Thoughts on Nursing my Baby

I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I follow use the term “breastfeeding,” but I was raised with the term “nursing” so that’s what I use.

I grew up in a home where nursing was the norm.  My mom was what you’d call a lactivist, but I think the term didn’t exist back in the 80′s (though I’m not sure).  She didn’t go to nurse-ins or anything, but she nursed each of us for an extended time period, sometimes enduring glares or criticism from family or friends.  I’m the oldest of three, with two little brothers who are 3 and 8 years younger than I am.  My mom nursing my brothers was a normal part of my childhood, and she made a note in my baby book that I play nursed my doll when she nursed my middle brother.  Both of my parents came from dairy farms, and so “milking” was a normal part of their lives, and the choice to nurse their children made sense to them.  I can remember watching lots of different types of animals nursing over years on the farm.  Nursing was the natural, normal thing to do.  I’ve carried that belief with me throughout childhood and into my adult life.  I always thought I’d nurse my future babies, no problem.

Until, that is, I started reading blogs.  I learned all kinds of things that were obstacles to nursing that I never knew about.  I never knew that there were such a thing as lactation consultants to help a mother learn to feed her child.  What could she need help for? Isn’t that why both mom and baby have instincts?  I never knew that the doctors or nurses in the hospital would want to supplement with formula if babies weren’t gaining enough weight fast enough.  Maybe that’s because we were all big eaters and gained weight normally, so it was outside of my experience.  I never knew that, on rare occasions, some moms don’t produce milk.  That never happened with animals I saw.  I never knew that there were so many medical and societal barriers to nursing babies. 

So now, with my baby due in about a week, I’m wondering if this whole nursing thing will be as easy as I always thought.  Now that I know all these problems are out there, I worry that my baby won’t latch on right, or that I’ll need some kind of medical intervention that won’t let nursing get off to a good start.  I worry that my baby won’t gain weight quickly enough and I’ll be pressured to supplement with formula.  I worry that I’ll have to put up with criticism from friends or glares from strangers.  So I read, and I learn.  And I’ve regained my confidence that I’ll nurse my baby and it will go just fine.

There are many reasons why I’m determined to nurse my baby.  The most important is that nursing has always seemed like the most natural way to feed my baby.  My mom nursed us, animals nurse their babies, and throughout most of human history, babies have been nursed.  I know from a nutritional and biological standpoint, nursing my baby will give him the best start in life.  I also put a lot of weight on the fact that I won’t have to wash bottles or buy formula (dishes and grocery store trips are high on the list of things I hate to do).  Nursing is also eco-friendly because there are no formula cans to dispose of or worry of chemicals leaching out of the plastic bottle.  Nursing is reliable, and not a problem when the power goes out or there’s no running water. 

I’m happy that my husband, my mom, and my mom-in-law are supportive of my choice to nurse my baby, since I know they’ll all be a source of encouragement if we do run into any problems.  And I can’t wait for this little guy to arrive!

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28 Comments

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28 Responses to Thoughts on Nursing my Baby

  1. Well it’s your baby so no one else’s opinion should matter anyway and I’m glad you’re doing what you think is best. Have to say I think it’s a great choice though!
    I suppose it will depend a lot on how things go in your situation but do expect some bottles and handling of milk if you plan to store any breast milk. For some reason I didn’t think of that until recently and was surprised by how much went into it.

  2. I doubt you’ll run into any problems, but if you do, find yourself a good lactation nurse or consultant to help you work through any issues before supplementing or doing something you don’t want to do.

    Breastfeeding rocks! It’s not always perfect, but it’s totally worth it and it’s definitely worth doing as long as both you and the baby want to.

  3. Cary

    Dear New Friend, God bless you for planning to breastfeed/nurse your baby. It is the most wonderful experience of life. You will be fine! If a big challenge arises, call a lactation consultant and their good suggestions will be there and will solve the issue. Please trust what you have seen all around you all your life and know that this is the most nutritious, natural, healthy start for your young one. My kids were born 20 years ago and were breastfed. My first one had trouble latching on (my nipples were “inverted” so the darling could not hang on). Lactation consultant helped loads and we got her breastfeeding just fine. The second baby had no issues, thanks to sister blazing the way, and Mom’s nipples changing shape. He was breastfed until he was ready to stop at 15 months. I implore you to trust your instincts and the life you’ve watched around you. You and your baby will soar. Enjoy wholeheartedly! Much affection, Cary

  4. Cary’s experience sounds like mine. If it hadn’t been for sheer stubbornness on my part and my mom, I don’t know how we would have made it. Adhesions…who knew? Go with your instincts. Opinions and experiences are all a dime a dozen and everyone has one. My one and only piece of advice from traumatic experience is to introduce a bottle of expressed milk by about two weeks and offer one daily. Dad can feed while you pump. I waited until six weeks with my oldest and it was very traumatic for both of us. She adamantly refused. The others started at two weeks with an ortho nipple and the transition to childcare was much easier. There was no nipple confusion at that point. They always preferred real, but didn’t fuss too much about the fake one.

