Thursday, 16 May 2013

Why I'm Still Nursing

I'm sitting in the green rocking chair in the baby's room, rocking gently back and forth in the semi-darkness. Watching her eyes slowly close. Hearing her breathing slow and even out. Feeling the intensity of her sucking change from the strong pulls that draw out milk to the staccato sucks that soothe her. She's snuggled close to me, and her fist is clutching my shirt, as though she needs an anchor. I run my fingers through the fine hair on her head, and she sighs, giving in to sleep.

I never thought I would enjoy nursing. Yet 10 months in, here we are.

I hear there are mothers out there for whom nursing comes easily; women whose babies immediately latch on to the breast and suckle contentedly. I am not one of those women.

With my first, a 24-hour labour ending in an unscheduled c-section meant that my milk didn't come in for more than a week. Not surprisingly, she came to prefer the bottle. Every time I put her to the breast, she would scream like she was being tortured.
I was stuck in a vicious cycle of trying to nurse, topping up with formula and then pumping to keep up the milk supply. The routine sucked away most of my time as well as my good spirits. Instead of enjoying my precious newborn, I dreaded each feeding. She would cry; I would cry.

We limped along like this for three months and I pumped for another month before deciding that enough was enough. Stopping nursing was absolutely the right decision—we were both much happier. In retrospect, I should have ignored the "mom guilt" and done it sooner.

With my second, the stars were better aligned. But she was a sleepy newborn, and even though she would nurse for 40 minutes at a time, many times a day, she wasn't gaining weight. Out came the pump again (although we didn't need the formula this time).

Then, just when I thought we were getting a handle on things, she woke up in the middle of the night, feverish and short of breath. We went to the emergency room where, because she was only two weeks old, they admitted her. She and I stayed there for two days while they ran a seemingly endless barrage of tests, only to conclude that it was a virus that would have to run its course. 

Needless to say, it was a setback. I watched, and waited, and pumped milk in case she wanted it.

But when she was better, slowly but surely, we found our groove. As she got stronger, she nursed better, and I eventually stopped pumping. At the three-month-mark, I found myself thinking, "I think we're getting good at this!" By four months, I stopped worrying about whether she was getting enough and relaxed.

I never thought I'd nurse past six months, but it's easy now. Sure, there are parts that I don't like—the leaky boobs, the constant demands that only I can meet—but I've also found a joy in it that I never expected, as we cuddle and she smiles up at me.

Both of my children are strong and healthy and beautiful, but I'm glad I was able to nurse my second. I knew from experience that nursing isn't always easy...what I didn't know is that sometimes, it can be lovely.


Unknown said...

First and foremost, you are an incredible writer... Which is no surprise. Touching, heartfelt and real and as a woman with no children a refreshing reality check to those who seem to fake their way through motherhood. Can't wait to keep reading to laugh a little and cry a little alongside you. Xoxo

Unknown said...

Thank you so much, Fiona! What a lovely comment and compliment. I certainly hope you will keep reading.