Thursday, November 1, 2012

Making it to 100 percent! Nursing for a year

I'm so excited and feel very blessed to say Sammy and I made it to his first birthday without a drop of formula!  This was my goal and it is really awesome to have been able to fulfill 100% of it.  We've been very fortunate to not have had many bumps in our breastfeeding journey all of which made this awesome and exciting milestone possible and even more special.  I know there a lot of women who want to nurse and aren't able to make it this far for various reasons.  We were fortunate to not have any early hurdles to overcome which can including having a preemie or a baby in the NICU, a rough start from having a csec, not getting the opportunity to pump at work, etc or sadly because they are ill informed.  Because of that I know this milestone truly marks again something that so many people take for granted, a healthy baby!  That is the best blessing of all.
When I was pregnant, breastfeeding was something I wanted to do because it saved money and was good for Sammy's health.  It didn't dawn on me, the amazing connection we would have through nursing.  Nursing has been a major way I've gotten to know Sammy and myself as a mother over the last year.  I think there is something about sitting still somewhere between 6-10 times a day for a good 10-20 minutes at a time that will do that to a mother and her baby.  There are so many memories that I've accumulated through this time and while so many days have grouped together over the last year, many of my fondest non singular memories are from nursing.  Some are of holding him in the wee hours of the night, or of him stopping racing around a room to climb into my nap kicking his feet contentedly against me and of just being able to gaze into each others eyes in such a calm, peaceful and natural moment.  

Even Bailey loved this special time!
Looking back over the year, one thing I've really loved is watching Sammy's personality and mental/physical development take shape while nursing.  There are so many times when you look at your baby and think, "WOW, you are bigger, or how could your hair have grown that much overnight", or wow, you are REALLY intrigued by those stripes on my shirt, or wait a second, were you really just able to move your body like that?!

Sammy pretty much won my heart when we were in the hospital and he was nursing for the first few times.  After he was done nursing, he would pick up his tiny little head, just far enough that he could settle in on top of my chest and take a snooze.  It cracked me up.  I was amazed at his strength to be able to do such a profound movement with his neck at such a young age and felt so blessed to have this sweet little person snuggled so close to me.  He did this almost every time for the first three months, I so wish I could remember the last time he plopped his sleepy head down on me in one swift motion like that.  On a side note, I will add that I'm not trying to sugar coat how hard the first 2-3 weeks were.  It was painful and tiring to say the least.  I think many women fold in the towel around this time, but it is worth it to continue past the pain of engorgement, getting used to a baby latching and just the sheer exhaustion of being a milk maid.

The next several months was definitely an adjustment for me nursing Sammy.  He was SO distracted!  Babies seriously wake up and don't miss a beat around 4 months.  Everything had him turning his head to look.  I swear a pin could drop and he would crane his neck to figure out where it was, what it was, etc.  It was cute for a minute but quickly became frustrating.  It was so hard to feed him that Sammy did lose a bit in his weight percentile.  I really wasn't sure how to feed him!  I ended up feeding him in a dimly light room for a while, sometimes when he was tired in his nursery before and after his naps.

In April, when Sammy was around 5 months, I ended up with a terrible 24 hr stomach bug.  I completely lost my milk supply.  I was crushed.  Sammy had really never taken bottles and I felt terrible that all of a sudden I couldn't provide for him.  I drank water, water, water, water and ate, ate and ate some more.  I drank beer, mother's milk tea and somehow managed to get my supply back in a few days to a week.  I was determined that this would not be the end of our journey.  Since he was so resistant towards bottles, we had to just go along with a supply and demand relationship until my supply came back.  One good thing that came out of the ordeal was that my over supply which was always causing Sammy to spit up, finally stabilized to meet exactly his needs.  Perseverance and prayer never fail.

As Sammy moved into the second half of his first year, nursing him became so silly and funny.  He was starting to show me just how much he also loved nursing.  Most weekend mornings Paul takes Sammy so I can sleep in and rest (yes, I'm a very lucky woman).  When Sammy sees me after hanging out with Paul for a while, he's giddy with excitement.  He races over to me, tugs at my shirt and plops himself down to top off the tank.  Somedays, he can't wait for me to switch sides and flops over so fast I'm glad I have my hands to the side in time to catch him before he falls over or gives himself whip lash.

Somewhere in the midst of Sammy loving to nurse so much, when he was nine months he abruptly didn't want to nurse.  He was inconsolable, I was so lost and I realized that we do really need to appreciate and enjoy each moment.  Babies really do grow up in a blink of an eye.  How will I ever  know when it will be the last time he does something.  At that moment I would have been happy to get woken up at 2 am to nurse Sammy.  Until his bout with Roseola, I had started to become very frustrated that I was the only invited guest in his room in the middle of the night.
I guessing that around 9 months is a totally normal time frame for many nursing mothers, myself included to really want to not feel so tethered to their babies.  Being able to go away for a weekend with your spouse, sleeping a full night, spending a day alone doing absolutely nothing...

After experiencing Sammy's nursing strike, I stopped taking for granted the solace of this time period in our lives together as mother and son.  Sammy is rambunctious and inquisitive little man.  The time when he settles in to nurse is truly the only time that I'm really just able to hold him and love him.  It's like a fresh breath of young babyhood amidst the race of toddlerhood.  Praise God his nursing strike ended within three days.  I no longer take this time for granted and cherish it as a period of time in our lives which is fleeting and special.  A beachy vacation alone with Paul, can wait a little while longer.  That is why I'm very happy to let Sammy self wean.  I've always been pro on demand feeding and Sammy crossing the 12 month mark isn't going to change that pattern for us.  I wouldn't even know how to go about weaning him at this point and quite honestly, I see no reason not to follow his lead.  I haven't been able to find an answer to why the AAP and WHO differ in opinion as to when babies can be weaned.  The AAP says at least 12 months, while the WHO says at least 24 mo.  Either way, I have no desire to rush Sammy through a transition for something he has done every single day since the first few minutes of his life.

I hope you enjoyed a reading about our years journey through nursing!


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