Monday, December 31, 2012

On Nursing and Weaning

If I had to coin my parenting style, I'd use the word "natural." That's not necessarily "crunchy" or "attachment", but rather that I tend to let my instincts and the needs of my individual child take the lead. For the most part (here's where I state that I completely eschew this theory when it comes to things like modern medicine and vaccination), I really believe that the human species has evolved over millions of years thanks in part to following our natural instincts, and that we should not try to veer too much from the urges which feel so instinctual in our parenting - after all, they tend to be there for a reason. Parenting is a pretty primal activity, and babies especially, with no 21st century modern influences, seem to be such mirror images of their ancient selves. (pause to ask myself, "am I even making sense here?")

So, on to the topic at hand.This tendency I have to veer toward a more ancestral, evolutionary approach to having and raising babies is, I think, one of the reasons I have so loved and latched on (pun intended! ha!) breastfeeding, and committed myself to allowing any nursing relationship I have with a nursling to come to a natural stopping point. It just feels right to me.

I mentioned in one of my last posts how I think Ellie is pretty much weaned now. This is actually less bittersweet for me than I anticipated it would be - I fully expected weaning to be something very emotional for me when the time came, and when it wasn't, it highlighted for me that the relationship had probably come to a point of natural conclusion. Likely this is because I'm pregnant, and I really have no more milk to give. I refuse to feel guilty, or like I'm ending the relationship prematurely, when my body has literally given all it has to give. She's strong and healthy, and has made the transition well, so I've pushed any guilt I could possibly feel aside, and am instead focused on celebrating this transition in our lives.  The other night though, as I was rocking her before bed, she asked to nurse (as she's been doing on occasion since we stopped nursing). I offered, and instead of latching, she simply laid her head against my skin and closed her eyes. It was such a sweet and fulfilling moment for me and it almost felt like everything we had been doing for 19 months was paying off right then and there. In that moment, I could literally feel the strength of the bond which we had built in our hundreds of hours attached in that form. Here she was seeking out physical comfort in the same way she had been nurtured for all these days. Gratifying doesn't really begin to cover it - despite the fact that she is no longer receiving my milk, she is still seeking the physical closeness that she wants and needs in the same way, and I can certainly continue to provide that.

The degree of which I fell in love with breastfeeding kinda surprises me. It was  something that I planned to do without giving it much thought at all. It seems to be the natural way to feed babies, and after reading horror stories of how hard it can be for some women while I was pregnant with Ellie, I just decided to jump in without over-planning it too much. I knew I would be in good hands at the hospital (they've got a great Lactation Consultant support network), and beyond that, I knew there would be resources available if I needed them. Seattle's a great place to build a strong breastfeeding relationship - I never experienced any negativity while nursing in public (no cover) or even talking about our (relatively) extended relationship. Needless to say, she was born, and before I knew it, the nurse was helping us get set up on our first time feeding. (In hindsight, I do wish we hadn't waited so long. I think she was at least an hour old when she first latched, and it looking at the pictures and videos of our first hour, she's obviously exhibiting signs of being ready to latch. I was just clueless and exhausted and had frankly, forgotten about the importance of getting her to the breast ASAP. Next time I hope to do this right away). 

For us, nursing wasn't entirely without difficulty, and the real trials came when I was working and she was demanding more than I could keep up with. It took some serious effort to boost supply during this period of time - I was eating a TON, drinking Mother's Milk Tea, taking Fenugreek (smelling like maple syrup), eating Oatmeal for breakfast, increasing my pumping sessions, drinking a beer at night, drinking gallons of water, etc. Once a month my supply would plummet and I'd worry about the ramifications of this, but we'd pull through (just barely). I'd given away most of my freezer stash by then, so we didn't have a lot of backup, and I'd ask her care providers to ration the bottles and feed extra solids. Thankfully, when I left my job, any supply issues I had seemed to dissipate.

I started thinking about how long we'd continue the relationship, and quickly decided that I couldn't be the one to pull the plug. Just thinking about refusing my baby made me sad, so I decided that I wouldn't, and as long as she'd ask, I'd give. I loved that my body could do something for her long after she was a part of it. When she was sick, not only could I give comfort, but I could give antibodies too, which somehow my body could create specifically to attack the particular illness she was battling. I could hydrate her. Before she'd had any other foods, I would marvel at the fact that all the cells in her body were nurtured and created by mine. 

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this. I'm definitely feeling a bit nostalgic and thankful right now, and so incredibly lucky that we were able to run with this. At the halfway point in this pregnancy, I cannot wait for the moment where (hopefully, god-willing), this baby emerges and is placed on my chest, and we can start the heart-breaking (in a good way), emotional and powerful journey all over again. 

No comments:

Post a Comment