Here are the oldest best online sources for breastfeeding information, followed by my experiences and thoughts on the topic.
101 Reasons to Breastfeed http://www.promom.org/101/index.html
Kellymom-Breastfeeding & Parenting http://www.kellymom.com/
La Leche League http://www.lalecheleague.org/
No, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. In the beginning, I endured 6 weeks of painful latch-ons and cracked nipples. I tried nursing in different positions and was always making sure Rhiannon’s lips were flanged out and her body aligned just so. I had two bottles of Lansinoh, one for upstairs, one for downstairs. I read all I could about how to breastfeed. No where did I read anything about fair skin being a problem, but I think that’s what my problem was. Rhiannon’s nursing didn’t change. But after about 6 weeks, the huge cracks in my nipples did finally heal, and slowly I weaned myself from the Lansinoh.
Then came the on-and-off fussy nursing. Rhiannon would start nursing, then she’d pull off, then latch on again, back and forth. And she’d cry. I would cry too. So I read more and asked questions, and I learned about overactive letdown. Indeed I started noticing that my milk could spray quite a distance. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so upsetting to Rhiannon. It also made it hard to nurse in public because Rhiannon pulled off the nipple so many times. I learned to always have a cloth diaper handy to catch the milk.
I even had a plugged duct once, but that was no big deal. I just rested the whole day, nursed as often as possible, and that was over with quickly.
Never once, not when newborn Rhiannon latched on and I cringed in pain, not when I looked at the cracks in my nipples, not when I leaked milk on t-shirt after t-shirt after t-shirt, not even when Rhiannon was crying so hard because she hated the milk squirting at her, never did I ever consider not breastfeeding. Even before I knew of all the benefits for both baby and mom (and even society!), I knew breastfeeding was the way to go. Naturally babies are meant to be nourished by Mom.
Honestly, a big reason I always planned to breastfeed was because I knew it would be easier than dealing with bottles. But now that I have experienced the nursing relationship, I know it’s so much more than just easier. Many hours we have spent snuggled up together, warm and cozy, while I nurse my daughter. We both feel the effects of the relaxing hormones. She looks up at me and thanks me with her beautiful blue eyes. She (and sometimes I) drift off into dreamland. Nursing a lot more than just feeding.
October 16, 2002
Rhiannon can have Mommymilk as long as she wants. I have seen no signs of her losing interest in it. Rather, it’s such a big part of our relationship, it’s hard to imagine not nursing. Rhiannon nurses less often and for shorter periods of time, but still several times a day. It’s hard to say how much, since she has lots of little snacks here and there throughout the day. I’ve come a long way from the early days when I actually recorded the time and length of her nursing sessions! Now, at 16 months old, she may nurse 3 times in one hour, and then not again for 3 hours, for example. She continues to nurse to sleep–always, as if she is unaware it’s possible to fall asleep without it. She also asks for Mommymilk when she gets hurt, and her cries of pain instantly stop as soon as she latches on.
I’m very happy with our nursing relationship, and I am in no rush for it to end. I have almost wished for it to slow down at least, because I seem to be one of those for whom nursing keeps away fertility. We’ve been ready to conceive another baby since the Spring, but my periods have yet to return. I actually started trying to encourage Rhiannon to eat more solids in the hope that she’d nurse less and my periods would return. But she’s eating 2 or 3 solid meals a day, and snacks, and still I have no period. I’ve decided to let things happen naturally. This is nature’s way of spacing children. I know things will get more complicated with another baby, so I’m enjoying being with just Rhiannon right now. We want our babies close together in age, but there are good things about having them further apart as well. With Rhiannon older, she’ll be able to do more things on her own, and understand better when my attention is taken from her by a new baby. In any case, Rhiannon is my current nursling, and I wouldn’t think of weaning her just to make her a sibling. Our nursing relationship is a very important part of our lives.
April 22, 2003
Rhiannon is going to be 2 years old in one month and she adores mommymilk! She actually sits back and says, “Look at the mommymilk,” and lovingly eyes my breast and pats it. I’ve looked forward to tandem-nursing, so, for the most part, I’m happy with how it’s going. She really doesn’t nurse that much. During the day, the only regular nursing session is going to sleep for her nap. Then, she has lots of little snacks throughout the day, lasting only a few minutes at most. And she rarely asks for mommymilk while we’re out.
