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In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2010

August 4, 2010

Little Frog turns two this month… a fact which is completely stunning me right now. I can’t believe it’s been that much time already. So much about him has changed, but one very big thing hasn’t. He’s still breastfeeding. Yep, almost two, and very much in need of the breastmilk – sometimes it’s the only thing he wants to eat when he wakes up in the morning. Other days, he wants a sip or two and then wants “nona an yoguht” (granola and yogurt). He still nurses to sleep, and nurses for comfort when he’s completely upset by something or when he hurts himself pretty badly. Some days, I love that my littlest one still nurses – but if I’m going to be totally honest, there are other days when I wish he’d be done. I’m glad he’s displaying more and more interest in food – and actually chewing and swallowing it. We likened him to a slot machine for a while. Put in a small bite, get a slightly chewed bite back. He loved the flavor, but apparently didn’t care for the rest of the whole process.

The hardest part of still nursing is the summer heat and humidity (which is nothing like it could be – I’ve lived in south Texas during the summer and that was heat and humidity!) – when he wants to snuggle and nurse, and I’m looking for as little to touch me as possible. At night, when we’re trying to go sleep, and the mugginess still hasn’t gone away, and he scootches closer to nurse, I sometimes wonder if I can just kneel next to the bed while he nurses and then slide him over so I can get back in once he’s gone to sleep. I never do… he sleeps too lightly for that.

The best parts are the silly things that happen during the day when he nurses, and the looks he gives me. He used to space out while nursing, followed very closely by falling asleep on me. Now, he plays peek-a-boo, or “beeps” my nose, or will start to nurse and then get so excited by my face that he starts pointing to and naming all the parts. Sometimes he’ll start blinking at me – he hasn’t mastered winking yet – and then start grinning. Watching him try to grin and nurse at the same time is actually pretty funny, so I’ll start to laugh, and then he laughs and then we’re both laughing. It makes up for the heat and humidity issue.

It’s a far cry from the beginning. I had nursed Bro for about 8 months, but by 6 months, at his doctor’s recommendation, had started adding cow’s milk to the breastmilk bottles he got (the one’s his dad fed him) so that he’d start to get used to it – increasing the amount of cow’s milk to breastmilk until it was only cow’s milk in the bottle. The thinking was that there’d be no need for formula that way, and I was okay with that. I didn’t want to give him formula if there was no need. At a little over 8 months, he decided he was done. He saw his cousin (who is two days younger) down on the floor, crawling around, stopping to drink from her bottle when she wanted it, and that was all he needed. He nursed a couple more times that day, and then no more… he turned it down flat when I offered it, preferring the bottle. Since we’d decreased his nursing over the last couple months I didn’t suffer engorgement like I probably would have if he’d gone cold turkey while exclusively nursing, but I didn’t really think anything else of it. At that point, I didn’t know much about attachment parenting, nor had I really done much reading about the benefits of long-term breastfeeding. I’d nursed a lot longer than many women in the early 90’s in the U.S. were doing, and felt good that I’d been able to nurse him that long.

When Little Frog came along,  I’d done a whole bunch of reading, researching, and had gone through a big shift in my thinking of what I thought family should be and how I wanted to parent. Fortunately, The Hubby had listened to me as I read things to him, things that were changing my long-held beliefs about parenting, things that hadn’t affected him as much since Little Frog was his first. We talked and read, discussed and read some more, and formed the framework of what our parenting would be about. One of the things that was talked about, a lot, was breastfeeding and its importance to this new little life. About how it was important not just for the first six weeks, but for much longer – if possible all the way up to two years or more (according to the WHO’s website). This was something I wanted to do. No supplementing, no cow’s milk in the bottles with the breastmilk. I wanted a good breastpump so that The Hubby and Bro could give Little Frog a bottle every now and then, but there’d be nothing but Mama’s milk in that bottle.

As we got started, I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to make it long-term. He was so very noisy, and nursing hurt more than it had when I nursed Bro. When I went in for my 6 week postpartum check-up, the midwives asked if I had cracked nipples or any blood, asked if he was getting enough milk – all because of the noise, since it seemed to signify a poor latch. No, there were no cracks, no blood, but I was incredibly sore sometimes. My doula asked the same thing when she came to visit, for the same reason. He was gaining weight just fine – in the first week gained back whatever he might have lost, plus some, and never lost after that. I went back to my favorite online breastfeeding info site Kellymom and looked for “noisy latch”, and was able to find a cause for the noise. A little time, and regulation of supply and demand, and the noise went away. I was glad for that, since this child refused to be covered up while he ate, so being discreet while he nursed while we were in public was nigh impossible between the lack of cover and the noise (much smacking and snorting while he ate!).

So here we are, two years later, still nursing. I was adamant right after birth that he not be given anything but my breastmilk. The hospital nurses weren’t pleased with that, because he was large and they worried about his bloodsugar levels. When his bili count was high, and the pediatrician wanted me to give him formula to get the liver working faster, I explained to him that Little Frog had been nursing steadily since he was born, and that my milk had already started to come in – only two days after his birth – so could we please just keep nursing. He okayed that, and got a bili-blanket sent to the house so that hospital wouldn’t be necessary. We made it through that with flying colors (pardon the pun *grin*). When Little Frog’s teething started, I experienced my first real trepidation about extended breastfeeding. I had stopped nursing Bro way before teething was an issue. Now, I had to worry about biting, and being hurt, and was I really going to be able to go through with this. The reality was, yes, I did get purposefully bitten a few times – a sharp “Ow! No biting!” would startle him, and then he’d stop and we’d go back to nursing, which was the same tactic we used when he bit anyone else. There have been times when I feel his teeth more than others, and it’s uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt – and is nothing like the first few days as the whole nursing process is starting.

We’ve nursed everywhere, at restaurants, on planes, at museums, libraries, even the Drums Along the Rockies. Our family and friends have gotten used to it, but I do still get strange looks from some of the family members. It’s okay though. This time is short, and once it’s over there’ll never be another chance, so I’m enjoying it… mostly.

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