I always knew that I would breastfeed my children. My mother exclusively breastfed all 5 of her children for at least a year, except for one sister who ended up weaned at 7 months or so (nursing strike!). I can still remember my mother starting her nursing relationship with one of my sisters; sis had a teeny tiny rosebud mouth and my mother had a heck of a time getting her entire nipple in there, she kept having to unlatch, relatch, unlatch, relatch. My sister was not happy about this and would scream her little head off. Fortunately things worked themselves out pretty quickly (or her mouth got bigger from all the screaming...)
To prepare for breastfeeding (and for the entire experience of parenting) I prepared for the worst-case scenarios while hoping for the best situation (birth-center drug-free birth, exclusive breastfeeding relationship, etc.) I read _The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding_ and took a Bradley class. I also attended a local LLL meeting just in case I needed to call them. I researched and had a number for some lactation consultants. I bought a few stretchy nursing bras to start with.
When DS was born, I needed exactly none of my prep work. He latched on perfectly within the first 5 minutes of being born and didn't let go for three years, uh, I mean, he never had a single problem nursing, no nipple pain or anything. It was almost a letdown after all the preparation!
The one part of preparation that did come into play were the expectations I had of myself. I figured out that it was likely that I would be breastfeeding up to 8 hours per day in the beginning, and this was definitely true for me. I had a hungry 10 pound baby who liked to nurse for up to 40 minutes at a time. I drank gallons of water and inhaled every bite of food in sight. I was glad that I realized beforehand how much time I would spend nursing; just that part of baby care was a complete full-time job! I took it really easy those first months, holding and nursing my beautiful baby.
He nursed a great deal until he was about 19 months old, which was when I entered the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy with DD, and my milk dried up. He was down to once a day or so during that period. (He would ask, "Ow? Ow?" when he wanted to nurse because that was what I tended to say when he was nursing; it was quite painful during this period.
I usually focused on a book while he was nursing to get through it.) He was pleased when my colostrum came in, and thrilled when the milk came back in. I really wanted to nurse him until he was at least 2 years old, in fact I felt guilty that I didn't have milk for him during the pregnancy. When he turned 2, DD arrived, and my intuition told me that tandem nursing was the way to go, particularly because DS is a very intense child who seemed to really *need* to nurse still, for emotional reasons.
DD waited until she was 45 minutes old to nurse (she was 10.5 lbs), but had no problems whatsoever... well there was that one night before my milk came in when she alternately screamed and nursed in one minute increments all night long, but after that she was great! I did have a little adjustment period to going back to nursing a newborn; I was in toddler-nursing mode and had to re-think nursing holds and support for her instead of assuming that she could just do it all herself, hanging off the boob so to speak.
We tandem-nursed for a year. This was great as it gave DS something to do while I was nursing DD, and he didn't feel left out. We learned a lot of creative holds and positions to keep everyone happy. After a while it got to be a little overwhelming, so I did limit DS to nursing 3x per day. A little while before he turned 3, I talked about how one day he would be a big boy and wouldn't do nursies anymore and told him one day I would ask if he wanted to nurse, and he would tell me he was finished with nursies. So I guess you could say that I did influence him to wean himself. I tried to make it as much his idea as possible, and it went smoothly a month or so after he turned 3, although we did nurse a handful more times until he was 30 months.
I would tandem nurse again if I could do it all over again. I think it was the right decision for DS, but I will say that DS and I have a very intense relationship (most of the conflict in the house is between him and me because we are both spirited) and our relationship became less stressed after he weaned. After weaning he became more of my sweet little boy rather than the big rough toddler-tyrant he seemed to be that tandem-nursing year. I gues I was just ready for him to wean. Having said all of that, we have been thru the 3.5 year rough patch since he weaned, during which I wanted nothing more than to ship him away to boarding school.
: I think this is just the way our relationship is going to be for always.
DD is 21 months and still going strong, we just NIP today at a food festival and it was fun to catch the eyes of all the people staring (mostly men). One thing that is driving me nuts with DD is that she doesn't sleep thru the night at all, and wants nursies all night long. I had her night weaned for a while (she would still wake up several times, I would cosleep and offer water) but DH and I went on a trip overnight and since we returned we are back to being open 24/7. I am still breastfeeding on demand, mostly because it is so darned easy. Oh, except when I am in the middle of making dinner, which really makes DD mad.
My support system: my family (even bfing mom!) thinks I am a little deranged for the toddler nursing, but no one says anything to my face, except my grandmother, who fed my 5 weeks preemie dad evaporated milk mixed with corn syrup when he was a baby (he died of complications of obesity at age 48... hmmmm) She is extremely supportive and tells me all the time how beautiful the kids are, but I can hear sometimes that she is working through the guilt of how things were when she had her babies. She loves that they both eat so plentifully, as she is a Feeder. DH is extremely supportive; without him running the household while I sat nursing infants I don't know where we would be now. Some of the people in his family are a bit uncomfortable with the bfing, several male relatives tend to leap up and go to another room when I start the pre-bfing fidget.
I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to nurse both my children, and I hope to make it to at least 5 consecutive years bfing, which will be 3 years per child with one overlapping tandem nursing year. I look forward to wearing regular bras again (I sometimes wear them for old time's sake), dresses, and not having to think, "Can I breastfeed in this?" when I am buying clothes.
I also want to say I feel somewhat guilty that I haven't had any problems, and therefore don't have much advice to give moms who are struggling. I've been to only a few LLL meetings over the years, but didn't participate very much, not having much advice, and more recently chasing a highly active toddler around.
I just hope that my example of breastfeeding (confidently in public, into toddlerhood, etc.) has inspired other mothers I know to keep on going. I gave my copy of _Womanly Art of BFing_ to a new mother I know as an acquaintance, and it helped her to do an elimination diet and keep nursing. People also ask me for nursing advice on a regular basis, b/c the ped always recommends supplementing. I don't want to jam info down anyone's throat or pass judgment when a baby weans/is weaned, although I am sad when it happens. I try to encourage, praise, and casually drop facts into conversation. (I do this about a lot of topics, so I hope it comes across pretty naturally.)
I would like to learn more about lactivism, and do more to promote breastfeeding in our culture. The only thing I do right now is email my local paper whenever they run an article that I think should mention breastfeeding. This week they (Wash Post) are running an article series on Childhood Obesity and What Parents Can Do, and I am looking for some mention of the association between lack of bfing and childhood obesity rates.
Sorry about the novel, I only know how to write one type of post--LONG! Thanks for reading.
sahm to DS the hair holder (3.5 yrs) and DD the pincher (21 mos)