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The Journey of a Green Girl and a First Time Mom Breastfeeding Beyond First Year

Posted Jun 09 2009 11:50pm

The Lovely Lucy Lawless Breastfeeding

Writers Note: I wrote Breastfeeding Experience from A Green Girl and First Time Mom
soon after my daughter was born to chronicle my beginning journey as a first time mother and a breastfeeding one. This is a follow up as a mother of a 14 month old and still a breastfeeding mother.

The American Pediatric Association* recommends breastfeeding for at least a year, but the World Health Organization** wants the nursing mother to go longer to two years minimum; longer if the mother and baby wishes. However, when Layla’s first birthday was approaching {and some way before that}; I got asked that dreaded question, “How long do you intend to nurse?” by well meaning relatives, friends, and even strangers. Good question. I gave myself a year tops to devote to the art of breastfeeding. I just couldn’t see myself being my baby’s feeding station longer than that, but now at fourteen months; we are still breastfeeding with no intentions to wean anytime soon.

The beginning of our breastfeeding journey like for many new mother was rocky with lots of ups and downs. There were days when I wondered how I would make it up to a year; climbing a Mount Everest seemed liked an easier feat. With engorged breast, cracked nipples, and gushing milk that sprayed my baby’s face due to overactive let down; the first weeks {even months} were the most challenging. Oddly enough, as time went on; breastfeeding got much easier. I can honestly say that decision to breastfeed and continue to breastfeed was the best decision I made as parent. It really is the holy grail of parenting. I remember during my six week check up, the prenatal nurse confided in me that she nursed for years. She whispered to me with sincere conviction, “There really is nothing like it.”

When I was in treatment for Postpartum Depression, I mentioned to my therapist that I was breastfeeding so I didn’t want to go on anti-depressants. I felt the therapist open up to me right away, “Really? I breastfed for three years. It’s incredibly special.” she said with a twinge of nostalgia. That became the basis of our relationship. I felt that she understood my struggles as a new mother and having been through it herself; I found her experience as a mother reassuring. Even when my postpartum depression got worse and I finally had to go on medication; I decided to continue to breastfeed against my doctors recommendation. Based on research that I did for myself {the decision wasn’t an easy one}; I continued on. It was the only thing I could offer to my daughter at the time. I went off of med after two months, but I continued to breastfeed.

Somewhere along the way, breastfeeding wasn’t such an enormous burden. It actually became a bonding time between Layla and I. Having that skin to skin contact and looking into each other eyes; it was impossible to disengage. Sometimes I felt like we were one and the only two people in the world. The feeling of accomplishment as well as bliss was overpowering at times. Biology had it right. Nursing creates the natural bonding by releasing Oxytocin when the baby sucks. Oxytocin is a natural hormone which facilitates bonding and the overall feeling of love therefore increasing the maternal urge to nurture. The prenatal nurse and my therapist was right. There really is nothing like it. We have experienced the ultimate bonding as well as the ultimate fulfillment as a women. We were the nourish er of our child’s basic need of food. Not only that, breastfeeding can be source of comfort, so we were also fulfilling our baby’s emotion needs as well.

Not to say that there wasn’t days where it was difficult. Like anything else, breastfeeding had its ups and downs. There were days when my milk supply was down and supply issue became a source of anxiety. Then there was a time when I had too much and my baby was borderline colic due to an overactive let down. Even the lactation consultant couldn’t help me. I only found a solution after hours of researching on the internet. {Sources like Kelly Mom, La Leche League, Berkeley’s Parent were an incredible resource} Then there were times where I was tired of breastfeeding and being on demand to my daughter’s need. At times I almost resented the responsibility and threatened to stop breastfeeding pronto. Let’s not mention the times when I felt like a dismal failure when I wouldn’t let down even after Layla sucking for at least a half of an hour. The highs were high and the lows were really low, but I kept going. I never let the idea of not succeeding enter into my head.

Despite my daughters very rough beginning with a crazed mother who wanted to throw her against the wall; Layla thrived and is now a very well adjusted, happy toddler. Everyone is amazed at her happiness and comments on it. I credit that to breastfeeding… and of course, getting the help that I needed. I know I did the best with what I was given. Now at fourteen months, she doesn’t need me as much. She nurses once but not more than twice a day. I find myself missing the times when she needed me just a little more. I see her growing and I am proud of the growth. I know I will look upon our nursing times with great fondness and cherish the experience I was given. I feel proud to be part of that heritage of nursing mothers that existed before the invention of baby formula.

Writer’s note: While this might sound like I am anti-formula, this isn’t what this piece if about. I am celebrating my journey as a breastfeeding mother and hoping to encourge the mothers who are on the fence about breastfeeding or discouraged at breastfeeding. I know for some the decision to breastfeed is impossible due to medical reason or another. While for me, the holy grail of parenting is breasfeeding, for others; I am sure it’s something else.  This is just my personal opinion. I am not knocking a mother’s decision to formula feed at all. We all must do what is best with what we have been given.

*American Academy of Pediatrics

**World Health Organization

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