Breastfed – Birth – Present
When I found out I was pregnant with Delilah, my first child, it was obvious to me that I was going to breastfeed. I did not grow up with my mother. She raised me through infancy, and I was breastfed, but from the age of about 3 and onward my childhood was a bit of a rollercoaster of care givers. I was loved and had many incredible women provide me with a mother figure. I love my biological mother dearly and as an adult, and now mother myself, I am thankful for her and the decisions she made, and since having my baby (her first grandchild) I am closer with her than I ever have been. With that said, I do have memories throughout my life of longing for my mother. I think that this has a lot to do with the way I parent Delilah. I would consider my style of parenting, for the most part, to be Attachment Parenting.
The fear and anxiety about breastfeeding was instant. Throughout my pregnancy I read every book written in the past two years or so about breastfeeding, as well as some older ones that remained highly recommended. I often found myself putting down my history reading (I was a full time student working on my master’s degree in history up until the end of pregnancy) in exchange for my breastfeeding literature. The worrier that I am, I wanted to know about everything that could go wrong and what to do should those issues arrive. In hindsight, I do not recommend this as it only increased my anxiety. What if she wouldn’t latch? What if I got thrust or mastitis or my boobs fell off … just kidding on that last one but really a million things were going through my mind about what could go wrong.
Delilah was born healthy on October 26, 2012 at 4:21am, weighing 6lb 8oz and 18 inches. After a brief bit of skin to skin with my princess they whisked her away to be weighed and measured (just a few feet from where I lay) and I could hear her crying. I told the nursed (maybe a bit of a yell) to bring her to me, she’s hungry!! I demanded that anything that could wait would have to because I needed to nurse my girl. They brought her back (it seemed like forever to me but in reality was probably 2 minutes or less) and she latched right on immediately. I was in absolute heaven. Initial latch and nursing session was a success, first fear conquered!
The next two days, in all honesty, were absolutely brutal for my breasts. After the initial nursing immediately after birth, Delilah slept pretty consistently for about 12 hours. After that, nurses came into our room on the hour every hour to make sure I was nursing. On the advice of the nurses (my hospital was extremely pro breastfeeding) Delilah nursed every hour for 20 minutes on each side (which left me with only 20 minute intervals without a baby attached to me before we started again). The idea was that she was getting the colostrum and the frequent nursing would lead to my milk coming in. My nipples were a mess. Every bad latch, even if it was only a second before I got her off and re-latched her, increased the bruising and chapping. Every new nurse told me a different way to hold her and how to get a proper latch. My brain was pretty frazzled. Nursing during those days in the hospital was quite the family affair. I could not get her to latch without Austin helping me every time, and sometimes holding her through the whole session. I was in pain just about every second she was nursing, even when the latch was perfect, because of the state of my nipples at that point. All our hard work and constant nursing paid off, as my milk came in about 48 hours after she was born.
Then came the next hurtle; Engorgement. As soon as my milk came in and for at least two weeks after, I stayed engorged. This made it so hard for her to latch which in turn increased the damage to my nips. I tried so hard to hand express a bit before she latched to help her out and then a bit after to help get myself comfortable but I was either doing it wrong or just bad at it. With Austin’s help I tried using a manual pump to empty the suckers out at least a little but that hurt so bad! Delilah nursed A LOT (and still does). I nursed on demand and watched for all the cues and put her on as soon as she showed the hunger signs. Delilah nursed only one side at a time and I remember dreading when it was the right sides turn because that was the more painful of the two. Through these early weeks of what I honestly considered torture, I blocked out the pain by envisioning what it would be like when it didn’t hurt anymore. How wonderful it would be! We would get there I just knew it!
Eventually, just as I suspected, it got better. We went through a few periods of cluster feeding in the first few months; days that she was literally attached to me 24 hours a day. This was tough. But I survived. Delilah had her first bottle of expressed milk at about 4-5 weeks old. We didn’t plan to use bottles often but wanted to have the option. She has always been able to go back and forth with no nipple confusion. She also started using a pacifier at about 4 weeks old. I have no problem with comfort nursing but the pacifier did offer some help and got her into sleeping longer periods. From birth until about 3 months old Delilah nursed every 90 minutes OR LESS around the clock. From 3 months on she slept through the night but continued to be a 90 minute or less nurser during the day. Delilah was exclusively breastfed until 6 months old. On her 6 month birthday she started eating solid food. Up until she was about 7 months old, I gave her a bottle of expressed milk when we were out. After a long roadtrip down the East coast, I became a fairly confident breast feeder in public.
Delilah is now 10 months old (time is flying!). She currently eats three “meals” a day and continues to nurse more than any other baby we know. She still likes to nurse every 90 minutes, although will occasionally go 2-3 hours. Recently she has picked up a night feed or two (I think this correlates with getting her first tooth and her current teething). I nurse on demand just as I did when she was a newborn. I get plenty of “You’re really feeding her again?!” This doesn’t bother me. Yes, I’m really feeding her again. I have no problem nursing her anywhere. Sometimes I use a cover but it doesn’t last long before she has removed it. Our most recent NIP experiences have been on the Boston Commons, at the beach, at a community picnic, and just the other day during an outing at the aquarium. I nurse Delilah whenever she’s hungry, wherever that may be.
I have no idea when our nursing journey will end. I have no plans to “cut her off” at any specific age. I think breastfeeding is absolutely incredible. I will continue to follow her lead and see what happens