This picture has nothing to do with this post other than the fact that it is of Baby G and me.
When you read the post you will be grateful that I didn't post a picture that matched the subject.
I love it when Baby G runs his little fingers through my hair like he is in this picture, though.
***I wrote this post quite sometime ago, but never published it, so when it says Baby G is seventeen months old you should know that that is not the truth. But everything else is still the truth. :)
So this post has been brewing in my head for weeks now. I haven't been sure how to approach this topic because I know that there are many people (probably most) who won't share my opinions on the matter. For that reason I want to make this disclaimer: please don't be offended by what you read. My thoughts are in no way a judgment about anybody's choices that may be different than mine. I am merely trying to explain why I do what I do, but it is so okay with me that you might do it differently. This is what has worked for us, but this is such a personal matter and I would be completely out of line to think for one second that the same thing should work for you, too. I won't judge you if you won't judge me. Fair? :)
Okay, so here is the deal: Baby G is 17 months old and I am still breastfeeding him. He nurses in the morning when he wakes up, in the afternoon before his nap, and at bedtime.
I think I might be in love with nursing. I am positive that Baby G is in love with it.
That's not to say it has always been that way. My first weeks of nursing Baby G were at least 100 times harder and more painful than his actual delivery. Some of those days are kind of a blur now, but I can tell you that they involved many tubes of Lanolin, a prescription of Newman's Cream, at least two heads of cold cabbage (to keep from getting too dry and cracked between feedings), pumping to try to get my milk to let down for literally hours (my milk had come in, but the colostrum was preventing it from coming out), plenty of tears in the bathtub, a blessing from my husband, and definitely some thoughts of giving in to the formula. I knew I wanted to nurse my baby in theory, but in reality it was so hard at first that a bottle became an attractive option. I tried not to get too overwhelmed by the struggles because I knew that if we could just get through them I would be so, soo grateful.
17 months later and I can say that my choice to stick with breastfeeding has been one of the best decisions I have made for me and my baby. For us it has provided some blessings that I know we would not have had otherwise. Let me share a few.
Baby G adores going to bed. When he is tired he will go get his blankie and then come grab my hand to drag me to the rocking chair in his room. Nursing is so clearly something that makes him want to go to bed. He knows that for 20 minutes or so I will sit with him and sing him songs and tell him stories while he nurses. And breastfeeding makes him so delirious that putting him to bed is a breeze.
The money we have saved because we have never had to buy formula and bottle paraphernalia is at least in the high hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. When it was Baby G's sole source of nourishment, breastfeeding was a way that I felt like I was contributing to our meager budget and I would walk down the baby aisle in stores and breathe a sigh of relief that diapers were the only things I would be picking up on that expensive little shelf.
Baby G is a lover. Of course some of his cuddliness is just part of his nature, but I really do believe that being cuddled in my arms for at least an hour a day, even as he got older and much more wiggly, contributed to his propensity to just lay down and give squeezes to whoever is holding him. He is constantly hugging his daddy and me, and I am so glad that he got used to being held and loved while I nursed him, and that we've been able to continue it for so long.
Aside from the time the doctors thought he had leukemia (note the sarcasm), Baby G has never been really sick. He has had a few colds, and been feverish a couple of times, but his short 17 months have been completely free of any major illness. Again, we could just be getting lucky, but I believe breastfeeding has something to do with it. This quote from the FDAs website sums it up nicely:
"Breast-fed babies have fewer illnesses because human milk transfers to the infant a mother's antibodies to disease. About 80 percent of the cells in breast milk are macrophages, cells that kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. Breast-fed babies are protected, in varying degrees, from a number of illnesses… Furthermore, mothers produce antibodies to whatever disease is present in their environment, making their milk custom-designed to fight the diseases their babies are exposed to as well."
I am positive I would have loved Baby G just as much as I do had I not nursed him, but I do believe there is a special bond that comes with your child when you share something as intimate as breastfeeding. There is a sweet connection that comes with knowing that I am the only person in this whole world who can provide that perfect nourishment for him.
Occasionally I struggle to get the exact amount of necessary fruits, vegetables, proteins, etc. in Baby G every day. I really try hard to provide balanced nutrition at all his meals, but some days he just doesn't want to eat his peas. On days like that I feel grateful that I am still giving him those added vitamins and nutrients when he breastfeeds. I want him to be healthy so much and continuing to breastfeed is one way that I try to accomplish that.
Let's be honest, when he was younger breastfeeding was also a really great excuse to take some time to sit down and relax or politely excuse myself from situations that I didn't want to be in. It was time to do the dishes? "Oh, look at the time! Baby G needs to nurse! I'll be upstairs."
Of course there are times that it isn't convenient to nurse (though I think the convenience of those middle-of-the-night nursing feedings vs. the hassle of having to make and warm bottles totally makes up for it). Of course there have been things that I have missed because I couldn't leave my baby behind. Of course it is a time commitment. I still have not left Baby G overnight because I need to be there when he wakes up. (But so you don't think I am completely crazy you should know that I can—and do—let my husband put Baby G to sleep when I can't be there, and my mom can put the baby down for a nap if she needs to, but those are pretty rare occasions.) For the most part, the choice I have made to nurse—and continue to nurse—my baby has also been a choice to not leave him often. They are kind of a package deal. And while there are times that it is a hassle to not just be able to leave whenever I want, I believe there will be plenty of time to leave him when he is older. These months I have with him while he is still little enough to nurse are so fleeting. I can't believe how quickly his little 17 months of life have passed by, and before I know it he will be having slumber parties at his grandma's house and will have no need for me to be there when he goes to bed. So I am going to continue to pass up nights away from him for the time being and continue to marvel that my body had the ability to not only provide my baby with life, but also to sustain him for so long. I only have a few months left.
But tell me about you now. Did/do/will you breastfeed? For how long?
Do you think I am completely crazy for nursing my baby for this long?
Do you think I am completely crazy for wanting to nurse my baby until he is (gasp) 24 months old? Because my brothers totally do. If they read this post they will be highly embarrassed and ashamed :).