I Will Breastfeed
Burkina Faso West Africa
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, pp. 210-212
Being a mother has changed me in ways I never imagined. Its impact on my marriage was greater than I expected, too. And at times, breastfeeding was difficult for me. Regardless, I have continued to nurse and my son is now two-and-a-half years old. My husband and I are talking about having another child, and this has brought out so many feelings. Do I want to go through everything again?
Reading the articles in NEW BEGINNINGS about breastfeeding through difficulties has given me so much encouragement. Women who are dedicated to breastfeeding and believe that any obstacles are worth the end result give me strength. I decided to write an article to be honest about my feelings, both positive and negative, in hopes that other women will identify with my story and also be inspired.
Until my son was about one year old, I was concerned that my husband and I would never return to our normal sex life. He has been very supportive, but during the conversations we had on the subject, he admitted that breastfeeding made it difficult for him to see me as both a woman and a mother. Yet, we both knew the benefits of breastfeeding and didn't want to give it up.
Although I wanted to nurse my son right after he was born, his body temperature was low and he was separated from me for a few hours. I was glad that he still latched on after our separation and he nursed often in the hospital -- every two hours for an hour at a time. It seemed as though every time I was just about to fall asleep, my son was ready to nurse again. By the third day, the day I went home, my nipples were sore. He had been circumcised the same day and wanted to nurse nonstop. Every time I took him off my breast, he cried.
I made several trips to a lactation consultant that first week in an effort to find a position that was less painful. I also treated my nipples after each nursing. My son didn't seem to know how to nurse without hurting me in the early months and I grew wary of trying new things, as it only seemed to upset him. I just gritted my teeth and continued, figuring that my nipples would heal eventually.
When my son was six weeks old, I went back to work part-time and attempted to use a breast pump. This was painful because my sore nipples would get sucked into the tubes and rub against the plastic with each pulse. After trying a couple of different size cups, I gave up the pump and hand expressed enough milk for two to three bottles a day. When my son was six months old, I was able to stop expressing milk and keep him with me while I taught music lessons. Thankfully, most of my students (and their mothers!) understood about my nursing relationship with my son.
At that point, about half our nursing sessions were still painful. Trips to lactation specialists confirmed that he was using his tongue incorrectly, but nothing seemed to correct the problem. Compounding the problem was that he never voluntarily stopped nursing, so I could never tell when he had enough. Generally, I let him nurse until it was too painful. This varied from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. Of course, there were also wonderful moments when there was no pain, or when he fell asleep nursing and stayed asleep while I took him off the breast. I still love watching him relax in my arms and close his eyes. I will miss this magical sight when he weans.
When he was one year old, my son was contented with 15 minutes of nursing four times a day, and then once or twice during the night. I wasn't working anymore because we moved, and I felt so free and happy. I nursed him to sleep every night, but he often started to chew on my nipple. If I took him off, he would scream for an hour before finally falling asleep. If I let him chew, I would be so sore that I was unable to wear a bra. Changing his position didn't seem to help, either.
We limped along nursing like this for another six months until suddenly he began to nurse properly. Now he is two-and-a-half and still enjoys nursing once or twice a day, although I don't think there is very much milk. He really enjoys the cuddling and so do I! He climbs on my lap with a mischievous smile, looks at my face, and either makes a sign for nursing or lifts my shirt. He hardly ever gets sick, even when one of his playmates has a cold, and I believe this is because of my milk.
Now that I am thinking about breastfeeding another baby, I wonder if it will hurt again. I wonder if I will be able to correct the problem right from the start. I also worry about how breastfeeding affected my relationship with my husband and his role as a father. He often felt inadequate in the past because it was easy for me to comfort our son at the breast while he was required to pace the floor, jiggling our son in his arms. But that has changed as our son became a toddler. Even though I worry about pain and how breastfeeding a second child will affect my life, I know deep down that if the time comes that I will breastfeed again. My child will be healthier and happier because of it.