Nursing Past One

When I was pregnant for the first time, I read everything I could about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. But I consciously shied away from reading anything about breastfeeding.

I wanted to breastfeed. But I didn’t want to know about it in an intellectual way. I just wanted to do it when the time came. Perhaps I was afraid if I knew too much in advance, it would make me anxious, maybe even too anxious to nurse.

Nursing at first wasn’t easy. In the hospital my nipples developed painful blisters that filled with pus and then with blood. I fretted that the baby would be made ill by the blood she swallowed (”Extra protein, nothing to worry about,” I was told), and I winced in pain when she latched on. My breasts became hard as tennis balls when the milk came in a few days after we returned home.

I went back to work when Hesperus was just six weeks old. A few days before my classes started (I was teaching at Emory University), I tried to fit the pieces of the breast pump together and started sobbing. I felt scared about leaving the baby, I felt stupid that I couldn’t figure out how the breast pump worked, and I felt worried about trying to be a professional when I was so sleep-deprived and my clothes were so spit-up stained. I was such an inexperienced and insecure mom that for awhile it took three of us—my husband, my best friend, and me—to change the baby.

How would James cope with being alone with her?

How would I cope with being so far away?

Somehow we managed to get through those difficult first weeks. James assembled the breast pump and a friend came over to show us how to use it. James fed Hesperus bottles of pumped breast milk when I was teaching, and the skinny frog-legged creature turned into a roly-poly baby, so fat she had five chins.

Though I got the only speeding ticket of my adult life rushing home to nurse between classes, the time that James was home alone with the baby really helped him feel bonded to her. Staying home with his daughter and getting to feed her bottled breast milk gave James the chance to be the primary parent (at least temporarily), able to satisfy all of the baby’s needs. Eleven years later James and Hesperus still have a special closeness.

I hoped to nurse the baby for a year. I ended up nursing her for over four.

This week at Mothering Outside the Lines is dedicated to the topic of extended nursing. Come back Wednesday to read an interview with Vanessa Lowe, a breastfeeding advocate and the producer of a radio documentary about extended nursing.

Listen to the documentary, Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy, now:

Related posts:
Breastfeeding mom ushered off plane by armed police
What can we do to help American women nurse?
A miracle cure for thrush infections (and it’s totally natural too)

When you have a question related to things like pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, do you find that it helps to read books or surf the Internet or talk to friends? Or do you just keep your head in the sand (like I did) until the time comes that you have to do it?

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8 thoughts on “Nursing Past One”

  1. [email protected] Food. Stories. says:

    That’s a sweet story my daughter and I are still nursing and going strong even though she’s two now!I am also a little boy in February and have been surprised at some of the comments I have received being s breadtfeeding very pregnant momma. Even bad a close friend admit she thinks my daughters too old!

  2. I was in exactly the same position before the birth of my first baby. I was almost afraid to read about breastfeeding. Still can’t figure out why. Now after four children, I’ve been breastfeeding for 8 1/2 years, pretty much consistently. I’m kind of amazed at myself. and my breasts, which aren’t down at my knees as you might expect. They’re actually pretty respectable looking -some people try to put you off by breastfeeding saying you’ll ruin your figure.

    I’ve found the internet a great source of info. sometimes a book seems like hard work and you can’t always be sure of an unbiased opinion from friends.

  3. I was scared about breastfeeding. Many of my close friends with kids had told me how HARD breastfeeding was- and it made me fear I wouldn’t be able to do it, or wouldn’t be able to do it easily. So before our birth, I searched “breastfeeding” on YouTube and spent hours watching some fabulous breastfeeding videos. I hadn’t been able to sit and watch any of my friends nurse their newborns, so those videos were really helpful and taught me a lot about latching, sucking vs. swallowing, and helpful tricks. It was time well spent. Even though we hit our own rocky breastfeeding patch, we overcame it with help from a lactation consultant and are still going strong at 13 months, with no plans to wean soon. My advice for other pregnant mamas is to watch friends nurse if possible (or go to a La Leche League meeting, where other mamas would be more than willing to let you watch!) and/or watch YouTube videos, and read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding- *before* baby arrives.
    .-= Em´s last blog ..Puppy Love =-.

  4. I breastfed my son for three wonderful years, and weaning was entirely his choice. When he was a toddler, some people asked me why I was still breastfeeding, but honestly, I couldn’t imagine how people get through the toddler stage without it. For him, nursing helped to center him after he’d been exploring his larger world; for me, it was a lovely, intuitive way to calm him down when he got overwhelmed. Nothing could comfort him so easily and so quickly. It helped both of us, and it was such a joy to see a confused or crying little boy turn into a calm, laughing, loving one after a few minutes on the breast.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Learning to ride a bike =-.

  5. I was the first of my friends to have children, so there was no point turning to any of them. My mother, aunts, and grandmother all either had outdated information or had fed their babies formulas, so again, no point turning to them! I found that searching the internet was my best source of current, accurate information, even if I had to learn how to tell the difference between good and bad information on my own. I also felt that finding information made me feel more confident that I knew what I was doing, which was very helpful when it became necessary to ignore the “experts” and do what was best for my children and myself.

  6. My twin sister had her first baby 7 months before my first baby so I had her support to lean on, as she had a premeie that had to learn to nurse at three months after being feed with the bottle for her first three months. Because of all she had been through she could tell me exactly where to get help and what my best resources were. There is a wonderful breastfeeding support group by us that was so helpful when I was struggling with my first. If you’d have asked me than if I would nurse past the age of one I would have said, “Absolutely not! I will wean at one.”. Then my baby got close to the one year mark and I couldn’t imagine putting her through a forced weaning. I was 7 months pregnant when she turned a year old. She weaned herself at 13 months. My second daughter weaned herself at 18 months and my third daughter pretty much weaned at 22 months; although, at 26 months old now she still asks to nurse once in a while. My fourth child and first son is only 2 months old and I plan on nursing him until he weans himself also. I never thought I would nurse past a year and now I can’t imagine any other way. I get a lot of negative comments but they don’t bother me like they used to.

  7. I wouldn’t have made it through nursing with my first without my mom’s help. A good support network is so key. For some women, it doesn’t hurt, but I found, like you, that getting the hang of it was painful.

  8. I absolutely DESPISE those “you’ll lose your figure” comments. Honestly, if a woman is too concerned about losing her beautiful body, maybe that woman shouldn’t have children. Sounds kinda harsh, but it’s what I think. I’ve been breastfeeding my baby girl exclusively and she’s 3 months old. Even though I’ve been sick like 3 times already and even suffered from a mastitis, I wouldn’t change it for anything. 🙂

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