She always, always, always nurses quite a bit in the pre-dawn hours. This has been a pattern for as long as I can remember, and it continues to this day. She sometimes goes all night without nursing from the time she nurses to sleep until that pre-dawn nursing session, but that pre-dawn session never varies. It’s unfortunate. For some reason, that is the only time that I’m getting really irritated, now that I’m pregnant. It actually feels like she’s gnawing on me. I’ve begun asking her to please stop, but it often doesn’t work. She’s always half-asleep still, so she probably doesn’t hear me. We’ve been getting out of bed an hour or 2 earlier than we used to, so I can offer her breakfast instead. This has made for some wild swings as our schedule adjusts. Some naps were skipped, some naps occurred in the early morning!
We had one or two nights when she wanted to nurse a lot and I kept pulling away and being really slow to respond to her cries for “mommymilk.” She even says, “mommymilk please!” sometimes! I started thinking about leaving her in her room. Indeed I did one night, but when she called for me in the middle of the night, I just brought her into bed with me. I’m not going to force a change for just a little irritation that will pass. I have decided that if she night-weans on her own I will be happy though. It’s still early. My dwindling milk supply will probably completely disappear in the second trimester. Rhiannon denies my assertion that there’s not much mommymilk though. When I’ve tried to dissuade her nursing because, “Mommy’s just not making much milk anymore, sorry!” she argues, “Yes, there is! There’s milk!” I know she can get it out more efficiently than I can but I hardly get drops when I try to hand-express. So, at this point I’m just waiting to see what happens…
July 9, 2003
Ouchee! It always hurts when Rhiannon latches on now! This has been the case since sometime in May. I have absolutely no milk! The pain goes away after a few seconds or a minute, and then it’s fine… for about 10 minutes at most. Then it gets incredibly irritating. If I weren’t so convinced of the benefits of tandem nursing, I’d be discouraging nursing much more than I already am. Rhiannon is down to only nursing to sleep, with very rare requests at other times. And she has been skipping a lot of naps lately, so we can go the whole day without nursing. She usually sleeps through the night too. So I feel I can handle the brief pain and the irritation for a few more months until Caroline and my milk come! I’ve even told Rhiannon that there will be milk again when her sister comes out. I’ve said it so many times, I think she understands. She is giving up long nursing-to-sleep sessions gradually easier too. We had many very frustrating nights when it took over an hour for her to fall asleep! Lately, she has been letting go before she is completely asleep, and falling the rest of the way asleep on her own.
August 5, 2004
Wow! It has been over a year since I wrote on this page. That’s probably because of how difficult the year was. I persevered through the rest of pregnancy, nursing Rhiannon, expecting all the irritability to disappear with Caroline’s birth. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In fact, Rhiannon increased her nursing when my milk started flowing (which is typical for tandem nursers) and I found that the more we nursed the harder it was. I am very disappointed that I cannot nurse my girls together at the same time, as I had imagined how sweet it would be. But we have at last come to a mostly settled place, with Rhiannon only nursing to sleep or wake up, and not even every day. Probably about half the time, Robert puts her to bed (lately he’s been reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to her). She still occasionally asks to nurse during the day, but I sympathetically remind her we don’t do that, and she no longer gets upset about it. I think sticking to my decision to only nurse at certain times was important. I can’t tell you how many times I tried some new pattern, only to give in and nurse her anyway when she pleaded. I was used to nursing her on demand. I somehow forgot in between nursings how irritating it felt. But I was soon reminded when she nursed, and I was grumpy a lot. It’s still not totally comfortable nursing her, but it’s much easier to handle since it’s so infrequent. Plus she is able to go to sleep without nursing all the way to sleep, and nursing sessions usually last just as long as one letdown (two at the most). I have no plans to try to make any changes now. I’m still committed to child-led weaning. What we’re doing is working well, providing a nutritional “cushion” to ease any possible concerns over her picky eating habits, and letting Rhiannon cling to a little bit of babyhood until she’s truly ready to leave it on her own.
It’s a little strange, but I can nurse Caroline immediately after an irritable nursing session with Rhiannon , even on the same side, and feel no discomfort at all. It leads me to think the irritation is due to the size of Rhiannon’s mouth and/or the strength of her suck. I suppose some of it could be a psychological thing too, wanting to save my milk for the one who really needs it. I was particularly conscious of this when I was struggling with my new dietary restrictions due to Caroline’s allergies and was finding it hard to eat enough.
