherly intuition knew something was up. However, I knew my theory could only be truly tested if we stopped nursing for good.
So, Thanksgiving morning I nursed her and then, as I saw my little girl ride the emotional roller-coaster throughout the day, I knew that was it. We were done.
I had been dreading it for weeks. There are several mothers who you will hear say "Oh, I was so glad it was over. I could finally have freedom, I could finally get a break." and I'm sure as most of you are thinking "Isn't she going to be nursing again in like...7 months?" Yes, but I will never nurse my sweet Matilda again. I was sad. Each little chapter in our lives is marked by change. Each little milestone that Matilda hits is a new part of her life that won't exist anymore. Though we rejoice in the progress - "She rolled over! She's walking! She's eating Cheerios by herself!" a little piece of my heart grieves the action that will now only be in memories "Remember when she used to crawl everywhere? Remember when she used to make that silly squeaky sound like a pony? Remember when I used to get up every two hours to feed her?" and time marches on.
Nursing is a sacred time. I never knew it would be such a powerful time in my life. In fact, I had NO idea what to expect before I started doing it! Breastfeeding can be a scary and wondrous experience for a mother. I'll admit I was anxious and hesitant before Matilda arrived. I had no idea if she would "latch on" or "get the hang of it". It is a frightening experience to fully give a part of your own body over to something that you barely have control over.
You've all heard the jokes (or experienced them!) of the newly breastfeeding mother having leaked onto her shirt, or having her milk let-down at an inopportune time. (A wonderful feeling when you are among primarily male co-workers, let me tell you.) And I absolutely had no idea how I was going to manage the pumping and bottling in between work and home, etc. It all seemed so daunting! But, I was determined, and as we persevered, we found total success!
To nurse for over a year while maintaining a nearly full-time job, well, to say I am proud seems silly - but I am so thankful to have reaped the reward of the experience. It was so worth the effort and time. If I dare to stand on a soapbox (ahem, step step step...) I will happily say that while all medical and health communities clearly state that breastfeeding is by far the healthiest way to feed your baby, it is also the most rewarding. I will go as far as to say that if you are considering not breastfeeding your baby that you should take a minute and truly think about your intentions. Are you doing what is best for your baby or for your situation? Because those are very different things. This is not a time to be (dare I say) selfish - this is a time to be thankful and take the extra steps and learn to enjoy them. Honestly, you will end up saving time and money in the end once you get the hang of it! (Obviously some women have medical reasons they can not breastfeed - and therefore, you are already doing what is best for your baby, so bravo to you, I'm speaking to other moms here). The practical advantages (cost, time, nutrition) are blatant, but the emotional and intimate investment that you make with your baby are lifelong when you decide to breastfeed. I would just highly encourage any new mother to truly do all they can to pursue breastfeeding. I'm speaking from experience, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful experience, so I hope you will too (it's like when you find the perfect pair of jeans - you want that for everybody! Even if you aren't my size - try them out! They might look great! You might love it!....okay, weak analogy, but I hope you get the message)
As I approached the end of nursing, as I suspected, the anticipation of the end of nursing was far more emotional than actually following through with it. With times like these, I fully allow myself one night to just be sad about it - to mourn the loss of that chapter - and then to wake up the next day fully embracing what lies ahead "I can wear normal bras for a while! I can have more time to get ready in the morning!" What have you.
So, we now have an official "sippy-cup drinker" at our house now. She has taken to milk fairly well (though we are having to keep her on lactose free milk for now) and has not had any trouble waking up or going to bed without nursing. Not only that - but my theory was correct! Within a couple days, Matilda has fully become "herself" again! My happy and easy-going gal is back!
Hooray for maternal instinct! She no longer has "highs and lows" like she did in the weeks prior, and while my nausea has increased due to my hormones, I am so grateful that she isn't suffering the effects of them anymore. (By the way, I'm not saying this happens to every pregnant nursing mother - many can successfully continue with no adverse effects...but this was my experience, and it seems my theory paid off.)
So, for the next seven months or so, this cow is out of business. Gone to pasture...and all those other silly "milk'em" jokes. I'm looking forward to nursing our next baby as well, but I will always cherish the time I had spent feeding Matilda. God sure does make those babies so you are willing to give them everything you've got - inside and out. What a privilege.

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