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breastfeeding

You’re still breastfeeding? How old is your daughter?

Yes, I still nurse my daughter, who is almost 21-months-old.

OK, that’s cool, but this topic makes me uncomfortable. Can we still be friends if I don’t read this article?

Sure, why don’t you check out these photos my husband and I took on our recent hike to the top of Spencer’s Butte. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable,  but I do think it’s important to raise awareness about this topic.

Are you some kind of breastfeeding activist?

Not exactly. I’ve never been very comfortable nursing in public, and I never nurse her in public now that she eats solid foods regularly. But I would like to live in a society where any woman would feel comfortable nursing in public — since breastmilk is the healthiest possible food you can give a baby.

Is it normal to breastfeed a toddler? I thought you were only supposed to nurse until age 1.

Both the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding until two years or more. Check out this Huffington Post article for more on the topic. True it is not the norm in the U.S., but Americans have very low rates of breastfeeding when compared to the rest of the world.

But doesn’t it hurt? Toddlers have lots of teeth.

Imagine sucking your thumb. Would that hurt? Sometimes babies go through biting phases, but if they want to continue nursing they will learn not to do so.

My pediatrician said there was no medical reason to breastfeed past age 1.

This is what my daughter’s former pediatrician implied, and although he was a very nice man, he was apparently misinformed about this topic. According to the Mayo Clinic “Breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition…There’s no known age at which breast milk is considered to become nutritionally insignificant for a child.” In addition to high nutritional value, breast milk also contains your antibodies to viruses, which can help your toddler stay healthy while her immune system is still developing. Extended breastfeeding also has many positive benefits to the mother’s health including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

I weaned my baby when I went back to work at 3 months. Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?

No way girlfriend. Being a mom is oh so challenging — we’re all just trying to do the best we can, right? In fact, nursing a newborn was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do, so kudos to you if you made it through these early weeks!

Mothers have been breastfeeding their babies throughout human history, so one would think that this natural act would come easily. At least that’s what I thought, before my daughter was born. My husband and I even went to a breastfeeding class at the hospital in order to be extra prepared.  “Newborn babies instinctively crawl to the breast after birth!” the lactation specialist cheerfully told us.

It was a rude awakening then to find that: 1) my newborn baby had no clue how to latch on, 2) I was so exhausted I could barely hold her in my lap, and 3) I had to breastfeed her every two hours around the clock for the first several weeks of life.

I know that I am not the only one who had a hard time with breastfeeding. I have heard other moms say that breastfeeding is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done. But since nursing is by far the healthiest and most cost-effective option for feeding your newborn, I offer you some tips for success.

Invest in a Brest Friend pillow.  Although I was hesitant to buy a $50 pillow, I found that it was well worth the money. It gave stable support to my daughter’s body and made it easy to get her into a good positioning for nursing.

Learn the side lying position.  Finally learning this nursing position when my daughter was about two-months-old made my life so much better – I wish I’d gotten it down sooner.  When you’re exhausted in the middle of the night, it’s much easier to lie in bed and nurse than to sit up in a chair. You can watch videos of this and other breastfeeding positions on YouTube to learn how it’s done.

Splurge on a double electric breast pump.  Even if you’re not planning on returning to work, this is an important investment – and your insurance company may even reimburse you. You will want the option of occasionally having someone else bottlefeed your baby, and it will be difficult to get enough milk without a double electric pump. Once we got the go ahead from the lactation specialist to bottlefeed, my husband took over one feeding per night. This allowed me to get much-needed four-hour stretches of sleep.

Catch up on your reading list. Reality check – you are going to be spending about eight hours a day breastfeeding your newborn. It can get a little boring. Get some good books or movies to keep your mind occupied and to help make this time more fun for you.

Be positive. Breastfeeding a newborn can be difficult, but it gets easier and more rewarding as time goes on. My daughter and I had a challenging start to our nursing relationship, and it took about a month to figure things out. Now, she is almost 11 months old and I’m still nursing her. Breastfeeding has given her the healthiest possible start to life, helped us bond, saved me time cleaning and sterilizing bottles, and saved our family more than a thousand dollars in formula costs. It has been well worth the challenges.