Natural Parenting: 18 Months of Breastfeeding

Yes, I get it.  Some of you will think I’m nuts for nursing that long and others will totally understand.  For me, I have to say I’m proud and truly blessed.  Growing up for the past thirty years, I had constantly heard how my mom nursed both my sister and me for 18 months each and thought nothing of it.  Honestly, it never dawned on me what I would do when I had kids though I was pretty sure I would breastfeed.

When I became pregnant with our first child, not long after getting married, I think it flipped a ‘crunchy’ switch on inside of me that I didn’t know existed.  I learned how perfumes and smelly items like candles were bad for her as well as me due to all the chemicals in them so I quit using them.  I learned that babies are born with 200 chemicals in their body and all they have done is exist, so out went the bleach and in came the gallon jug o’ white vinegar.  I started to eat better though I thought I ate pretty good on a gluten-free diet-having things like quinoa, flax, and chia seeds.  I even had my smoothie recipe down to a science.  I wanted to walk, walk, walk, since my mom said it would help keep me in shape and hopefully aid with a smooth delivery.  So I guess breastfeeding was just another part of that…plus it was free (well the milk was anyway)!

Not every mama has to be on board with breastfeeding but I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed that so many women are these days!  A lot of them even say they will nurse until the baby is done with them which I think is really beautiful.  I read a tweet last night about these celeb moms who nursed, even performing onstage while engorged, and it connected me to them.

I will admit that breastfeeding did not come easily for us at first.  Emma had trouble latching due to her short tongue and high palate and I had flat nipples (whatever that meant).  There I said it.  About 5 times a day a lactation nurse would come in to try to help us and let me know about my ‘problem.’  There was even the threat of having to cut Emma’s frenulum but her doctor decided it wasn’t necessary.  But I was determined, so they brought me the hospital grade pump to get the ball rolling while we were still in the hospital.  Since I had an emergency c-section, I wanted to stay as many days as I could, 6 to be exact, to get as much help as I could.  They got me set up with a nipple shield, SNS (supplemental nursing system-basically tube feeding), and a syringe.  Talk about frustrating!  I knew my body was designed to feed my child on my milk alone yet her and I couldn’t get it right.  It drove me nuts when the nurses said that I wasn’t producing enough so I would have to supplement, which I did one time and then said no mas!

Once we got home the fun began!  I swear I cried for a month straight from being frustrated and sleep deprived and was ready to quit.  I told my hubby I couldn’t do it anymore and see why women gave up, but Josh being my rock, kept encouraging me and cheering us on.  It helped setting small goals like nursing for 6 months, then shooting for 9, then one year.  I swear I could still hear my mom in the back of my head saying she nursed us both with inverted nipples so it gave me some hope.  After about two months with the shield (they are slippery lil suckers), my hubby suggested I try without it and wham-o she latched right on to me!  That meant no more dragging around extra shields and trying to get her situated right while the dang thing slipped off and no more SNS running through the shield so she would keep sucking.  It was a glorious day in my world.  After that, along with the help of a dear lactation nurse, I will say it got easier but I still felt like a milking machine 24/7.  And I’m pretty sure I over-pumped myself not knowing when and how often to pump-I would get up at 4am to pump even though baby girl was asleep.  Can ya tell I’m a newbie?  That was okay though since I was able to give my extra milk to another baby whose mama didn’t always pump enough.

Emma and I finally had it figured out and while I had a nursing cover, I wasn’t the most comfortable in public so we often sat in the car or in a bathroom.  She became quite efficient and was done in about 5 minutes so I didn’t mind.  At thirteen months, I remember on my birthday (when she fiinally said ‘Mama’) that it seemed like she was done because nothing was coming out of me…or so I thought.  I called my mom and cried like a baby thinking it was all over but it turns out I was dehydrated from being sick that day.  We went strong for another few months and she would comfort nurse, in the morning or at night, through the molars coming in, then eventually wanted no more nook (milk) from me and I was okay with it.  I hadn’t gotten sad about our journey being over until I wanted to write this post.  I definitely don’t have any regrets, except maybe doing those pesky 3 hour scheduled feedings rather than on-demand, and thank God for the gift I was given.  My plan was to go as long as she would go but guess it was time to move on.  I am eternally grateful for the bond that formed between us and all the time we spent feeding together…we went through quite a few books during that time.  Love you, baby girl!

