How the Breastfeeding Relationship Changes Over Time

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve posted something. This last month has just been filled with nausea and vomiting (TMI, sorry – thank you, pregnancy) and very little time actually being any kind of vertical. I swear, whoever called it morning sickness was lying.

Still nursing my first while now pregnant with my second is proving a challenge. Nausea is worse this time around, trying to figure out if I can take any medications, tenderness, crazy toddler – just so many things. But I’ve started to think about all of the changes our relationship has gone through in the last 17+ months. Some were good, some not so good.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Nursing a newborn comes with it’s own set of challenges. Especially, I’ve heard, when it’s your first. Neither of you has any idea how it’s supposed to go. You are going completely on instincts that, in large part, are being suppressed by formula advertisements and fear/discomfort/what have you of using breasts for their natural purpose. But you know you want to try because you know it’s what’s best for babe. For us, the first few days went pretty well. At least, I thought so. Come day 4, jaundice kicked up a notch (so clearly not getting enough to clear the system) so now we’re dealing with a sleepy baby and an ignorant mom. Cue many phone calls to the nurses station at the hospital over the weekend and trying to rent a pump from the hospital. Tears, tears, and more tears. A husband who is doing everything he can to help. Good grief, nursing a newborn has so many challenges.

Thankfully we made it out of the first week without any major issues. Next we entered into the stage I like to call the “We’re doing it!” stage. Those next few weeks where you’re still trying to figure out the best positions for you and learning your babe’s cues. This stage may have been my favorite stage. Everyone is encouraging and you get to spend all day snuggling your sweet little one. And when it’s your first you can even try to get some extra sleep when they are sleeping. (Try being the key word – I am so terrible at napping.)

By the time you get to the next stage you’ve probably got a good routine going. You already know your baby’s cues for pretty much all their needs. You’ve gone through a few growth spurts at this point, as well, so you have some idea how those will go, too. This one, I think, starts around 4 months. The beginning is probably going to be marked by a sleep regression. And unfortunately, that will have a pretty significant impact on your breastfeeding relationship – especially if you are still breastfeeding on demand at night. As baby moves to the next stage of sleeping, figuring out exactly when to sleep and for how long nursing will probably become even more important. It is going to be used to soothe when there’s not enough sleep going on. It will certainly be a go to for nap and bedtime to help them fall asleep. I know Sweet Girl wound’t go to sleep without it. Push through, though. This was one of the hardest times in our breastfeeding relationship because there was so little sleep happening.

Once you’ve sort of figured out (really, who has it completely figured out) your sleeping situation I promise the breastfeeding will feel like you’ve been doing it forever. And man it will feel like forever. It was around this time, while sitting awake for yet another night feeding, that I came to the realization that those were my favorite feedings. A calm baby snuggled close, sharing something only we could. It was just the two of us, me staring at her the whole time. There were quite a few times I would just hold her after she was done eating and my nipple fell out of her mouth, enjoying those quiet minutes at 3 am.

And then babe gets sick. Or you go on a trip. Or you decide to go out for an evening with your person/partner/husband/wife. There is just always something that happens to throw off your babe that completely throws off breastfeeding. And after Sweet Girl and I finally got past our initial issues I didn’t want to pump anymore. So those who are exclusively breastfeeding are even more tied down by baby’s feeding schedule. I promise, this, too, shall pass.

Your relationship will also change when solid foods are introduced. Sweet Girl wasn’t interested in solids until around 8 months, and she didn’t really start eating meals until closer to 11 months. I was so grateful to know that for the time being my breast milk was enough for her. It provided all she needed so we could take our time figuring out what she liked and how much to actually give her, which is a challenge in and of itself.

Once solids are a major part of your little one’s diet breastfeeding will take a step into a new stage. This is the stage where comfort nursing becomes even more important, especially if you aren’t planning to wean just yet. This stage goes from a substantial solid food intake until your little one is in true toddler stage. Comfort nursing can happen at a specific time of day – when waking up or going to sleep, early afternoon – or after a rough time or an injury. I love comfort nursing. I love knowing that I can give her one thing that will soothe her better than probably anything else. I love that it gives me the opportunity to snuggle her close and make us both feel better, especially after she gets hurt or we’ve been apart for a long time.

When babe truly enters the toddler stage breastfeeding makes another change. From my own observations it seems that some feedings are more out of habit or, more often, boredom. By this stage you really see which nursing sessions are important to your little one. For a lot of littles, I know the bedtime session is most important. For Sweet Girl, it’s the one that happens first thing in the morning. She has a one track mind as soon as she opens her eyes for the day and will not be anything but whiny until she gets what she wants.

Another stage I had no idea I would hit was nursing while pregnant. I’ve seen on one of my Facebook groups that there are quite a few other moms who end up in the same situation at various stages in their own breastfeeding relationships. It has been a definite struggle this time around. Nausea has been worse with baby 2 and any time Sweet Girl wants to nurse all I want to do is throw up. Our breastfeeding relationship has definitely changed because of it. It’s brought up thoughts I didn’t think I would have for quite some time – should I wean? I don’t want to, and I’ll keep thinking about it, but it’s definitely floating around my head.

17 months is a long time to breastfeed. It has been a wonderful ride so far and I can’t wait to see where else we end up. And I can’t wait to see what it’s like tandem nursing once baby brother or sister gets here. Breastfeeding has ups and downs, hard times and easier times. Just remember that it is always an individual experience and should be guided only by what is best for mom and her nursing baby/babies. I love that everyone has their own ideas and ideals for breastfeeding. It helps give other mamas a cacophony of opinions, ideas, and suggestions to go through while they try to figure out their own breastfeeding relationship.

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