Day Twelve | Kim's Journey Extended | Making your Breastfeeding Goals
We are now approaching the conclusion of our first year of breastfeeding with no end in sight. Over the past few months I have become a much more confident Mom, and breastfeeding has become so much easier.
Once my baby started gaining weight and was no longer being watched for dropping on the growth curve, I had one more fear left - teething. Teething was something I dreaded. Baby teeth can be sharper than baby fingernails, and I heard stories of nipple damage and biting. I am fortunate that baby girl was very gentle on me while teething. After learning once again to achieve a good latch, we are back on track for comfortable nursing.
To correct her latch again, we had to go back to the lessons we learned in her first two months. We had to play the “Ahhh, open wide!” game again in order to get deep enough to avoid pain and damage. This time she thought it was a game and ended up in laughter which made the stress level decrease for both of us.
It didn’t take long, but there were other surprises too. There is an enzyme that is secreted in baby’s saliva as she started to teeth. It helps the gums break down allowing the tooth to come through. It can also irritate sensitive nipples. It became so much more important to make sure we kept everything clean and dry to stay healthy and eliminate pain.
My original goal was to nurse for a year, but now I am going to let her decide when it’s time to stop. The thought of nursing an older baby through toddlerhood seems to me an adventure. Nursing acrobatics and bringing toys with her when she wants to nurse are things I’m looking forward to figuring out.
The only fear I have moving forward is having to deal with other people’s questions or stares. I have been lucky so far that no one has given me “the look” while nursing in public (uncovered and unashamed, of course) but there can be a different perception of older babies still nursing. I feel confident enough to react appropriately by asserting my rights and her needs while educating in a manner hopefully to change minds and not turn people off even more.
Nursing a near one year old is completely different than nursing a two month old. The bond is stronger. Eye contact is deeper and the emotional need for suckling is more evident and predicable. Her world changes so frequently, but she seems to be aware of the changes in ways that I couldn’t see when she was younger.
Nursing is a comfort for her when her understanding of and interactions with her surroundings change as much as it is a comfort to me watching her grow up so quickly. In those moments together, time slows down. Her hand on my arm makes my heart melt. Her eyes tell me the true meaning of love and trust. I can’t imagine not having this experience with her, and makes memories of those early weeks of nipple pain and exhaustion and fear of inadequacy fade to the background. And now on to the next year, with no end in sight.
I have only one piece of advice for a Mom with a new baby: join a support group (or several) that will let you vent, celebrate, ask questions, help others and provide a chance to be social even at the latest hours of the day. Online forums are great for the questions that keep first time moms awake. In person groups can provide immediate help while getting Mom out of the house (something I learned to be critical in the early weeks for mental sanity).
I was the youngest child in my family and I didn’t grow up with younger kids. I wasn’t exposed to diaper changes or feedings or even how to interact with a young baby. I wasn’t sure what I was doing when we first brought our daughter home. It was through the support of the groups I joined that helped me calm down and realize that most of the weird things my baby did was not only normal, but perfectly healthy.
In those moments, as I slowly brought my anxiety down, I realized that I still have a connection with my daughter. I know what she needs or wants (most of the time anyways), and that helps me to feel confident that I’m doing right by her. I still go to the Village for support as we enter new phases, but I also find that hearing from Moms with newborns help me remember those early days. I miss having a squish, but my nearly one year old is so much fun too.
Share your breastfeeding goals below in the comments. If you are interested in sharing your story, contact me to get started planning your session and blog.