*I just want to make this disclaimer right up front. This post is about me, my son, and the nursing milestone that we've reached today. It's just about us and our happiness. Please do not interpret our excitement as judgment or disapproval of anyone that has made different choices than I have, or has nursed for a different length of time than I have. I choose to celebrate breastfeeding, whether it's a lot or a little. But today I'm just celebrating our nursing milestone, and not worrying about the details of anyone else's. That's between you and your baby. :) Also, I realize that the struggles I share in this post look like a cake walk compared to what some mothers have endured to nurse their kids. In sharing our small struggles, I do not intend in any way to diminish the greater struggles that some have gone through. I hope that all makes sense, and if it doesn't, please read this wonderful post at The Leaky B@@b- it explains how I feel much better than this little paragraph does.
We did it. We did it!!! Today is Tristan's second birthday, and we're celebrating two years of breastfeeding!!! I'm so excited. Thrilled would probably be a better word to describe how I'm feeling. We did it! We made it! All that hard work, all those painful moments, all those wonderful memories have now added up to two years of nursing!
This is it- THE milestone I was hoping for. My ultimate goal. I broke it up into smaller goals, of course. I thought it seemed a little silly to look at a day old baby and proclaim, "My nursing goal is two years!!!" But in my mind it's been two years all along. Hayden nursed for 15 months, and while I'm super proud of that, and proud that she never had formula, I know that 15 months is not ideal, or really physiologically normal. I still struggle with a bit of guilt over that, especially since she still can't fall asleep without her pacifier. I wish that we'd been able to nurse for longer.
Tristan and I got off to a good start. He nursed for about 45 minutes shortly after birth. I have such sweet memories of that time. We had to transfer to the hospital about 6 hourse after he was born, and he was a bit disinterested in nursing for the next 12 hours or so after he got an iv. The next day we were able to pick right back up though, and things were pretty smooth sailing for a while. I started pumping once a day, first thing in the morning, and built up a decent little freezer stash. I felt so proud of all the bottles and bags of milk in the freezer. I'd stare at them and think, "I MADE that!"
When Tristan was about 3 months old, we hit a big roadblock. I don't know how it happened, but I got a sore on the side of my left nipple. It didn't seem to fit any of the descriptions of any of the nipple issues that I was reading about. I still have no idea what it was or where it came from, but boy oh boy was it painful!!! I could hardly stand for him to latch on at all. Anytime he nursed it would send shooting pain through the whole left side of my body. After a week or two of hoping that it would heal, I went to see a lactation consultant who suggested using a nipple shield to protect my nipple and hopefully give it a chance to heal. She also suggested some antibiotic cream. Great ideas, right? Right, except that Tristan was NOT a fan of the nipple shield. Hated it. After much crying and coercion, I finally got him to latch onto it. After a couple of days, the sore seemed to be gone, and since Tristan hated the shield so much, I stopped using it. Surprise, surprise- it wasn't as healed as I thought it was, and split right back open again!!! So discouraging. We went back to square one with the nipple shield, and again, I jumped the gun and stopped using it too early. My nipple split back open, again. By that point I'd been dealing with excruciating pain, the hassle of the nipple shield, and a baby who hated the nipple shield for about 4 weeks. If you know me, you know how much I believe in breastfeeding, but even I was ready to give up at that point. Not give up breastfeeding of course, but I was seriously considering letting my left breast dry up and just nursing from my right. Isn't that hilarious? I mean, it is totally doable- just funny to look back now and remember that I was seriously considering it.
I really don't remember how the crack finally healed. I think it was a combination of prayers of desparation and me finally being disciplined enough to use the nipple shield for long enough to let it heal completely. I was just so, so relieved to have the pain over with. We were back to smooth sailing.
When Tristan turned 6 months, I started giving him samples of solid food. I was doing baby led solids with him, so we didn't do purees. He wasn't a fan at first, and totally hated solid food until a week before he turned 9 months. He tasted a bite of his sister's lemon yogurt and never looked back. He loves to eat. Baby led solids was so easy! I didn't have to worry about what he was or wasn't ready for, because I just followed his cues. I didn't have to cook or buy seperate food for him. I was still doing cloth diapers and wipes at the time, and enjoyed walking past the baby aisle at the grocery store, knowing I didn't need a single thing from it!
As Tristan started to eat solids, I made a real point to make sure that he was still nursing first, and nursing regularly. I knew that he still really needed the benefits of my milk, and I also wanted to do what I could to nurse him for longer than I did Hayden. I think a couple of factors played into her weaning at 15 months- I think I did too many solids, too soon, and of course the fact that I got pregnant again was probably also a big factor. My strategy worked, and he turned into a big booby loving baby! He totally loved his num nums, and still does.
I held my breath as we reached 15 months. I got really excited and celebrated when we reached 18 months. But I knew that two years was my real goal. If we could make it to two years, I'd be so thrilled. Relieved, even. Anything past that would just be icing on the cake. And here we are!!! Two years of nursing. I'm so happy. So thankful. So thankful to have been able to offer this gift to my son- not just the nutrition but the warmth, softness, and comfort of my breast. The wonder of the amazing bond that we've built. So thankful for all that I've learned, and all that he's taught me through this process. It takes vulnerability to be able to share your body with another person, and my son has taught me how to begin to be vulerable and how to love and be loved. I'm so thankful to be on this nursing journey with him, and I look forward to every day that we have left.