All's Well That Ends Well
Shrewsbury MA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, pp.207-208
My now three-year-old son breastfed for around 13 months, at which time he learned how to walk and promptly lost interest. He weaned himself with absolutely zero sentimentality while leaving me (quite literally) high and dry and full of nostalgia for that special bonding. He'd apparently had "quite enough, thank you very much."
Breastfeeding wasn't easy for us in the beginning, to say the least. I think the lactation specialists I saw in the hospital thought that I would probably give up on breastfeeding relatively soon because neither my young son nor I seemed able to master the latch-on process. Initially, because of my soreness, I relied about a thousand percent on nipple shields just to get through the day.
I would cry and complain about my nursing difficulties to my husband, my parents, my friends, and just about anyone else who would listen to me. And they all told me that it would not be the end of the world if I had to switch to formula, and that as much as I wanted to succeed, maybe it just wasn't in the cards. I was determined to make breastfeeding work, however, so I continued using nipple shields, occasionally winced in pain, and persevered.
I am very happy to report that everything worked out. Gradually, my son got better and better at latching on and, at the same time, I got less and less sore. Thank goodness! When I had my second baby, a little girl, in the summer of 2005, I assumed that I would be an expert at nursing. I could not have been more wrong.
Everything started out well enough that second time around. My little daughter seemed to be a pro at latching on immediately. The problem was that I thought my nipples would have "toughened up" a bit after nursing my son. But no such luck. I was just as sore the second time around as the first.
And so, humbly swallowing my pride on day two of my hospital stay with baby number two, I slowly made my way to the group lactation class for first-time mothers. And, just as I thought would be the case, I was the only mother of two in the entire room.
"It's my second, but I'm, uh, really sore all over again," I said quietly to the mother sitting next to me, who smiled warmly. Encouraged by her friendly demeanor, I continued, "In fact, I'm having almost all the same nursing issues with my second baby as I had with my first."
It turned out that while my little daughter was latching on hungrily -- and certainly with all the requisite vigor -- I needed to help her improve her technique, just as I'd had to do with my son three years earlier. And the lactation consultant, who was as compassionate and understanding as the other mothers in the room, was able to help me with that. What I came to realize that day was that none of the other mothers was sitting in judgment of me. I was the only one judging me for showing up in class that day. And there was no need for that. As a matter of fact, the teacher commended me for coming, saying that she wished all second-time mothers would come to lactation class, because -- as I now know all too well -- it is so easy to forget all the little tricks and tips that make nursing such a positive, magical experience.
My daughter is turning 10 months old soon and is still happily breastfeeding, so all's well that ends well.