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Helping My Baby Grow

By Tamar England
Marietta GA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 6, November-December 2004, p. 214

When I was pregnant and people would ask if I would be nursing, my answer was always, "I’ll try." I had heard so many times that nursing was too hard. After Liam was born, I was told my nipples were flat. I wore a breast shell those first few days. It apparently helped because once my milk came in when Liam was three days old, we did not need to use it anymore. From the beginning, Liam would nurse for 45 minutes on one side, take a five minute break, and then be ready to nurse 45 minutes on the other side. What happened to the 20 minutes on each side that I had heard about? I did some reading, specifically books on attachment parenting by Dr. Sears, and realized that what I was experiencing with Liam was completely normal. He was a "casual diner," as they say. It took me a while to realize that as long as Liam was gaining well, all I had to do was follow his cues and we’d both be happy.

I attended my first LLL meeting when Liam was two months old. It was an amazing experience to be in a room full of mothers and babies all nursing. The experience of talking to mothers of babies older than Liam was so valuable because they reinforced what I already knew: I was doing exactly what Liam needed me to. And if that meant nursing for longer than the "standard" 20 minutes on each side, so be it. I remember when Liam was small, I must have read 20 novels in the span of a couple of months. I would lie on my bed and nurse Liam and read. It was great being able to rest and relax while my precious baby took part in his favorite activity.

When Liam was six months old, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. I would have to have a mole and a large amount of skin around it removed, requiring approximately 20 stitches. The dermatologist told me that he could give me Valium before the procedure. I asked him if I could still nurse if I took Valium, and he told me I would have to wait 24 hours for the medicine to leave my system. This conversation occurred as I was sitting in his office before the procedure, so I did not have the time to contact LLL to find out that this information was totally incorrect. I decided against taking the Valium, and proceeded with the procedure with local anesthesia to the affected area only. I nursed Liam directly before and directly after the procedure. I could not imagine not nursing my baby for 24 hours, I needed it as much as he did. It did wonders for my recovery being able to relax and nurse Liam.

Several months later I decided to have elective eye surgery. For this procedure I would be put to sleep using general anesthesia. I had done my own research and knew that I could nurse before being put to sleep and after I woke up, so this is what I did. Again, Liam did not have to go more than a few hours between nursing sessions.

I am sad to think of all the mothers out there who may have either "pumped and dumped" for a certain amount of time or actually weaned because of her own medical issues when it was not at all necessary. Nursing Liam during my recent medical procedures was very natural.

Several weeks ago I had a mini family reunion. My sister is nursing her 15-month-old daughter as I continue to nurse Liam. I feel an extra bond with my sister because we are nursing our children. How wonderful to know our family understands and supports our decision to nurse our children until they decide to wean.

As I look back on the past 13 months of being a mother to Liam, I know that breastfeeding has played a vital role for both of us. As a growing toddler, Liam gets so excited when it’s time for "milkee." It’s such an amazing feeling to know that my milk has helped Liam grow from a newborn baby to toddler. As he reaches every milestone, I know that my milk helped him get there.

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