Became Wiser About Breastfeeding – July 30

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Blog Carnival for 2012. For more information on the Breastfeeding Cafe, check out this site. If you would like to participate in this year’s carnival, just post on your personal blog and put a link in the comment section below.  To receive email updates for next year, contact Timbra landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about how you’ve become wiser about breastfeeding. Please read the other posts in today’s carnival listed in the comments section of this post. The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!

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Krystyna Bowman, AAHCC strives to be a blissful mother to four children (2 daughters, 2 sons) and she is the wife of a very patient man.  She and her husband, Bruss, are Bradley Method® of Natural Childbirth instructors.  The Bowman family lives in Chandler, Arizona.  They enjoy sharing the joy of childbirth with other families and they celebrate every Sweet Pea and their birth.  Krystyna’s blog “Sweet Peas, Pods and Papas” covers many topics around pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  You can find her other Carnival posts atwww.sweetpeabirths.com/blog

 

Today’s Prompt:If you have more than one child, how have you become wiser :)? How did your first nursing experience shape your thoughts, ideas, plans, views, etc for your future nursing experiences?

 

 

Krystyna Bowman

 first nursing relationship taught me a lot of lessons that have encouraged me and grown me as a human being.  When I nursed our first-born, I found that breastfeeding was painful, I felt like I was in a minority and I felt ashamed to nurse in public. Now I am a proud lactivist, confident in my choice to breastfeed.  I am ready to kindly and gently challenge people’s perceptions about why we nursing mamas do what we do to feed our children. 

 I have joyfully nursed three other children since our daughter was born in 2005.  We have a son born in 2007, we met another son in 2009, and we just welcomed another daughter in 2011.  All the lessons I learned with our first child have grown my confidence in our choice to breastfeed our other children:

  • –       Trust your instincts
  • –       MotherBaby are one unit living in two bodies
  • –       Be flexible
  • –       Do not apologize for your choices
  • –       Common does not mean it’s normal

 Our children have taught me that when I make choices out of love for them, and when we as parents make choices together, we can confidently stand by our choices for our family.

 Here is our story:

 I grew up watching my mother nurse my siblings.  When we got pregnant with our first child, it was a foregone conclusion that I would breastfeed.  We got a few pointers in our childbirth classes, and as part of that curriculum, my husband and I attended a La Leche League meeting together.  We expected that there was going to be a learning curve and that I would experience something called “engorgement”.

 Baby arrived.  Surprise!  Breastfeeding did not feel natural!  It hurt!  It made me cry!  I wanted to give up!  At the same time, I was motivated to persist in my efforts by our satisfied baby that was growing and thriving from my milk .  So I persevered through the discomfort and the pain until it went away. Eventually I got comfortable nursing in public covered by a receiving blanket so I would not offend anyone.

 Our pediatrician told me to introduce solids at six months.  Dutiful mother who wanted to be a good patient and follow “doctor’s orders” tried the commercial baby foods.  They made our baby sick.  So my husband and I talked and agreed to stop with the jars and “wait-and-see” if baby would continue to thrive on my milk.  She did well – no more throwing up and cranky disposition.  We had our sweet baby back, thriving on exclusive breastfeeding.

That instance of going against “doctor’s orders” gave me my first boost of confidence – it was okay to follow my mothering instinct instead of “professional advice”.  I knew my child: I had carried her for 39 weeks and 4 days when I was pregnant.  I spent most waking moments with her, and sleeping ones as well.  We were the MotherBaby and I knew what my other half did and did not like.  Lesson one:  Since we were a Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby, it was okay to trust my instincts above anything else.

My second lesson was accepting that we, the MotherBaby, were indeed one unit.  Back then I did not know that it was called Attachment Parenting.  I knew that our daughter and I were happy together.  My husband was happy to see both of us happy together.  He was happy to hold a baby that liked to be held.  She was a baby that hardly ever cried and observed the world with her watchful eyes.  I politely acknowledged the people that told me I was holding her too much, that I was going to spoil her.  On the inside, it strengthened my resolve to trust that we were making the best decision for our family.  The MotherBaby unit worked for or family – everyone was happy, everyone slept, life moved on and our baby did not get spoiled.  Today she is a fiercely independent seven-year old (going on 25!).

 My third lesson was that flexibility is a great parenting tool.  We had learned to be flexible through our birth experience.  It did not stop there.  We decided our lifestyle was easier to change than it was to force our baby to fit into our needs and desires.  Our baby changed how much time it took to go places.  She influenced our choice of activities.  She changed how we travelled.  In such a blessed way, living through all her firsts enhanced our lives immeasurably and we embraced our new life as a family of three.

