Breastfeeding Your Baby

Nature's Gift to Mother and Baby 

Breastfeeding, for me, is the most fulfilling part of early motherhood.  While I was pregnant, I wrote several times in my journal about how much I was anticipating nursing the baby.  I spent a lot of time reading about how to breastfeed successfully.  I bought nursing shirts, and packed them in my hospital bag.  I talked to other pregnant women about their plans, and to lactating women about their experiences. When my son was born, we began our new existence together with him at the breast.  

The first night of my son’s life, I slept with him lying in bed with me. I woke in the middle of the night to find him latched on and nursing on his own. It was soothing to know that I was able to nourish him in the best way possible. I felt a sense of awe that such a tiny baby could so instinctively turn to his mother’s breast to sustain himself. The ancient bond of mother and child was once again taking place, and I had the privilege of experiencing it.

In the beginning of our breastfeeding relationship, I would nurse my son wherever and whenever he needed to nurse. I was mostly at home with family and felt little, if any, need for modesty. As we both became more accustomed to nursing, I found that we both preferred a quiet, more solitary place. Breastfeeding became a time for me to relax, hold my son, examine his features, brush my hand against his cheek. It gave me a time to loose myself in his eyes, let the cares of the world fall away, and fall in love with my new little creation.

I personally believe that breastfeeding should be the sole source of nourishment for my son for at least the first year of his life. As he grows older, I will continue to nurse him until he weans himself naturally. When he is ready for solid foods, I will begin as more ‘primitive’ mothers did, by chewing the food and ‘kissing’ it into his mouth. He already seems to show an instinctive desire to ‘kiss’ both me and his father when we bring him close to our face.

I intend to continue nursing my growing little boy well into his toddler years and perhaps as long as five to seven years.  I've helped many mothers to continue breastfeeding.  If you need words of encouragement, advice, or even someone who will just listen, please don't hesitate to contact me!  I also highly recommend contacting a La Leche League lactation consultant!

Breastfeeding Your Toddler

After three years, we're still enjoying a wonderful breastfeeding relationship.  My son normally nurses two to three, sometimes even four times during the night, (co-sleeping really made night nursing a pleasure instead of a duty).   He nurses upon waking in the morning, again before and after naps, (when he takes one!), in the evenings after the grown-ups have dinner, and again before going to bed.  Are these the only times he nurses?  No!  Nursing is not just a time to feed him.  We have learned that when one of us, even Mama, needs to relax and cuddle, nursing can be a great way of winding down and spending quality time together.   Nursing helps to soothe him when he is scared, quiet him when he has had a fall, relax him when he has been over-stimulated.  
It helps to snap Mama back into reality after an intense mother/toddler moment!

Nursing a toddler becomes a very private and personal experience.  We very seldom nurse in public anymore, mainly because he can go much longer without nursing and because there is so much out there that he is afraid to miss out on while nursing.  Nursing a toddler enforces the mother-infant bond, and ensures that we continue to balance each other's needs.  I have received many letters from men and women who remember nursing, meaning that they were well into their toddler years.  All of the writers have expressed sincere gratitude to their mothers and deep awe at the intensity of the relationship that developed as nature intended.  They remember feeling loved, warm, cuddled...  Their nursing memories are part of the rope that anchors their childhood to their adult lives.

Has it been a smooth ride the whole way?  No, but I don't regret breastfeeding my son, not for a minute!  We've had thrush, mastitis, discomfort, sleepless nights, even an occasional bite, (Breastfeeding Help).  None of these difficulties have led me to even entertain the thought of weaning.  Nursing means too much to both of us.  

When will our nursing relationship end?  Three years, four, five...?  I don't know.  I'm not concerned about it.  When my son is ready to wean himself, he will wean on his own.  I look forward to the days that he begins to take his own steps into the grown up world of table food, however I also have an inner desire to stop time and hold him in my arms as a baby forever!  When he stops nursing it will be gradual over months, not immediate on a set day.  It's in his hands, he'll know when he has "filled his cup."  And, he'll be all the stronger for it because he'll have taken the biggest step out of babyhood on his own and in his own time.

Our Weaning

Yes, finally my son has weaned.  He decided to wean on his fifth birthday.  During the weeks following his weaning, he forgot that he had weaned three times; cuddly, soft, middle of the night goodbye's to our weaning.  Then, he was done.  I wrote this poem long ago when I though he was about to wean.  Little did I know that we still had two years to enjoy our embrace.  I'll miss the nursing years, but now as many months have passed, I realize that our relationship hasn't really changed.  He's still my little boy, we still have cuddle time and the memory of his early years.  