    Blessings,
    Angela

  5. Stop reading negative accounts, stop worrying (easier said than done!), and do let your instincts take over!!!

    Do what feels right for you and your baby and we will support you in whatever decision that is! I absolutely LOVED nursing you and your brothers; it felt like the right thing to do; I knew you were getting important antibodies from me; and I also didn’t want to bother with bottles and fixing them in the middle of the night! I must admit I was a little extreme in that I had the nurses put a little sign in your hospital bassinet that said “no pacifiers,” and if you were ever away from me in the hospital (because at that time they liked to send the babies back to the nursery at night), they were to bring you to me! I ended up with you rooming in with me and I must admit neither your nor your brothers ever had a pacificer, “binky,” special blanket or anything, it was just my “nummies,” as you came to call them. You guys never would take bottles and you just nursed until you could drink out of a cup—and beyond. So, maybe I was a bit intense, and if you want your baby to ever take a bottle in your absence, you just might want to introduce it to him a little bit sooner.

    Dad was totally supportive, but not everyone was. Not everyone shared our belief in extended nursing, so when you guys were older, I didn’t tend to nurse you in public any more. I remember going to a La Lache League meeting just for fun and I thought some of those women were extreme for nursing their 5-year-olds, but then later could easily find myself in that same situation. . . . so I learned not to judge.

    The best thing that supported my nursing was when the grandmoms came over to help with the laundry, cooking, cleaning the first week after you were born and my soul purpose in life was to love you, nurse you, and get to know you. I wish the same for you!

    Oh, and by the way, this might surprise you, but I remember visiting Ed’s Mom soon after his birth and we enjoyed each other’s company while she nursed baby Ed, so you both come from good stock, a family of breastfeeders, nursers, who think it’s natural.

    You will be fine, my dear!

  6. Marie AKA Mimi

    OH my goodness, Ab, you are going to be fine and if any problems do arise, it will all get resolved pretty easily, the pros out number the cons by the zillions, so please try not to worry and just have faith that this is what mother’s are meant to do, if this is your choice. I know all of these concerns are so normal, but please, take it from two experienced moms…. grandmoms, meaning your mother and I, we will be there to help with any problems and encourage you along the way. Just get your rest and enjoy the ride!!! See you tomorrow, I hope to get over there and paint, I will call you in the AM. Have a good night, hugs to all 3 of you!
    Love, Mimi xoxox

  7. Honey,
    you are a healthy young woman and you will produce milk. The reasons that women very rarely don’t produce milk are usually related to pre-existing hormonal imbalances. You will do fine.
    Is nursing totally instinctual and does it happen without effort? No. There is definitely a learning curve on the part of both mother and baby, especially with a first time mom. That is what lactation consultants are for – to help with the NORMAL learning process.
    However, it is my belief (and this is going to get me in trouble) that nursing is often presented as much more fraught with problems and danger than it really is, to support the medical infrastructure that supports breast-feeding. This is highly ironic – the people who most support breast-feeding and are most aware of it’s benefits are the same ones who end up frightening and discouraging mothers.
    By all means, make use of nurses and lactation consultants and your mother in law and your sister and your local La Leche League whoever the hell else you know who has breast-fed successfully. Ultimately, it is you and your baby who will determine the success or failure of your breastfeeding.
    Almost all people with normal health conditions can breast feed successfully. It WILL take some perseverance – it’s often painful, no matter what the consultants say (they will try to tell you that any discomfort means you “aren’t doing it right.” Bullshit. A first time mom needs to toughen her nipples and it will hurt some until she does. If you buy into the idea that you aren’t doing it right, you will be less likely to keep trying. Is your baby peeing? Gaining weight? Okay – you’re doing it right.)
    I would say that for a first time mom, it is likely to take two full weeks before you are satisfied that you are doing it right and it stops being uncomfortable and your baby has really and truly got the hang of it. Maybe three weeks. Give yourself time and keep at it. Nursing is so rewarding! It was my absolute favorite part of the whole reproductive process – once I got it down pat!
    Aimee (R.N., B.S.N.)

