The post below is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding. At the end of the post are links to the other participants and their posts on extended breastfeeding. Please visit their blogs after you finish reading mine!
One of my favorite times of the day is the middle of the night. Like clockwork, around 3:30 every morning, I wake to tiny hands on my waist and the sweet voice of my 11-month-old son singing “mamamama.” From my side, I turn toward him slowly in my bed without knocking him down—these days I wake to him standing, facing me, using my shoulder or my hip as a ballet bar for quick and tiny pliés. As I pick him up, lay him next to me on his back, and whisper in his ear his favorite line that he’s heard thousands of times, “are you a hungry baby?,” he kicks his legs excitedly and squeals. I lift my pajama shirt, he pops on for his early breakfast, and I doze off to the rhythm of his sucks and swallows with his warm little body close against mine.
I didn’t know I would nurse this long. Although I had planned to heed the American Academy of Pedicatrics (AAP) recommendation to nurse “for the first year and beyond,” I honestly wasn’t sure I’d make it. Though I had excellent breastfeeding support in the hospital after my c-section (not an elective procedure—I had to endure 40 hours of labor before surrendering to it—another story for another day), I had millions of questions when I got home. While pregnant, I read several books on nursing, which certainly helped. Still, there was so much I didn’t understand. I remember asking myself hundreds of times: “how can a natural process come with so many questions?!” For me, the main challenges were too much milk (I was engorged a lot at first and my milk would choke my precious newborn because it came out so fast!). Some other challenges were a breast infection (mastitis) I got sometime around my son’s three-month mark, the biting that began (and thankfully ended shortly after) the appearance of his first teeth, and then the heat I took in general from my family, co-workers, and friends—especially those from past generations—for “inconveniencing” myself with nursing when “formula is just as good.”
The kicker for me was when I went back to work full time after my four-month maternity leave (a godsend). This was the most challenging period of my breastfeeding days thus far. Bringing my pump and all its tiny parts to work, and then finding time to assemble it, use it, and wash it several times a day between meetings and deadlines was tough at first. On top of that, the first week I was back to work, after months of sleeping in his bassinet seven to eight hours a night without waking, my once good sleeper began waking every hour or two of the night and refusing to go back to sleep until I nursed him.
Fortunately, it all got easier. If you are a mom in some challenging phase of breastfeeding, I tell you that with confidence—it gets so much easier! I still pump twice a day at work, which I admit I don’t love. That’s one part of the breastfeeding process that I doubt sincerely I will miss. However, my frustration with the process has dwindled. Now that my son eats solid foods and has spread out his nursing sessions, I only need to pump twice a day. Moreover, my (male) boss is used to my office door being shut a couple times a day and to me having to step out of meetings to take care of “mommy duties”. As for the nighttime feedings, after several nights of getting little or no sleep after pulling baby out of his bassinet and into a rocking chair to nurse him every few hours, I decided it was time for him to sleep in our bed. That way, he could nurse when he wanted, and neither of us had to get up. Months later, that’s still how we do it.
“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”—Unknown
This has been one of my favorite quotes for years. I’ve reflected on this quote many times since my son’s birth: when he was a teeny tiny newborn that would cuddle up in my arms for hours at a time, when he first began smiling and then laughing, babbling, crawling, standing, and pointing. There are so many precious little things that I’ve made sure to treasure, knowing that although they are all short-lived, these are the things that I will look back on as meaning the most.
The choice to nurse is no little thing. Ask any mom who wakes several times a night to hungry cries or who pumps three times a day, five days a week. But, nursing is something that brings so many little moments to be cherished. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the excitement in my son’s face when he knows I’m about to feed him, his loving gaze into my eyes while he’s nursing, or all those times we have snuggled close to each other, skin to skin, and my milk was his lifeline. I imagine, years from now, when I wake to the digital 3:30 on my alarm clock and my son is asleep in his room, I’ll think of what it was like when he was nestled against me as a baby and drinking from my body. And it will be a big thing.
The post above is part of the Carnival of Breastfeeding. Please use the links below to hear from other participants in the Carnival on extended breastfeeding.
Elita @ Blacktating: The Last Time That Never Was
Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC: Old enough to ask for it
Karianna @ Caffeinated Catholic Mama: A Song for Mama’s Milk
Judy @ Mommy News Blog: My Favorite Moments
Tamara Reese @ Kveller: Extended Breastfeeding
Jenny @ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: The Highs and Lows of Nursing a Toddler
Christina @ MFOM: Natural-Term Breastfeeding
Rebekah @ Momma’s Angel: My Sleep Breakthrough
Suzi @ Attachedattheboob: Why I love nursing a toddler
Claire @ The Adventures of Lactating Girl: My Hopes for Tandem Nursing
Elisa @ blissfulE: counter cultural: extended breastfeeding
Momma Jorje: Extended Breastfeeding, So Far!
Stephanie Precourt from Adventures in Babywearing: “Continued Breastfeeding”: straight from the mouths of babes
The Accidental Natural Mama: Nurse on, Mama
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Gratitude for extended breastfeeding
Nikki @ On Becoming Mommy: The Little Things
Dr. Sarah @ Good Enough Mum: Breastfeeding for longer than a year: myths, facts and what the research really shows
Amy @ WIC City: (Extended) Breastfeeding as Mothering
The Artsy Mama: Why Nurse a Toddler?
Christina @ The Milk Mama: The best thing about breastfeeding
TopHot @ the bee in your bonnet: From the Mouths of Babes
Beth @ Bethstedman.com: Extended Breastfeeding: To Wean Or Not To Wean
Callista @ Callista’s Ramblings: Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
Amanda @ Postilius: Nursing My Toddler Keeps My Baby Close
Sheryl @ Little Snowflakes: Tandem Nursing- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Zoie @ Touchstone Z: Breastfeeding Flavors
Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Same old, same old: Extended breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Six misconceptions about extended breastfeeding
Jona (Breastfeedingtwins.org): Breastfeeding older twins
Motherlove Herbal Company: Five reasons to love nursing a toddler
Mama Alvina of Ahava & Amara Life Foundation: Breastfeeding Journey Continues
Mamapoeki from Authentic Parenting: Extended Breastfeeding?