Our Shared Embrace

I stop and ponder to myself, “What does nursing mean to me?”

I embraced the bundle at my breast, and now the child on my knee.

The babe who on me would depend; with his arms outstretched my way,

Now runs his fingers through my hair, our embrace, then off to play.

This child, once a tiny babe, I marvel, how he grew!

Our embrace, what Ancient Wisdom!  Mother’s milk would see us through.

He nurses when he’s hungry, and tired, lonely, scared…

We embrace just when he needs me; we embrace because I care.

But then, the day will finally come.  Each embrace is surely blessed.

Soon my milk will flow no more. He’ll leave a barren breast.

I realize we’ll reach the end of our embrace, our lullaby.

A day anticipated; yet so hard to say goodbye. 

So much emotion here within.  I know now what’s in store.

One day, then two, and soon a week; he’s rarely back for more.

 

Too soon!  Now the day arrives; A day this mother fears.

He falls and scrapes his little knee, Then comes to me in tears.

His boyish mouth still beckons; One last tender, warm embrace?

He nurses quickly, “Better now?”  Just as his tears I trace.

The tears run down his little cheeks, I wipe them off his face.

My throbbing breast begins to swell. My heart begins to race.

Will he not nurse from me again?  I’ve embraced his childhood needs.

See?  His cup is overflowing; Though proud, my heart still bleeds.

So his weaning creeps our way; I see the final prize.

A son so strong, so healthy; my dream for him is realized.

Breastfeeding Help

(Be sure to follow your doctor's or midwife's advice rather than relying completely on these suggestions)

To prevent or to heal dry, cracked nipples:

  • Apply Lansinoh lanolin before and after nursing your baby.  This pure form of lanolin is recommended by La Leche League International because it is safe for both mother and baby.  (Try using a blow dryer to completely dry the nipple before applying the lanolin.)

To increase milk supply:

  • Continue taking your prenatal vitamins.
  • Nap with your infant, allowing the baby to nurse while you are napping.
  • Nurse as much as possible instead of on demand or on a schedule.  Many times a baby, and even a toddler, will nurse even if there is no sign of hunger.
  • Barley made in soup is excellent.  The broth helps to increase the milk supply and the barley gives a healthy boost of energy.
  • Take Fenugreek capsules.  Fenugreek is one of the oldest recorded methods of increasing the milk supply.  It also naturally adds an almond flavor to the milk.
  • Drink Mother's Milk Tea from Traditional Medicinals.  I've tried other teas, but this one works the best for me and many women agree with me.  Drink several cups a day. 
  • Stay away from mint!  Even mint candies will decrease your milk supply.

To clear up thrush and other yeast related problems

  • Gentian Violet is dye that can be bought from your pharmacist without a prescription.  It worked wonders the first day, but we needed to use it for three days to ensure that it wouldn't come back.  Because it is a dye, it is very messy.  I had to put it in the baby's mouth and on my nipples as well.  
  • The yeast infection had also spread to my son's bottom, definitely not a diaper rash because he wasn't in diapers!  We cleared that up with acidophilus caplets that we bought at the health food store.   I just had to pop open the caplet and rub the medicine on his bottom once to see a huge difference, then we continued to do that for three days to be sure it was gone.
  • Prevention is the key, be sure to change nursing pads often, eat properly, get adequate rest.  If your baby is in diapers, be sure to change them as soon as they are wet.

To relieve pressure from engorgement:

  • Apply a warm-pack to the breast, or take a warm bath.  Some women use warm boiled cabbage leaves as a warm-pack!
  • Express some milk before offering to nurse, and after nursing if there is still discomfort.
  • Nurse the baby as much as possible, or constantly if possible. 

Most importantly, seek the advice of a medical expert!  Contact your doctor, midwife, lactation consultant.  I highly recommend joining the La Leche League and benefiting from the advice of highly trained lactation experts!  


Nursing at 4 Months


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Articles:

Baby Wearing

Breastfeeding

Infant Sign Language

Natural Infant Hygiene (Diaper-Free)

Co-Sleeping

Bilingual Infancy

Instinctive Mothering

Loving the Lost Baby

Working from Home

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Products:

EC Open Crotch Pants

All Natural Infant Clothing

Baby Sling

Face Kushes, Chiropractic/Massage Towels