Almost to the Finish Line

I’ve run across several good blog posts lately about nursing (this one from Like Mother Like Daughter and this one from Call Her Happy are at the top of my head right now) that have helped me reflect now that I’m nearing the finish line with Gus.  He’s 11 months old today, and things seem to be winding down a bit in the nursing department.  I’m sure we have a few more months to go, but we’re close enough to the end that I think I can finally see the forest for the trees. 

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No breastmilk for you, baby birds.

I am so grateful to my mom and my older sisters for being my “collective memory” as Auntie Leila puts it, and for making nursing normal to me.  I think that, more than anything else, was the driving force behind my sticking it out with SK.  I struggled so much with nursing her.  After experiencing a long, painful labor ending in a c-section (and then some other very trying times right after she was born) I ended up being totally dependent on a nipple shield that a helpful nurse at the hospital provided us with.  And I was so humiliated! I already felt like such a failure after having that first c-section, and then to be dependent on the shield was such a blow.  I tried to get her off of it but eventually I just let go and accepted the fact everything was working fine with the darn thing.  Now looking back, I can see that the shield really wasn’t a big deal.

The bigger deal for me with nursing was being blindsided by the all-consuming nature of it. I had just finished 9 plus months of being pregnant and then a traumatic birth, and now I was supposed to somehow recover mentally and physically whilst still being attached to this needy little baby 24-7?  I was not prepared for that.  I was not prepared for the fact that you are on call all the time, there are no subs, baby wants and needs you! And then to add insult to injury, you lose half your hair! That motherhood 101 course… it’s a doozy.

So, this time around with Gus, I was more prepared in some ways.  I was determined to do things without a shield this time, and I succeeded! … after 2 and a half painful months.  Gus has a bit of a tongue tie, which we had checked out by the pediatrician and a specialist who both told us that it was minor enough that he would grow out of it.  And they were right, he has, but those first couple of months were incredibly painful.  Between that and the fact that he would nurse every 2 hours on the nose, all through the night for the first couple of months, Dave was ready to hop in the car and buy some formula.  I was a mess.

Nursing can be so tough! I have friends who don’t struggle much with it at all, and I have friends who struggle greatly and are not able to nurse for long, if at all.  I try to be encouraging to women who are nursing because it’s so worth it, it’s worth a try, it’s worth the pain and the sleepless nights.  Like Rosie said in her post this morning, just wait a few weeks and things will be better.  But also, it’s okay to get help.  It’s okay to use a nipple shield, or a pacifier, or to pump or to supplement.  These aren’t moral issues; you have to figure out how to make it work for you.

Now here I am almost to the finish line of my second nursing marathon.  This is my sweet spot emotionally and physically with nursing.  He’s not nursing a ton anymore, so I can get out for hours at a time without him, but we still have our sweet moments together after naps and at night.  I don’t take for granted the fact that Dave and I will have more kids; Gus might be my last baby, so I’m soaking up his babyhood.  But at the same time, I’m ready and I’m grateful for the break coming soon.  And he’s getting ready to take off on those chubby legs of his!

I wish I could tell myself back in those stressful early nursing days with Sara, “Nursing is hard but you’ll come to like it one day. And the best part is, it doesn’t last forever!”
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[A certain fluffy towhead interrupted the writing of this post to, you guessed it, nurse.]

13 thoughts on “Almost to the Finish Line

  1. I remember 11-12 months being a nursing sweet spot w/ Girl 1, too, and then by 18 months I was able to say, okay that's it you're done, w/ no guilt. . . . The idea of being on call all the time reminded me a bit of this quote, from A Life's Work by Rachel Cusk–even when the baby's nursing every 2 hours, you'll have people telling you he must be hungry!–

    "I think she’s hungry, other people say when she cries, handing her back to me. I sit gloomy as a cow in the corners of rooms, on park benches, in restaurants or the back seats of cars, my shirt unbuttoned. Nowhere, it seems, am I safe from the accusation of hunger. Sometimes the baby cries even while she is feeding and I feel the triumphal urge to call a symposium. There! I would say to everyone. What do you say to THAT?"

  2. I remember getting to a point with Ruthie when she was 8 or 9 months old where I sat down to nurse her and though, "Gosh, this is great! All that struggle and effort was worth it because this right here is so easy and so good." Enjoy your last few weeks or months of nursing little Gus. That is a really sweet picture of you and your babies!

  3. I finally appreciated this time around how nice it is to nurse a newborn and be FORCED to sit around doing nothing BUT nursing for the first weeks! I wanted to get up and do ALL THE THINGS because I felt so much better than when I was pregnant, but then when I tried to do all the things my body was like, "WHAT THE HECK SLOW DOWN!!!" and I was glad to have the baby as my excuse to sit down and do nothing but nurse 🙂 But yeah, that gets old fast and I'm with you on that sweet spot – once they're on enough solids that somebody else can just hold them over with snacks until you get home to nurse, I start to feel like I can breathe a little better.

    • I'm hoping next time around, God willing, I'll be more relaxed about the HOURS spent nursing at the beginning. It's hard when it's just the baby and a toddler! But with Sara being older, it'll be a different experience, I bet. I remember my mom reading books to us, like Little House and Harry Potter, while nursing whoever was the baby, obviously before that baby was too old and distractible… anyway, that sounds great to me!

  4. Good job with nursing. It's funny has everyone has such a different experience. I'm one of those moms that has a fairly easy time in the beginning. But then I start to rely on it way too much for comfort or peace or rest. ….so now I have a 2.5 year old that still nurses, and I'm really trying to nudge her towards weaning. But, I'm also a pushover and don't have the heart to tell her "no" and deal with the crying, etc. Every stage and parenting style has its struggles, right?

    • Yes, I mean, it makes sense, right? That something so intimate and physical as nursing should be so drastically different for each mother and baby. I feel like I've finally made peace with how nursing looks like for me (and Gus, because it's a relationship, right?) and next time I'll have to be patient and give myself time to figure out how it looks for that relationship. My sister Claire had to switch to formula for her third baby, though, because she had a very sensitive tummy and nursing wasn't working. You never know!

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