1, 2, 3, 4: give me another one and I'll nurse more...
I've breastfed four children. Initially, I thought I would give it a go. I mean, it's God's way, right? So, it can't be hard. I was wrong. It was a challenge, but armed with the right information it can be an enjoyable, successful time.
I had many questions about nursing, but one question I wish people would have actually talked about: our breasts have multiple functions, one of which is sexual. It's ok to be worried that you will associate your nursing with your intimate life. I think it's natural. However, once you are nursing you realize that there isn't anything to worry about. Just wanted to throw that in there for ya.
So, with my first child, the nurses showed me how to latch him on. I skipped out of the hospital (hey, it was my first!!) thinking I had everything under control. Emotionally, I enjoyed breastfeeding. I felt like a good mom, and I felt like we were bonding. But physically it was taking its toll- cracked and bleeding nipples. Many phone calls later to La Leche League, I was adjusting and so was he. With him I nursed on demand. We had 14 wonderful months of nursing. I was sad to see it go, but he was ready.
With my next one born four months after I stopped nursing, it was a breeze. I hadn't had time to really adjust (physically or mentally) to not nursing, and it went quite smoothly with little problems. I started to slowly schedule his feedings trying to get him on a schedule. We nursed for eleven months.
My third was a challenge. I had two toddlers, and a baby who was distracted by her brothers. It took a lot of organization and creativity. But we managed, and we had 12 months of success.
Fast forward about five years to my fourth. This created a new challenge. First, let me say that everyone has different standards, and what's "right" for one family may not be "right" for another. After my husband and I talked we decided that I wouldn't be nursing the baby in front of the other kids because the boys were close to puberty, and I didn't want the baby under a blanket all the time. So, creativity and organization skills at hand, I headed off to the bedroom while the other kids watched a movie, played with puzzles, read, etc. I scheduled his feedings so I could make sure I was scheduling time for the older kids.
One problem we did have was his night feedings. I kept falling asleep while he nursed (I co-sleep the first few months), and then he would fall asleep as well. This meant his belly wasn't as full as it should have been, breastmilk is easily digested, so he was waking more during the night to eat leaving me exhausted!
At three months our son stopped growing. Not an inch. Not a pound. For three solid months. Specialist after specialist the final diagnosis was: failure to thrive. Alot of things contributed to his failure to thrive: he had pneumonia at a few months old, a few colds, and my diet. I can't stress enough that a breastfeeding mother shouldn't diet. Alas, he needed formula. After a few months of breastmilk first and formula last, my milk supply was back up and he was off of formula!! Yay!!! Then I got kidney stones and had surgery. Because of the medication I was on, I couldn't nurse for 10 days. I pumped and pumped, but my milk diminished. And because the baby wasn't a comfort nurser he stopped wanting to nurse when latched him on because there wasn't a lot of milk in there. My milk completely dried up. Seven months of nursing. Alot of struggles. Still worth it.
My point to my rabbit trailed nursing story is this: I have nursed a baby 7 months, and I have nursed one 14 months; I've done public nursing, I've done covered nursing; I've done straight breast milk, I've mixed breastmilk with formula; I've nursed on demand, and I've nursed on scheduled feedings; You HAVE to do what works for your family! The seasons of my life have changed, and so have the ways we've fed our children.
With each experience there have been obstacles to overcome. Even though I know what I'm doing, I know our final baby will still have to learn what to do. They aren't born truly knowing how to nurse. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing that benefits the entire household, but no one can tell you it's right for you. It does take time and patience and support. I say give it a go, the milk's in there anyway. Happy Nursing!