  8. Nursing my daughter was absolutely the VERY BEST time of my life. I was 20 when she was born, and had no instruction or support (it was 1978!), but I can tell you that the bond between us has remained extremely strong, and I credit nursing for establishing that bond. I had absolutely no experience with babies or nursing, but was part of the “earth” movement back then, so I was committed to it. I nursed her until she lost interest at 16 months, when she also decided to potty train. We were poor, but my milk was great, so she was healthy and well fed despite being born a month early. I was able to work part time without pumping, but I have since (I’m a teacher too!) known mothers who do pump successfully and keep on nursing. Don’t question yourself. This is the easiest and most natural thing you’ll ever do, and you will never, never forget it.
    (Not to mention all the nutritional and psychological good it will do your child!) And if people have negative opinions about it, educate them! They’ll be better for it. Your child is much more important than people who don’t have a clue. You and your child are forever; and you’re just beginning. How wonderful! You’ll be fine.

  9. You have a lot of support and experienced nursing moms around you, and that is a GREAT thing. I think that if everyone had that, we would have fewer problems. The truth is that many new moms today haven’t been around newborns at all, and have little or no family support. Suddenly they’re at home alone all day with a new baby to take care of and that can be a very overwhelming thing. This can mean that they don’t even know what is normal behaviour for a baby, and they misinterpret totally typical baby things as problems.

    Research shows us that having good family support is a huge help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start. Between that, and a good basic understanding of what babies are like and what they do, you have the best chances of success. I’m sure that you will enjoy breastfeeding, just as I do. :)

  10. There will be those that tell you nursing is the be all and end all. They will make you feel horribly guitly if you quit. They will tell you all about the research etc… Now… we’ll talk reality.

    My first son I had trouble getting to latch… the hospital was horrible. Make certain if you have difficulties to get help. We got the hang of it and went home. Then came the post partum… tears all the time… I felt like a cow, that this thing was hanging off of me, completely trapped… toss in a uterine infection… it was just horrible. I lasted 4 weeks. 4 weeks I said to my dh.. I can’t do this. He said “I can’t help you do it”. Me “I’m quitting”. Him “whatever you decided…” And there was no going back. The post partum vanished at the same time.

    Little boy didn’t latch at all. Little boy didn’t suck at all. Hindsight and all that good stuff… we think the reason he did take a bottle was b/c it dripped and he understood that’s where food came from. Also, it was easier than a breast to use. I never pumped… and never would.

    Some would say “well they aren’t as healthy”. My kids have autism which is not caused by a lack of breast feeding. They don’t have allergies and are rarely sick in the winter. They weigh the proper amounts and are very smart. I have a child that at 2.5yrs I was told to “write off” litterally by a dev ped that should have retired… at 10 he’s as normal as the rest and one of the smartest in his class…. Little boy although barely verbal will read out loud to you and enjoys books. He’s barely 8 and under testing reads at a Gr 3.5 level.

    At the end of the day you do what works for you and you only. For the rest of your life you’re going to deal with “parental guilt” for one reason or another. Professionals will tell you how they know better than you do. And they don’t.

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I do realize that nursing is not for everyone, for a variety of reasons. My MIL had her first children, twins, at 20 years old and tried to nurse but it was just too much for her, she had no help during the day and she was exhausted.

      I know that if nursing doesn’t work out, it’ll be just fine. As for the autism aspect, I agree, it’s not caused by lack of breastfeeding. (In fact, I think it’s not caused but a lot of the theories out there, but that’s for another post.) I just wanted to throw in that I’ve worked with many children on the spectrum, and I have seen them all transition well from high school to college or career.

  11. Abbie, you’ll be fine. I worried about the same things. My mother was a bit of a lactivist herself, she nursed me and my siblings in the late 60s and early 70s. You come from a culture of nursing, so will probably have less issues than others for that reason.

    I was lucky both of my babies latched beautifully the first time and nursed like champs. My daughter nursed for an hour just after birth and got really ticked when they tried to take her away to clean her up. It was rather funny.