Nursing Caroline has been a very different experience. We haven’t had any specifically breastfeeding problems, no soreness at all (bought a new bottle of Lansinoh for nothing!), and not much trouble with overactive let down (she fussed for a little while at letdowns, but sometimes Rhiannon helped, and she grew and learned to handle it quickly). But the most surprising difference is that Caroline doesn’t seem to be a comfort nurser. I was actually able to lie her down to sleep by herself a lot until the eczema, and scratching, became an issue. And lately I’m learning she’d rather get up and try again when she falls instead of nurse away the owie. It was kind of baffling to me at first, since offering to nurse at any sign of distress has become a habit with me. I wonder if this means she might lose interest in nursing at a younger age (maybe before Rhiannon LOL). I’m curious how this will affect the return of my fertility. Luckily, she does nurse several times at night (but rarely fully wakes up), and that has a big effect on fertility. We haven’t made up our minds whether to have another child, but one thing is for sure, I’d like Caroline to be weaned, or at least hardly ever nursing, before having another, because I know now how my body dislikes tandem nursing. However, at the same time, I hope she will nurse a long time, because of her allergic potential. But then, I sometimes think I don’t feel like bothering with birth control or taking daily waking temps, so maybe we’ll just let nature decide.
In any case, breastfeeding is going very well now and I still feel rather passionate about it!
October 24, 2004
Caroline has become quite the acrobatic nurser! She twists around and stands up without letting go of the nipple. I think this is how I’ve been awakened everyday for weeks now: Caroline climbing all over the bed and me, latching on and off and on again in various positions. I wish I could get a photo. She’s also an expert at helping herself to the milk, and if I lie down on the floor to play with my girls, Caroline takes it as an invitation to have a snack, crawls over to me, and lifts my shirt.
December 10, 2006
To update this page, Caroline gave up mommymilk soon after I got pregnant, earlier than I would have liked. She weaned in mid-April, amazing easily.
Ian started nursing with gusto within a minute of being born and has kept it up quite regularly, though not frequently. I LOVED the way breastfeeding suppressed my cycles after the girl’s births for 17 and 26 months respectively, and I fear that Ian sleeps too much and doesn’t nurse enough to repeat that experience. Because he latched on so quickly and things started out so well, I thought at first Ian would be a comfort nurser like Rhiannon, but now I’m not so sure. He is the most sensitive of the three of them to my overactive letdown: it makes him very mad and he often refused to keep trying to nurse. I have put us on a severe block schedule, breastfeeding almost exclusively on the left during the day and the right at night (which, incidentally works really well with babywearing and our co-sleeping arrangement). Now we still have squirty milk upon switching sides, but we don’t switch often. Ian still prefers to be bounced to sleep, not nursed to sleep, though.
February 22, 2008
Ian was exclusively breastfed until about 6 months, and then only nibbled a few things occasionally until around his first birthday. Now at nearly 16 months he has been much more interested in food for the last few months than he was before his birthday. But he still always nurses to sleep, and he’s nursing a few times a night. He is only beginning to eat every time we eat; he has yet to have a “complete” meal. Then again, my daughters rarely do either! He’s not really a comfort nurser, but he does have times, probably related to teething or illness, when he wants to nurse more. He’s the most twiddly of all three of my babies. He must hold on to the other nipple!
April 9, 2009
I’m still giving mommymilk! Ian is 29 months old and nurses to sleep primarily. He has developed much more interest in solid food over this last year. He is on the verge of giving up naps, so we can go a lot of the day without nursing, but it’s definitely a strong part of our going-to-sleep routine. I’m getting tired of it and kind of hoping to be done with it this year, but I’m not ready to push it yet. It’s still a wonderful thing, to be able to give something so nutritious so easily.
June 23, 2010
I was looking at these old pages on my blog, and realized this one needs a conclusion, now that I’ve reached the end of my mommymilk-producing years. Ian was completely done with mommymilk in early March, at the age of 40 months. The last time he asked for it, he tried for 2 seconds and then let go, like he changed his mind. I was getting increasingly antsy about it through the fall and winter, and started encouraging him to let it go. In the last couple of months, he was mostly only nursing before bed, and after a couple of minutes I would tell him its not working anymore. He would roll over and we’d just snuggle. Then, rocking replaced mommymilk, and all spring I almost always rocked him to sleep. But even that is changing fast. I think I’ve only rocked him to sleep a couple of times this month. Now he usually falls asleep with me lying beside him reading Anne of Green Gables series books to his sisters.
I look at other moms breastfeeding and it brings back fond memories. It made mommying so much easier. No worries about whether my child is eating healthy food. It comforts like nothing else. Along with babywearing, it makes babies so portable. It helps control Mom’s weight gain too. I’m gaining weight faster now; I’ve got to exercise more! It’s nice not having to plan my outfit based on ease of breastfeeding anymore, but I have no regrets about my nearly 8 years of breastfeeding. Rhiannon got it for 4 years, Caroline 2 and a half, and Ian 3. It was a wonderful experience for both of us and it gave my kids a healthy start in life, physically and emotionally. Yay for mommymilk!