Sunday, March 13, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
I am a nursing mom.
Once upon a time, way before I even thought about having kids, I was pretty sure I would breastfeed, but I KNEW I wouldn’t go past infancy (technically, a year). To be honest, I was a little weirded out by people who nursed toddlers. Well, I should say, I was weirded out by the idea of a toddler nursing. I really felt like, once a child was walking and talking – the old “if they can ask for it, they’re too old” idea – how could there be any need to continue nursing. Ok, who am I kidding… I was weirded out by the idea of nursing at all. Really.
And then I got pregnant. Being in Kodiak, I was exposed to a lot more natural parenting ideas than I think I would’ve been in the real world. It wasn’t that I sought them out, it just seemed that I was around people who knew things about doulas and minimal-intervention childbirth, and nursing. I think going to a family practice clinic rather than an OB for my prenatal care probably helped that along.
The more I heard about these things, though, the more I looked into them. We took a childbirth class with a natural childbirth educator, who we also hired as our doula. She was also the volunteer with the Kodiak Kindness Project (a breastfeeding support program) who did our follow-up for breastfeeding. I watched “The Business of Being Born” while Jason was deployed one time (and promptly decided that homebirth was not for me, but that an unmedicated, minimal-intervention birth was). I started reading the kellymom website to learn about all things related to breastfeeding. And I decided I would nurse for a year.
To be honest, there were a few reasons why I chose to nurse, and not all of them were noble. Sure, it’s the food made just especially for a baby! But I’m cheap. And formula costs a lot. Assuming I’d be able to nurse with no problems, why would I pay for something I was making for free? Even with the expensive pump I’d need for going back to work, I was still going to come out way ahead. Also, nursing helps you lose baby weight faster. I had a uniform to get back into. Within a week of getting back to work after having Michaela, I submitted my paperwork to do the temporary separation program. There was no way I was buying all new uniforms for a year. So, although I knew that breastmilk was the best, most complete, source of nutrition I could offer my child, I liked the other benefits of breastfeeding just as much.
And then Michaela was born. And then she hit the 3-week growth spurt. And then I was a crying, blubbering, sore, touched-out, tired-of-feeding-the-child-every-hour-from-7-to-11-pm-just-to-wake-up-in-two-hours-to-do-it-again mess. And I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to be a snack machine. I wanted my child to see me as something other than just the lady with the food. But a wonderful group of ladies I know from an online community talked me off the ledge. They assured me that, if I could get to six weeks, it would all get easier. I doubted them, but I’m too stubborn to give up that easily (and I hadn’t lost enough weight yet, and I’m cheap), so I kept going.
And then it was 6 weeks. And then 8 weeks, when I went back to work. Nursing Michaela gave me an excuse to get to go see her every day at lunchtime so I could feed her once a day myself… something I was loathing at 3 weeks became my lifeline at 8 weeks. And then it was 6 months and we were still going, but she started to eat some real food, too. And then she was 11 months old and we were getting ready to move. There were some transitional issues going on at daycare and I found myself in a place I never thought I’d be… arguing for my choice – my right – to dictate that breastmilk would still be my child’s primary source of nutrition, regardless of the schedule at daycare. Who was this mom I’d become?
Then we moved. While we were on the trip, she turned one. I was going to stop at one. But through 23 days of cross-country driving, being able to nurse my – what??? – toddler was the one thing that made things a little easier for us all. Cranky afternoon in the car? Let’s pull over and let her nurse! She didn’t want to go to sleep at night? That’s fine, we’ll just nurse a little extra! Needing a little morning snuggle to get the day started right? Absolutely! Let’s nurse! Getting all set up in the new house with no furniture for a week or so was also made easier by the fact that we had a schedule of meals and nursing and naps and bedtime. I think the toddler was the one who dealt with all of it better than Jason and me!
But I was sure that as soon as we were settled, we’d wean. I was still a little weirded out by the idea of nursing this older child. By the time she was a year, she was able to sign “milk” so we kind of got passed that “old enough to ask for it” thing. So I’d moved past that. But I still didn’t like the idea of nursing a toddler, a real kid. But then we were settled and, although we started to drop some of the times we’d normally nurse as her schedule started to change, we were still nursing. Then she turned 14 months. 15 months. 16 months. By then, we were down to only two nursing sessions a day as she went to only one nap a day – nap and bedtime. Every once in a while, on a particularly cranky day, we’d throw an extra one in to calm her down.
But at 16 months, she still seemed so young to me. I knew she was a full-on toddler, but she just didn’t seem like she was “too old” to nurse. And then she was 17 months. And then 18. Somewhere along the line, we made our plans to go to the Mardi Gras Ball and have an overnight away from her in February. I just figured we’d be done nursing by then so it wouldn’t be a big deal at all. I mean, I was never going to nurse a toddler. And then she was 19 months. And then we went to that Mardi Gras Ball last weekend (and she was fine without me overnight!).
And now she’s less than 2 weeks away from turning 20 months and I’m a nursing mom.
And I don’t know when we’re going to stop. And I don’t know how I became someone who nurses a toddler. The strange thing is that, when I look down at her, I don’t see a toddler. I don’t see a baby, by any means, but I don’t see a toddler. I just see my girl, the one who has just always been a nursling. I don’t see a girl who’s “too old” or who “doesn’t need it” anymore. I see a girl who now says (or signs) “Milk, please!” when I get her ready for a nap or bedtime. I see the girl who stops eating to say random words as they pop into her head. Or to turn her head to see if she’s missing something on our bazillionth viewing of “Finding Nemo” in the past month. Or to get up and run around for a minute like she did tonight because she’s just not ready to settle down yet. I just see my girl.
Maybe she doesn’t *need* breastmilk anymore. She’s certainly getting great nutrition from all the food she eats. But some days, she doesn’t feel like eating much and I am comforted by the fact that she’s getting so much good stuff from me. And it’s not just the nutrition. Though we’re more scheduled in our nursing than a lot of other people are, and it can sometimes seem like more habit than comfort, I know that I am still her comfort and her constant. As she gets more and more independent every day, I know that coming to me to nurse grounds her and lets her know that she is safe and secure. That will help her spread her wings even more!
I don’t know how it happened. But I am a nursing mom.