If you missed Part One of My Breastfeeding Story, check it out here
By the time I made it to six months breastfeeding Meghan, the rough beginning seemed like a distant dream. I can’t stress enough how much easier the whole process gets. Gone were the days of waking up totally engorged with soaking wet sheets because I leaked everywhere, no more needing to wear breast pads or worrying about leaking through my shirts, and Meghan was no longer choking and sputtering when my milk let down. By six months, we were both comfortable with breastfeeding and had a good nursing relationship.
The only issue with breastfeeding as Meghan got older was distractibility. There are so many interesting things to check out–who needs to stay latched and get the feeding finished?! Distractibility is really a minor issue, and that shows that once you get passed the beginning period, breastfeeding gets so much easier.
Even though the breastfeeding itself is easier, that doesn’t mean there won’t be emotional issues you, as a woman, may have to deal with. As a breastfeeding mother, there is a lot of pressure. I remember feeling like I couldn’t be away from Meghan for very long because I was her main source of nutrition. She needed me. A lot. We gave her her first bottle of expressed milk when she was two weeks old. Many argue that this is too young and can cause nipple confusion, but that wasn’t the case with Meghan. We continued to offer her a bottle about once a week for the first few months. We wanted to make sure that if I needed to be away when she was hungry, someone else could feed her.
Then, around four months, we kind of forgot about it. I didn’t pump as much because I was, well, lazy. Pumping is a pain in the butt and while I knew it was a good idea to build a freezer stash, sometimes I just didn’t feel like it. A stay-at-home mom, I rarely needed to be away from her for long periods and could plan my outings around her feedings. Then, one day I did need to be away from her for longer than usual. I was getting my hair done and couldn’t time the feeding to have her eat right before I left, so it was inevitable she was going to need some milk before I got back. I left her some thawed breast milk in a bottle and figured it would be fine,even though it had been a few months since we offered her a bottle. I came home to a screaming baby who wouldn’t take the bottle. Her bottle days were done and from then on it was milk straight from Mommy only until she learned to drink from a sippy cup. Even then, she wouldn’t drink much milk at all unless she was nursing. We should have continued with the bottle feedings regularly because I never felt peace when I was out without Meghan. Maybe I was neurotic, but I couldn’t help but worry that she was going to need me and always felt like I needed to rush home.
Before I knew it, Meghan was turning a year. It was a slow transition into solid foods, but between six months and a year she went from eating purees I made for her to finger foods. She was still going strong with nursing and showed no signs of slowing down. This was a difficult time for me. It seemed like the most “normal” time to wean. None of my friends breastfed their babies longer than a year, and my mother-in-law is the only person I knew who had nursed longer than the standard 6-months-to-a-year. In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to wean, but somehow felt like I should.
At Meghan’s one year well visit, I talked to her doctor about it. I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but wanted to discuss my options. I knew I didn’t want to give her cow’s milk. Tim and I don’t drink it and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable giving something to my one-year-old that I don’t even trust putting into my own body. In my opinion, God created milk for each mammal to feed their young, not to cross feed. If you look at the nutritional composition of cow’s milk versus human milk, it’s very different. And rightly so. Cow’s milk is specifically designed to promote the rapid growth of a baby calf, not the specific nutritional needs of a growing human baby. So I asked Meghan’s pediatrician what she felt, beyond cow’s milk, my options were. She said that the soy milk Tim and I drank was not appropriate for a baby or toddler and I agreed. She told me that cow’s milk or mommy milk were the best options. She let me know that Meghan would only need milk until the age of 2, and that after that it wasn’t something she had to have.
My decision was made. I knew I didn’t want to give Meghan cow’s milk, so I would continue to breastfeed her until at least the age of 2. I was relieved to have a reason beyond my own emotions to point to when people asked (and they would ask) why I was continuing to breastfeed. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was ready to embark on the unique adventure of breastfeeding a toddler.
Stay tuned for Part Three of My Breastfeeding Story and hear all about the ups and downs of breastfeeding a toddler.