    One thing I have found that is crucial is your pediatrician. Mine is extremely pro nursing and allowed and even encouraged me to do things that many would discourage. My daughter nursed well, but lost too much weight the first few days. (Its normal for them to lose some) I knew that my milk was coming in and he trusted my judgement that she was getting enough. Most docs would have made me supplement and possibly keep her in the hospital, he didn’t. He also encouraged me to cosleep with my kids. Trust me when I tell you that being able to nurse in bed with the kids is a blessing.

    Your biggest issue will probably be when you go back to work. Make sure you get a good quality pump and get the baby drinking from a bottle by about a month. We waited too long with both kids and had issues getting them to take a bottle.

    Lastly, just the fact that you want to do this so badly, will be the biggest factor in how successful you are. I’m jealous, I miss nursing! Crazy, but true.

  12. I loved nursing. I was determined to make it work…..With my first son, I developed mastitis and after 10 weeks, I had to give up, I was heartbroken. (I don’t know if they had lactation consultants then?). With my second child, I had NO problems and I nursed for four months and with my third child, it was even better and longer. You do what is best for you and your baby and no matter what that is, it is the right thing!

  13. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories!

  14. Susan K.

    You’ll be just fine – just stick to your guns. I didn’t do much reading up about it with my first just said I was going to do it and did – got hurt the first week but we got through it without formula and she went on to nurse for 13 months when she got rid of me and got teeth.

    We saw a lactation consult in the hospital because that was standard at the hospital I was at and then I went home and read up as much as possible for the different holds we also had a very supportive doctor who would always say not to worry
    as long as the baby is pooping, peeing and gaining weight you’re both good. (Nursed babies don’t gain as fast as formula babies so DON’T worry about that)

    I’d also like to say that any parenting decision you make is going to get criticism from some no-it-all and you might want to find a nursing group in your area. The other moms will be a ton of support :)

    Good luck

  15. Abby – you will do just fine. I had a nurse try to “show” me how to nurse my baby. I had already been nursing her, but I was “doing it wrong” in that this nurse wanted me to use a football hold (which was uncomfortable and neither baby or I like). She tried for nearly 20 minutes, reducing me to tears and when she left to go get a bottle of formula, I simply nursed A the way that felt natural and comfortable to me.
    When A was 4 days old and we were home, she was having trouble latching on, at 2am in tears thinking I was a failure I sent DH to the store to buy a bottle and some formula. He fed her, and I cried. The next morning I decided (despite all the literature of nipple confusion) to try to nurse her again, and it was fine. But I had the same issue that late evening with her not latching on. I was young, no one told me about LaLeche or any rescources for nursing (it was just assumed I would give up and bottle feed). DH gave her a bottle that night as well. So I decided to ask my Mums for advice (turns out I was overfull and rock hard – which I had noticed- making latch on impossible – so the answer was to pump a little so she could latch on). Because of this A was bottlefed and nursed. I pumped a lot so DH could feed her as well.
    Determined to do it “right” with S I refuse to use a bottle (because A naturally weaned at about 18 months) and I paid for it. She was about 4 months old when I was called for jury duty and she wouldn’t take a bottle and the judge made me stay for jury duty. She screamed from the moment she was hungry until I got back to nurse her. I learned that not introducing a bottle at the right time is as bad as introducing one to early. She nursed until she was 2.5 when she naturally weaned.
    What I learned from the experience is I “knew” what to do, I just didn’t trust myself because the so called experts disagreed with me.
    I also grew up calling it nursing. I was the youngest so I didn’t experience my mum nursing my sisters, but I never thought it odd or out of place.
    You will do what you will do, and it will be fine.

  16. Key words: “I worry that my baby won’t …”

    I didn’t worry so much, so had it easier in the late 70′s, early 80′s with my kids. I also didn’t have lactation consultants telling me that if my baby doesn’t gain back the birth weight in … whatever time … that she’ll be put on formula. Who do these people think they are?

    My mom breastfed and I breastfed and my daughter’s mother-in-law breastfed and she’s doing just fine breastfeeding DESPITE the fears and the worries. It’s definitely a dance that mom and baby need to practice together and the dance will be different with each child. The insistence (on the part of the consultants) that a baby MUST (for instance) suck for 30 minutes at a time would have been ignored by me, as my 2nd daughter gulped down her food in less than 5 minutes and fell asleep for 3 hours.

    My oldest also played both childbirth and breast-feeding. She was there when both her siblings were born and would stuff her doll under her dress and then pull it out and put it to her breast. My father would see her do this and ask, “Are you SURE it was a good idea to have her watch her siblings be born?” The one time *I* saw her, she put the doll to her breast, realized she had no milk in her breast, and took a toy baby bottle and shook it on her breast before putting the doll to it. TOO CUTE!

