Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight

This post is in response to a call for sharing of breastfeeding experiences in 100 words or less from Amber McCann over at Nourish Breastfeeding Support .  Feel free to send Amber your submission, too!

Here's what I sent in and before you read this please know that EVERY word I've ever said to any of you encouraging you to breastfeed, I have meant from the bottom of my soul.  I believe in YOU, your breastfeeding powers, your child, and myself as a person who supports and champions breastfeeding.  However, I am at a turning point in my own breastfeeding relationship and I am not going to lie and tell anyone that I'm looking at doing what is best only for Millie.  There are two people directly invovled in this and I will consider us both when approaching what we do in the future.  Also, for anyone who believes that breastfeeding well into the toddler years is 'only for the mom' or to 'keep the baby a baby longer' or some other horse-shit, don't let the door hit you in your horse's ass. 

It seems I'm always fighting for breastfeeding. Whether in the NICU with my baby, for friends and family who struggle, for women who get kicked out of public places. Now, I'm fighting with myself. My nursling is almost two and I'm burn-out. She's never been a great sleeper and nursing is so important to her. I fought hard to get her to nurse; why am I so keen to have her stop? She's my last, and I know it's what she needs, but I'm on the verge of shutting down. I'm trying. I'm fighting for you, Millie! 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yea, she's a toddler!

I've recently encountered less than positive attitudes about my breastfeeding relationship with Millie.  She's approaching the big "2" and I guess some have taken it upon themselves to judge us negatively for continuing to nurse her.  My husband is supportive of nursing, but he and I both agree that she does need some boundaries now that she is an older nursling.  However, weaning is nowhere in our immediate future.  She's one of those kids who could nurse PAST nursery school! 

If you read my last post, There's Something About Toddlerhood, you'll know that breastfeeding her has become quite challenging.  She is very distractible and wants to nurse every time I sit down.  She's also very vocal about her "NINNIES" and she loves to try and get her whole body into my shirt while she is nursing.  And it doesn't help that she's very big for her age.  She's as big as Natalie was at 3 and she is currently at 95% for height and 70% for weight at 21 months old.  For those and several other reasons, my husband and I have decided to limit her nursing a little.  I feel torn over this decision but I know in the long run, I am doing my best for her and still saving the relationship.  I was starting to loathe the time nursing her and it's not so skin-crawlingly annoying now.

The negativity that we have received comes in two ways.  The first is from those who openly exclaim, 'OMG are you still breastfeeding,' said with extra grossness emphasis placed on the word breastfeeding.  The second is more subtle, a sort of ninja approach to disapproval.  It's little comments like, 'Oh, but aren't you a big girl,' when she starts asking for ninnies or the ever popular anectdotes about children who breastfeed a long time are spoiled and their cousing Suzy is living proof.

First off, I really wonder why people feel the need to interject their opinion onto my breastfeeding my daughter.  I certainly do not ask them to tell me how nasty they think breastfeeding, in general, is.  And when compared to some of the crap they feed their kids, I can think of a whole lot worse to give Millie, nutrition wise.   

Second, not their boob.  I have a friend (Hello, Alaina!) who would say, 'If they can see my boob, they are too damn close and they need their eye poked out.'  I'm more of the subtle, 'Can't you mind your own damn business,' camp myself.

I'd also like to clarify a few points about nursing an older baby or toddler or preschooler.

What nursing a child over the age of 1 is:

  • Challenging
  • Good tantrum control
  • A way of reconnecting
  • Annoying (sometimes)
  • Nutrition for very picky eaters
  • Comfort
  • Not for everyone
What nursing a child over 1 is NOT:
  • Easy
  • Detrimental to anyone's health or well-being
  • Unusual (the average weaning age around the world is 4)
  • Done because of sexual feelings
  • Bad for a current pregnancy
The last point I would like to especially clarify.  I did nurse through one pregnancy, and that pregnancy did result in a miscarriage at 12.5 weeks.  However, none of my tests came back showing why I miscarried and all of my hormone levels had been normal just before the baby had died.  She didn't die because I was still nursing her 18 month old sister.  Most likely, she died because the lining of my uterus was not what it should be because I had had an IUD and I have endometriosis. 

It is generally considered safe to breastfeed while pregnant.  There isn't much research directed specifically towards breastfeeding while pregnant, but direct inference would lead one to believe that it is safe. 

At birth, a mother doesn't automatically make milk.  The birth of the baby triggers a drastic lowering of several hormones  and allows the prolactin secreted during pregnancy to overcome those hormones and produce milk.  During the months post-partum, those hormones level out and progesterone and other hormones level off.  In order to become pregnant, progesterone levels must be higher and be maintained at a higher level.  It would seem that the progesterone and the prolactin are in a battle, but if they truly are (as in the period of time before any other source of food or nipple is introduced) then becoming pregnant in the first place is difficult.  Decreased levels of progesterone and increased levels of prolactin would deter becoming pregnant and are a major reason that breastfeeding, along with other Natural Family Planning techniques are a choice of birth control for some families.

Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin, which is the hormone that is released during labor to help the uterus contract.  As stated in the above, oxytocin receptors in the uterus are very minimal until such time as labor is warranted (about 38 weeks) and therefore the uterus is not succeptible to irritation by the oxytocin.  The exception would be women who have had a preterm labor and or birth.  The exception would be me.  However, I didn't have any abnormalities during the pregnancy that I lost.  I didn't even have my usual spotting and heavy cramping of early pregnancy and was not diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravardium as in my other pregnancies. 

I was having a 'normal' pregnancy until one day, quite unexpectedly, our baby died.  It had NOTHING to do with me nursing her sister.  My body was prepared to do what it had to do in order for all three of us to survive as far as nutrition went.  It was, however, deficient because of synthetic hormone use.  I lost my baby because I had previously used birth control that was not approved for use in those with endometriosis (and my doctor knew this), not because I breastfed.  Natalie weaned long before I got pregnant with Millie, so that was a non-issue in my difficult pregnancy with Millie. 

I hope this novella clarifies a few things.  It probably won't;  I can always hope!  In short, I breastfeed Millie because she and I want to.  If you don't like it, I'd be glad to spew research and scientific evidence at you all day long.  But right now, she's asking for "NINNIES" and I'm going to go with my old stand-by:  MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS!

Edit:  I am not currently pregnant.  Sorry!