Tuesday, December 4, 2012

This is a story

I will tell you now, if you don't care for stories about being a mom or think breastfeeding is weird, then you need to close your eyeballs and move along.

Nursing doesn't get more public than the doorway of a bank at the base of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

This is a story...

If you asked me 2 years ago how long I was planning to breastfeed, I would have said, "probably not at all."

One obstetrician in my office had a very convincing argument for why I should not even attempt to nurse. You see, before I got pregnant I was on medications that are toxic to unborn children and dangerous to nursing babies. Yay drugs! We were prepared for a scenario where an early relapse after delivery would mean I needed to be back on those baby killing drugs ASAP. At 4 months pregnant, emotionally it was hard to give that possibility up, but logically it made sense.

Well, anyone who knows me is aware that the above scenario was not the case. In real life, my experience has been quite the opposite. I have been successfully, happily, and for the most part, healthily nursing Zoe for 18 months.

That's right 18 MONTHS. 

I have now gotten to the point that even nursing moms pause a while before asking, "Oh wait, how old is she?"

I have heard many people say they think a child is too old to nurse when they can ask for it. It's one of the most puzzling arguments I have ever heard and here is my reasoning.

At this age, Zoe actually asks to nurse by saying the word, "nurse."  It seems she meets the above criteria of being "too old". But, at 14 months she asked to nurse by signing "milk". At 10 months, she crawled into my lap. At 5 months, she cried. At 3 days, she rooted.

I took all of these behaviors as asking to nurse. They transitioned seamlessly into one another. Today wasn't that different from 10 days ago. 7 months ago wasn't that different from 8 months ago. The change from one day to the next is hardly noticeable, but now I have been nursing for 18 months, and we are worlds away from when she first latched at 5 minutes old.

These days, when her head is cradled in the crook of my arm, my outstretched fingers only reach the small of her back instead of her toes. She lies heavily across my lap instead of having to delicately hold her. She is simultaneously completely different and exactly the same.

I honestly don't remember the early days. And by days, I mean months. It probably sounds like we never struggled. Not because that was actually the case (we had thrush for 9 weeks), but because my mind just deleted it.

I used to only have 20 minutes in between feedings.
I used to cry at night about not being able to wean her off of using a nipple shield.
I used to eat carrots and string cheese at 3am because I was starving every time I fed her.

These are vague memories, veiled by fatigue and hormones.

Now, I plan on nursing as long as the situation is a positive experience for both of us. Currently, it is a symbiotic relationship. Mutually beneficial. I truly believe it has kept my MS symptoms in check, but the research is conflicting. In 2009 research said it helped. In 2011 research said it didn't.

I've had to seriously consider weaning on two occasions.

1.) At around 9 months when she was requiring an hour of rocking/bouncing after each night time feeding and crying for 2-3 feedings per night. I could feel the energy leaking from my body. Many sleep advice books made it sound like the only way to stop the night time feedings was weaning all together. The thought of weaning her was panicking me, so I obviously needed to find a different solution.

2.) At 16 months, I had an episode of severe fatigue and my functional status really declined this September. I was considering going back on some of those medications mentioned earlier. This time, I wasn't panicked: weaning at 16 months was fine with me. I didn't love that it wasn't on her terms. But more importantly, nursing is the easiest and best tool I had to comfort, calm, and distract her. I feared taking that option away would actually be more physically demanding on me. It just seemed counterproductive.

So even though extended nursing has documented benefits. I really feel like Zoe is the one giving me the gift.


  1. Breast feeding is a very personal, intimate thing between a mother & her child. Only you & the child will know when it's time to stop. I was not able to breast feed my child and it's something I feel I missed out on... sort of a hole in my motherhood.

    1. Sherri,
      Thanks so much for commenting. I'm sorry that you didn't get to nurse the way you wanted to.

  2. sorry - I posted a comment but realized it was linked to an email account for Aura to write her Papa, hence, "your princess".

    Love your reflection of this wonderful experience you and Zoe have gotten to share. I remember when you were pregnant, saying with disappointment that you didn't think you'd be able to nurse, and every time I've seen you since I am overcome with happiness knowing you're still nursing - knowing that you and Zoe both reap the benefits of it and that you've been able to follow both her lead and your body's in knowing how long to continue. Thank you for sharing

    1. Ha! Thanks so much Summer. Before I had Zoe you were actually the only person our age I knew who had nursed for any extended amount of time. Thanks for being a good role model!

  3. I cannot stand when people say how long other people should nurse. And I love the sequence of explaining how Zoe has always asked for it! I was devastated when Campbell weened herself at 10 months and hope Steven holds on forever... seriously I will probably be the mom nursing her 3 year old. Deal with it.

    1. I hope you get to nurse Steven as long as you want! At least pregnancy is a great reason to have to wean :)