    I appreciate whoever said that “sore nipples are NORMAL; it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong”, because I had never heard of sore nipples being caused by the baby latching on incorrectly and find it hard to believe that my first would be less skilled than my second and third (where I didn’t experience any soreness at all). It makes sense to me that nipples just need to get accustomed to something happening that’s not happened before.

    You’ll do fine because you have all the support you need, just like my daughter. My husband’s daughter had no support from her mate; he didn’t think breastfeeding “natural”. Let’s all stop and laugh now at the stupidity of THAT statement.

  17. First word of advice: RELAX! :) When I had my first daughter in 1997, I too thought that breastfeeding would be a natural instinct. Well, sometimes it’s NOT! My daughter HATED breast feeding- so after several days of the baby and I both crying, a horrendous visit with the lactation specialist and lots of frustration, I decided to just pump for the first few weeks so that the baby would get all the good immunities and then I switched over to formula.
    I approached breast feeding with a much more open mind with my next 2 children- and I still ended up pumping for the first few weeks and then switching to formula with each of them as well- but for a totally different reason- they latched on and nursed like little fiends and it was very painful for me.
    Just don’t get frustrated or feel inadequate if breastfeeding doesn’t come as naturally as you expect- sometimes it takes a little work. Best of luck to you! :)

  18. I’ve been reading for a while. (Around the time of Isabel / Anabelle perhaps.)

    Worry about tomorrow when it comes. The time you spend worrying is wasted and your baby will sense it. Live in the moment and all will be well.

  19. Nan

    Here’s my advice – don’t read others’ advice. :<) Follow your heart with your baby and it will be fine. If it turns out you don't want to or can't nurse, then don't. And that will be fine. Everyone has an opinion when it comes to babies and child-rearing. You will find your own, and that will be fine, too! So there it is from the sage old 62 year old who adopted and didn't nurse and never felt the least bit bad about using Prosobe (is that stlll a product?) for six months, and then raw milk. My babies thrived and never had ear infections or the myriad other things kids got.

  20. Abbie, you know how I feel about breastfeeding. I think that it is one of the best gifts you can give your child. Enjoy it. The moments spent nursing are wonderful for bonding with your baby, relaxing, and checking e-mail too, lol. You are familiar with my own recent breastfeeding experience, though I am hoping to begin nursing again by using a pump and supplementer (to wear around my neck, so that Levi gets formula and breastmilk because I have little to no supply right now).

    In any case, I can’t tell you how excited I am for you! I am wondering, are you interested in baby wearing at all?

    • I am interested in baby wearing. I got a Baby Bjorn at my shower, and I’ve done a little research that shows babys who are close to mom cry less, I remember reading up to 40% less! I’ll take those chances :) I have to say that the slings make me nervous, I’m looking for something with more structure, at least until he’s a little older.

  21. My eldest hated to be held… at 10 still does. He has severe claustrophobia.

    The younger is a snuggler. I had a (brain freeze) knapsack (front carrier) thing for him. He loved it, left my hands free and I could push elder bro in the stroller.

    I recommend to try what suits you.

  22. I’ll jump in with my 2 cents, since you seem a bit anxious.

    The world seems to be divided in 2 camps. The breastefeeders and the formula people.

    IF you have issues that don’t seem to be resolved with a LC, there is a 3rd option. Full-time pumping. It sucks in more ways than one, but I believe doing that for both my kids (after 6 wks and 4 wks of feeding problems, respectively) was the best thing we could do with our situations.

  23. OK, I was laughing out loud at the “Office’s” special birth show last night, which you suggested I watch.

    Just hope you don’t get a male lactivist (Ed would love that!) or get caught nursing the wrong baby like Pam!

    Too funny! Sometimes, we just need to laugh!

    Lots of love, Mom

  24. Determination is what will ensure that you and your baby have a wonderful nursing relationship. I had problems with 2 out my 3 but God is merciful and we suffered through and I have had 3 wonderful nursing relationships with my kids. I’m still nursing the youngest and he was the toughest but you can do it and just surround yourself with supportive folks. Be gentle with yourself and don’t give up or give in. It will happen whether the start is hard or not…your baby can and will nurse! Hugs. I’m over at my blog if you end up wanting to ask questions. I’m pretty much an open book.

  25. Pingback: Learning From Two Years of Breastfeeding and Adding A New Baby | Natural Parents Network

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