One Mom’s Breastfeeding Story

8FamilyBy Tiffany Holley

I’ve got a lot of years of nursing under my belt, er, bra… And three very different experiences.

Mom nursed my sister and I, so formula was just not something I ever considered. She went with me to my first La Leche League meeting when I was pregnant with my first.

My oldest child, a boy, was born after a smooth hospital birth in 1994.

Although he sprayed all over the doctor as he emerged, nobody wrote that down. They refused to discharge him until they had noted on the chart that he had urinated. He was too agitated to nurse, and things began to slide downhill. The nurses wanted to put him in a warmer and give him a bottle.

I signed us out AMA and went home. We cuddled in bed, nursed happily, and slept… And, of course, he wet his diaper.

He had a strong preference for the right breast, but other than that our nursing relationship was pretty simple and happy. When he became verbal, he described it as “the hot side” and “the cold side.”

My ex-husband and I divorced when the baby was a little over a year old, and naturally things became more challenging in my life. I got a job as an apartment resident manager, so that I could continue to stay home with him. I also started a mail-order business for natural pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting books.

Sometime after his third birthday, my energy reserves were simply *gone*. I informed him, in simple language, that he either needed to wean or potty train, because I could no longer handle both of those things.

I was stunned when he chose to wean, since he still seemed very attached to nursing (albeit only a few times a day). He never mentioned it again… And to this day it is something that I look back on with regret.

We muddled along alone together for the better part of a decade, until we ran across a suitably wonderful man, who I promptly married.

Princess J came into our lives not too long after (2005), in dramatic style.
j nurse
After our relaxing home birth stalled in transition for some 6 hours, the midwife didn’t get any argument from me when she called for us to take the show on the road. Fortunately, the obstetrician she works with was on the floor, so we were allowed a “trial” rather than an immediate C-Section.

I had some of those interventions I generally avoid – but at that moment was profoundly grateful for. My mother caught her, and we went home four hours later.

J and I had a challenging time getting started.

She was a dainty little girl (little? 9 lbs. 6 oz. is hardly little!) with a tiny little mouth. I am a big girl, and busty besides… and the fluids from the hospital IVs had made my breast tissue hard and swollen. Unlike engorgement, this wasn’t relieved by hot showers, pumping, or any of the other things we tried.

Finally, someone suggested a lymph draining massage. What a relief!

We went through some of the normal trials of nursing, the occasional plugged duct / mastitis type situation, but our relationship was a joy. She was an eager nurser, and never seemed to care which side was due.

I did not even consider weaning her (at age 2.5) when I found out I was pregnant again. There were times during the pregnancy when I gritted my teeth a lot, and times when I limited her to “let’s nurse while we sing the ABC song, then we’ll be all done.” But even through those days, I knew that it was worth it for all of us to continue.

rt birthBig Baby (an 8 lb. 12 oz. boy) was born in 2008, just before J turned three. He ejected himself out into the tub at a local birthing center after a brief but intense labor. Again, we were home in bed a few hours later, bonding as a family.

He is my laziest nurser, although he’s always been tall and very chubby. He never had any problems, but this has probably been the most challenging period of nursing for me.

I tandem nursed my two “Littles” for about nine months. For the first few weeks I had to have them take turns, while I figured out ways that they could possibly share.

As I struggled with my post-partum hormones and exhaustion, I was afraid for a while that I had pushed Miss J into weaning. When I realized that she had gone two days without nursing, and I cried myself to sleep.

The next day she tripped and fell, and I was extra quick to offer her nursing. We got ourselves back on track – she was happy to nurse, and I was able to set limits to make the experience work better for me.

One of our favorite positions became side-lying in bed. Big Baby would nurse on my lower breast, while his big sister hung over the top of me and nursed (semi-upside-down) on the top breast.

When Big Baby was about six weeks old, I became very ill. I woke up one morning with angry red swelling over most of one breast. I had extreme chills and fever all day. It got worse instead of better, even though I knew how to treat mastitis, so eventually we went to the Emergency Room.

It turns out I had been suffering from a bladder infection for quite a while (often symptom-less during pregnancy), and it had developed into a kidney infection. They said I needed to be admitted to the hospital, and I would have to stop nursing my baby.

The struggle we went through in the hospital deserves to be told in its full “glory” as a separate story. Let me just say that it took my husband, the hospital’s lactation consultant, and my declaration that I was willing to sign out AMA and leave at any time to keep the baby in the room with me and continue nursing.

It was probably the longest five days that our family has ever had to live through. But we made it, still happily nursing.

Over the next few months I underwent two outpatient procedures to treat my (newly discovered) kidney stones. Again, we struggled with some of the medical professionals involved over nursing and medications. It was dismaying how quickly they advised women to give up nursing, or to pump and discard for a time, or give the baby a supplement…

But we made it through, a happy nursing couple – or triad, as the case was.

At 44 months, Princess J announced that she was weaned. ballet smallAnd so she was. Since she was such a grown up girl, we had a weaning party, and she and Papa went to the ballet downtown, in full formal dress.

Like the older two, I introduced solids to Mr. Big Baby around six or seven months. He enjoys the idea of eating, but at 18 months he is still clearly getting the majority of his daily nutrition from nursing. I would estimate that neither of the older siblings passed the point of more food than nursing until around age two, so we’re right on schedule.

Tiffany Holley has nursed three children (currently 18 mos. – 15 years old) for a total of 8 years – and counting. She and her family live, breastfeed, urban homestead, cloth diaper, homeschool, and write in Southern Florida (but hope to remedy their location situation soon). You can read about their adventures on their blog, As For My House.

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