 This flexibility served me well in relation to our breastfeeding relationship.  I initially thought that I would nurse her until her first birthday.  Then I would be done and I would throw myself back into my career outside the home.  As her first birthday approached, I realized that neither she nor I was ready to stop nursing altogether.  Although she was comfortable eating table foods by then, she and I both enjoyed nursing when she woke up in the morning, for naps, and before bedtime.

 I realized that although there were some things I could still control about our daily life, our breastfeeding relationship was not one of the things that I wanted to control.  As we celebrated her first birthday I became aware of how quickly time passes with our children.  I had the epiphany that our children are actively in our lives until they are pre-teens.  Then they start to move into the sphere of their friends.  Before we know it, they are moving out of our homes to pursue careers or schooling.  I did not want to stick to our twelve-month plan.  Why force a separation, especially one at such a tender and sweet age?

 My stubborn nature came into play again.  When people questioned me, it made me even more determined to follow my instincts and do what was best for our child.  If you are an extended nurser, you know the questions people ask. “You are still nursing?”  or, “How long are you going to nurse?”  How about this one, “Why are you still nursing if (s)he can ask for it?”  My “favorite”, usually in the form of a statement: “You are just doing this for yourself.”  I gave the same answer that I gave when people asked why we chose natural childbirth, babywearing, or co-sleeping: “This choice works for us and our family.”

 In those five words, I accept the mantle of responsibility for our choices and our family.  I hope that it relieves the guilt or feelings of judgment that other people may feel because their story is different, whether by choice or circumstance.  There are those who cannot accept that answer, and that is okay.  I am not going to change their minds anyway, so I save my energy and do some deep breathing!  

 The last lesson I learned the hard way.  All three of our older children caused the same pain when feeding on my left breast.  I could kick myself: it took until our third child to learn that something about our birth experiences was causing our babies difficulty when positioned to nurse on my left.  Our third child got an adjustment when he was ten days old.  One visit to our chiropractor for a pediatric adjustment and I was in heaven!  It eased the discomfort that did not allow him to turn his head comfortably.  He stopped stripping my nipple and chomping on the nerve that made me cry every time.  I learned that nursing could be pain-free and tear-free when baby is a newborn if you seek help at the beginning. 

 Now I am a childbirth educator.  I tell our students that while breastfeeding is a learned behavior, and that although it is common for it to hurt, “Common does not mean it’s normal.”  The lesson I learned the hard way was that a mom should not ignore pain during breastfeeding.  Seek help as soon as possible so that your breastfeeding experience improves sooner than later.

 Not all situations warrant a visit to a chiropractor.  If you are experiencing pain or difficulties of any kind, get help now.  You can make an appointment with an IBCLC certified Lactation Consultant.  Another option is to talk with a La Leche League (LLL) leader or attend a LLL meeting in your area as soon as possible.  These options offer support, encouragement and a variety of information and tools to lead you in the direction of problem solving your situation.  Generally an IBCLC charges for their time.  LLL has a time-honored tradition of peer-to-peer counseling offered at no charge.

 Today I am nursing our child about to turn three as well as our nine-month old.  I remind myself of my “epiphany moment”.  I never imagined that our journey into tandem nursing would last this long.  I expected our third child to wean sometime between 15 months and 22 months like his siblings did.  He is re-writing my parenting experiences by simply refusing to give up his daily nursing session.  Sometimes he pushes for two, and when the timing works out, he is a happy person.

 I have lost my shyness about nursing in public anymore.  I thank all the women who have gone before me. They claimed breastfeeding as the “normal”, and they advocate for our society to accept breasts as food sources above all their other uses. I was covered from my neck to my ankles when I fed our first-born in public.  Now I am a big fan of the blouses designed to nurse discreetly in public without having to use a nursing cover.  I hope to lend confidence to other mothers so that they come out of the restrooms and the uncomfortable corners, and so that maybe one person’s mind is changed about the real function of our breasts: they have functions outside of being sexualized and their use as marketing tools.  Their primary function is to be the original source of “perfectly formulated” food for our children.

 My favorite anecdote is from a friend who could not breastfeed her children.  Heretofore, their feeding paradigm was bottle-feeding.  After hanging around with our family, her daughters started to nurse their baby dolls instead of bottle-feeding them. I did not expose my breasts to them, or lecture them on the benefits of breastfeeding.  The shift happened because I nursed when the baby showed signs of hunger.  It was an acceptance that came from simply doing what I was doing for the baby, without shame or apology.

 I am grateful that the choice to breastfeed has been a joyful one for our family.  I wish all you mamas peace in the choices you make for your family.  Aspire to make your choices with intention and remember that we are all growing and learning together.  Write your story with confidence that you are doing the best that you can for your child(ren) and that you are shaping the best path for your family.

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