Monday, August 9, 2010

A Year of Nursing

Wow.  It's hard to believe that I've made it to a year.  When I first got pregnant (and up until Baby Girl arrived), I was a little weirded out by the thought of nursing, honestly.  I knew I wanted to give it a try, but couldn't imagine what it would be like, having only used these puppies for pleasure previously. 

I remember the day I first saw some colostrum while I was still pregnant.  A friend of mine had mentioned that she had some (we were due around the same time), so I squeezed and got a little bit out.  It was both freaky and exciting at the same time--maybe my body was going to cooperate!

Baby Girl took to nursing fairly easily (with help from almost every nurse and a couple of lactation consultants!) while in the hospital.  Because of having a C-section, my milk didn't come in right away (it came in the day we left the hospital--day 5) and we were a little concerned that Baby Girl wouldn't gain weight well.  She also had a touch of jaundice (I found out later that we probably shouldn't have been discharged with as jaundiced as she was.  The measurement taken before we left the hospital was lower than the day before, so they thought it was on its way out of her system, whereas it then went back up the next day.), so the doctors really wanted me to nurse a lot to "wash" it out of her system. 

I still remember the stress I felt of having to go for weight checks.  It felt like a direct reflection on my abilities as a mother.  We were discharged on a Sunday and had our first pediatrician appointment on Monday.  We had to go back that Wednesday, Friday, and the next Monday to see if she was gaining weight.  That next Monday the doctor said since she was just one ounce below birth weight that she would be okay (they want them back at birth weight by the time they're two weeks okay, which would be that Wednesday).  I was so nervous we would have to supplement with formula, though, because I knew that the more she nursed, the more I would produce.  I wanted a chance to be able to provide because I was pretty sure if she had formula she wouldn't nurse as much and, therefore, I would never produce enough for her.  I'm thankful daily that we didn't have to supplement (both for my ego and for my wallet!).

We've had a couple of rough patches with nursing (including the night it was so painful that I didn't know what to do...thank God for a friend who offered me nipple shields at 10:00 p.m. who was dealing with her own newborn at the time!), but overall nursing has been amazingly easy for us.  We haven't had to deal with thrush, clogged ducts, undersupply, oversupply, or mastitis, which I realize is incredibly fortunate.  Each day that I nurse my baby I'm grateful for these blessings.

Nursing, though, while it hasn't been too bad physically, has taken an incredible emotional toll on me.  I'm very happy to do it and, in the moment, love it more than words can say, but it's been hard having to manage my bo.obs all the time.  I have to always be thinking of how I can relieve myself and am nervous about missing a session because I'm afraid my milk production will slow.  Many people will say "well, you can just have someone give her a bottle", which is true except that I still have to find a way to get the milk out of my body.  If I'm going to pump and *could* be close to her, then I'd just as soon nurse her.  It's entirely my own mentality, though.  I could probably miss some sessions without pumping and be okay, but don't want my supply to suffer because I'm being selfish. 

The hardest part is the combination of the pressure of being Baby Girl's sole source of nutrition with knowing that I ALWAYS have to think about how to get the milk out of my body and never have the true freedom to do something I'd like to and also with knowing that anything I put into my body is still affecting her (I always really thought that would end with her birth!).  I haven't had caffeine in a very long time...I'm overly cautious about it, but now fear what it would do to her if I had it.  This means I'm always looking for caffeine-free options, which can be difficult, especially when all you want is a Coke Zero!  It also means that I haven't had any alcohol in almost a year because I'm nervous and refuse to pump and dump.  No glass of wine is worth that and those stupid test strips are expensive.  This body-sharing also means I can't take drugs I'd like to sometimes when I'm sick, which includes my allergy medicine, but that's because I'm afraid it'll dry up my milk.

You'll find a theme to most of my complaints, though--they truly are my own choices, just like nursing.  I suppose it's going to be this way for the rest of my life--always making sacrifices for my baby.  I still think nursing her is the best thing for her, so I continue to pump three to four times a day during the week (I'm pumping once before bed every night because if I don't I'm not able to get the 12 oz per day that she needs) and I continue to make choices for her benefit. 

I can honestly say, though, that nursing now is more physically painful than it was when she was little. She twists and turns while she eats and I have a hard time controlling her. She's also forgotten the art of LETTING GO. She just slurps off and on and, well, it hurts. But we're working on it. At least she's stopping biting.

Many people have started to ask about weaning (especially when I mention the biting!).  I plan to just let her lead weaning whenever she's ready.  Many times she doesn't seem like she needs to nurse, but if you could see that smile when I offer (show her the sign for milk), it would melt your heart!  And there are still other times when she wakes from her naps that she's cranky until she gets her milk, so I know she still wants it, at least for now.

She loves to nurse and it's the only thing that can calm her sometimes, which makes me a little nervous for when we do wean!  It makes me wonder, though, if I have any soothing skills besides offering the breast.  I suppose we'll find out someday.  For now, though, whenever she wakes in the night The Hubby brings her to me and I nurse her back to sleep.  And I'm okay with it.  I don't think if I stopping nursing her that she'd necessarily stop waking, so I do it.  When she slept through the night for that glorious week it wasn't because I withheld nursing--she just did it of her own accord. 

I'll miss this bonding time when she does wean.  I love my snuggle time and because she's such an on-the-go type of girl, I don't know if she'll have time to snuggle with her mommy anymore.  I hope so.  I'll miss looking into those big brown eyes gazing up at me.  I'll even miss the way she pulls on my hair (she can get a little rough sometimes) and tries to play with my eyelashes while she eats.  I'll miss those lazy nursing sessions (we still have ones that last for 20 minutes or more!).  I'll miss that moment when she pops off and just lays there, asleep.  I'll miss this bond I have with my baby girl, but, for now, am just thankful for the year of success we've had.


Colleen said...

Congrats on nursing for a year Allison. I know what an accomplishment that is! You are a good mommy! :)

Cassie said...

Is it silly to say that I'm proud of you? Because I totally am. What a huge accomplishment. Baby Girl is so lucky!

Sarah Dee said...

Good luck on your continued journey, and congratulations.