I have to say that breast milk in and of itself is a natural cure-all.  I watched the documentary called Babies and one mama used it in her son’s eyes to help clear them up.  I’ve heard you can put a drop or two in their nose to aid with stuffy noses before suctioning with a snotsucker.  You can rub milk on your nipples after nursing if they are cracked.  I read where one mama rubbed it all over her baby’s body while he was in NICU to help revive him.  Basically it’s amazing stuff and not just for drinking.  If you do have complications, find yourself a good lactation consultant or breastfeeding support group, like I did, and get what you need.  You can also find a local La Leche League (LLLI) where a wonderful group of women can help with any questions or concerns you may have.

Whew!  There you have it-a big ole post on breastfeeding.  I say if you are interested in trying it-go for it.  Sign up for those classes at the hospital or get you a midwife if you do the birthing center/home birth route and don’t feel scared or worried that it will hurt.  After watching my sister give birth to her son, who’s 8 months younger than Emma, I had no idea nursing could be that easy.  He just latched right on and they went from there!  Seek out friends and family members if you have questions or need help.

Alright then, let’s hear it…did you nurse your child(ren) and if so for how long?  I bet a lot of you have had some struggles so let’s all share the good, the bad, the ugly, in hopes of reaching out to one another.

10 thoughts on “Natural Parenting: 18 Months of Breastfeeding

  1. Wow Jess, great post! I’m sure there will be a few first time mommy’s who will appreciate this. I hope to be one of them.

  2. I LOVE THIS!!! I also, nursed baby #1 for 18 months. Baby #2 for 13 months.

    My journey started with an emergency C-section and a baby in the NICU for 2 weeks. I pumped religiously (sometimes, my husband would pump for me while I sat in a hospital chair half asleep)! My NICU baby never had anything but MY milk/colostrum, even though the really sweet NICU nurses said not to worry about it (ha!). They clearly didn’t know me…..determined mama, I was going to NURSE dangit. After my baby’s 10th day of life, I could feed her by holding her to my actual breast (which by then was FULL and ready to go, thank you Medela Pump in Style) and after a comedy of sorts, we got it down. To all the naysayers who say after a baby has a bottle (even though it was my milk) they don’t want to nurse: WRONG.

    Baby #2 was a different story. He latched on day 1!! We were a dynamic nursing duo. He put himself on a schedule! When the nursing got to only twice a day (early morning, before breakfast) and at night (before bed)…I knew it was the beginning of the end. I cherished our last month or so nursing. Awww…bittersweet~

    Great blog!! Love it!!

    • Thank you! Wow! What a journey you have been through and such an inpspiration to mamas out there who struggle with babies in the NICU. Just goes to show ANYTHING is possible. Even to the naysayers out there-you didn’t give up and gave your children the best gift they could (n)ever ask for. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  3. My first one Wyatt we had a tough start but after we left the hospital he did great. He nursed until 18- 20 months. Then the second, Benjamin, one he was a pro he knew just what to do. He only nursed 16 months- 19 months, because we found out I was pregnant with number 3 (5 if you include the olde two kids:). Number three, Skylar, is now 7 months old and still going strong! It is such a feeling of accomplishment when you have made it that long and are finally done Breast Feeding! I get really sad/ upset when I talk to mother who say it just wasn’t for me or I just didn’t have the time for it. Or they give up because they can’t get it figured out. You’re a great example to all those struggling mothers out there. It your willing to try and God is willing it can be done.

    • Thank you for the kind words. It is a feeling of accomplishment and I am impressed your kiddos took to it so well and are still going strong. That breaks my heart too when mamas give up that quickly or just don’t want to do it. It is their choice but I love the bond it created with Emma and I know that could never be replaced. You can do anything with God’s help and sometimes it takes a miracle 😉

  4. I have been nursing for 7.5 months. I had most of the same issues you had a first. He wouldn’t latch and my nipples were flat. I thought I wouldn’t make it either…so I set a goal of 6 months. When I got to 6 months I wondered why I would stop there and pushed myself til the end of the year. I’ve upped the goal to a year now…we’ll see where it goes from there. It is one of the best things I’ve ever done.

    • Way to go mama!! That does sound just like me 🙂 You have to give yourself credit for pushing through, though, becuase it can be very defeating. It’s probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done!

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