Thursday, February 05, 2009

a personal revelation

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 :).


Anonymous said...

I nursed my baby (with leukemia - no sarcasm) until she was almost 3. she thrives!

Jill said...


Lucy, Marc and Katie said...

I nursed Lucy until she was 11 months, but that was also when I found out I was pregnant with #2. Honestly, we were just kind of done so we quit. I don't think there are any rules here.

Brooke said...

I nursed Alaura until she was 14 months old and sometimes I wish I had nused her longer. The only problem for us was the fact that she was an all or nothing baby and at 14 months she was still nursing 6 times a day and it was really hard to keep up with. If I could have nursed her 1-3 times daily I would have nursed her until she was 24 months or decided that she was through. I plan on nursing Sydney as long as I can. If that's 12 months or 24 months I'll take and enjoy everyday of it. With the photography I'm going to be pumping and giving her bottles a few times a week but, I really want to keep her off of formula. I think that what you're doing is great, and until your brothers have kids of their own (and understand wanting to do everything possible for them) their oppinions don't count ;)

Engrained Emotions said...

I nursed my last baby until she was about 19-20 months. And the only reason we quit was because it just was time. It happened naturally.

I believe it is a gift that is given to us, that if it works for us we should do it until it doesnt work anymore.

Enjoy these times, for they shall pass!

Rachel said...

So I know my opinion doesn't have that much cred since I am notably barren, but I think breastfeeding is beautiful, it's a precious time with your baby you can never have again after it's gone. I think you are wise to hold onto it as long as you can. As long as you're not still nursing him when he's in kindergarten I think you are good to go!
Love you Liz. I come home 2/13/09

wessara said...

I bf until Ava was 8 1/2 months old... she was just done! Dont know how long I would have done it though! Don't think u are crazy... it's all personal! Still nursing Adrie every 3 hours... she cant do baby food really... her stomach is weird I think! Anyways... good for you! U still doing it?!

The Edwards Family said...

I do not think you are crazy at all! I just stopped nursing a few months ago and that was only because I get really bad migraines and my dr thought it would be best for me to be able to take the meds I needed when I got a migraine which you can't take while breastfeeding. Trust me I would have kept going if my migraines weren't so bad. And if Emery hadn't done so well with the weaning I would have kept going. I'm not going to deprive her of something that most of the time was more for comfort then anything. I think they love the quiet moments just as much as we do. And as for not being able to leave him...that's kinda one of those things that happens when you have kids. You're not as free to leave and do things at the drop of a hat like you used to be able to do. That's a choice we make when we choose to have kids. Like you said, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to leave him when he's older. We need to cherish these moments while they're young. They grow up way too fast! Keep going until you both feel it's time to be done. There's no need to stop just because others think you should. If it's working for you then that's all that matters. I hope that with my other kids I will be able to nurse them as long or even longer than I did Emery. I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Sheree said...

I loved nursing all of my children past the age of one. I didn't have the desire to be away from any of them for very long, and I never owned a bottle. My third child was very healthy but when I stopped nursing him at 13 months we discovered he had severe food allergies. He struggled to stay well for months and I wished I had nursed him longer. I never, ever for a minute regretted spending that wonderful time with my babies. I agree that they are more cuddly and lovable and calm because of the closeness and security they experience while being nursed. Believe me - they are independent soon enough!!

Emily said...

Oh, I love this post. Nursing was something I really enjoyed and I was SAD when I weaned Heidi at 15 months. I knew it was time and that she was ready but I hesitated to give up that special relationship. Enjoy it and don't feel guilty for a long nursing really is the only time you can give Baby G this. Cherish those cuddles.

Heather said...

This is a sensitive subject for some, and I love that you mentioned not judging you and you not judging others. I loved nursing too, although extremely difficult at first. I decided to cut down on feedings slowly around 10 months, but I didn't want to quit as early as Hannah did. I wanted to just nurse her @ bedtime until she lost interest, but that was @ 13 months! I had bittersweet feelings. I'm glad I could nurse until then, but I missed the bonding. As long as George loves it I think it's great. I think the baby should have some say in it, and I think they let you know when they're done for the most part. I like to think I'm in control as the parent, but really Hannah is pretty much calling the shots! Maybe most kids aren't so stubborn!

Mandy and Roger Woodhouse said...

Great post. I've found breastfeeding is different for everyone. Some it comes so easily and naturally. Some, not so much. For me, it didn't. But, I am proud I pushed through--thrush, infections, Bloody cracked nipples for 4 months. 5 or 6 lactation consultants. We know Mya was getting plenty when she's the biggest baby ever! But, when I ran out of milk at 6 months... Mya and I were both ready.
*I think you should go until George can tells you he's done with that...(okay, just kidding...that's from a deleted scene in a movie..)

Lauren said...

I think that is fabulous! I was unable to breast feed either of my girls, and I cried about it often, and felt like I failed as a mother already. Nathan and I truly try to eat healthy, and so we felt sick inside about the idea of formula. We finally found a homemade recipe that used Raw Cow milk, and lots of other good things:). It has been hard and yes truly expensive. We spend a lot of money making her formula, probably twice what you would spend on store bought. I think it is a beautiful wonderful thing, and I feel so happy for you that you love it too!

em&m said...

Good for you!
(I heard a funny story about a mom who knew it was time to quit nursing when while breastfeeding her toddler he complimented her on her new bra! that might be going too far. I think your decision and the reasons for it are great!)

Ani said...

Thanks for writing that post. I have obviously had my fair share of nursing issues. I am just on the verge of stopping. But after I read your post I decided to keep going until she stops. I think I doubted myself too much with breastfeeding, which is not a good thing.
You are a good mama!

GregR said...

I agree with you 100%. Baby G is such a sweet boy and the fact that he has bonded so completly .with you and feels secure with others is due to the fact that you are a loving mother. It's wonderful to see your commitment to your family.
I'm always so happy to hear your feelings. It makes me happy

Laura Nielsen said...

Love this post! I nursed my first for 14 months and loved it. I am still nursing my 2nd who is only 4 months and plan on nursing until I feel its time. I think moms just know when it is time to ween (sp?) their babies. So I think it is great that you will do it until he is 2. I agree completely with all your points about nursing. Thanks!

Kim said...

Really cool post. I breastfed both of my kids until 6 months, because "I" was done. I was really selfish, but also needed that part of me back. I don't lose weight with I bf, exactly the opposite, so it was becoming wearing on me (the weight) I felt like it was good for my kids too, because they were getting older and into other foods and such.

I admire people who can do it for a longer time than I could. One of my best friends does it for as long as she can...up to two years I think is totally fine.

Good for you!