by Rebecca Charron
I gave birth to my first child, a son in August 2009, and planned on breastfeeding him at least until 6 months. I planned to re-evaluate at that point, decide to go on or not and then re-evaluate again at a year. To my surprise, these re-evaluations have led me to me breastfeeding through his first, and even beyond his second birthday. I had numerous reasons for deciding to breastfeed ahead of time but found little support from either my prenatal class or OB. I did my own research and came up a plan which included having my son in my arms immediately after birth and initiating breastfeeding with in the first hour. Of course as soon as I went into labour everything changed and my plan went out the window. My son and I faced breastfeeding challenges from the get go including being completely separated for over 24 hours, him ending up in the NICU for a few days as well as my own very poor health due to the birth. As determined, educated, and head strong as I was, still I felt bullied into giving him formula at the hospital and felt like a failure when I did. In the end we did not leave exclusively breastfeeding but instead using a lactation aid which gave him formula while he was at the breast.
Eventually everything got sorted out and we were exclusively breastfeeding within a week of coming home. Things were looking up…. and of course we hit a major bump in the road not long after. After returning from our Christmas holidays I fell and broke my left wrist and required surgery. My son was not quite 5 months old and still exclusively breastfeeding. This unexpected event brought a whole new batch of challenges including finding a way to get my son to the hospital so he could breastfeed upon demand even as my surgery was bumped and bumped again. I had to learn about which medications were safe for me to take so that I could continue breastfeeding and had to rely deeply on my husband and family to help me.
I was near my 6 month mark so I could have stopped breastfeeding at this point, but chose not to. I saw that my son still needed to breastfeed and that I needed him to breastfeed. In the face of everything going on I still had my moments of quiet bonding with my son, even when someone else had to bring him to the breast because I could not lift him with my cast. Those moments were worth every effort to save, and we succeeded but my milk supply suffered badly. Within a few months I was having severely clogged ducts in my breasts and a very fussy baby who just wasn’t getting as much milk as he wanted.
As we neared my son’s first birthday, with problems still plaguing us, I again re-evaluated whether to continue breastfeeding, and again it was clear that this is what worked for us. However, this resolve to nurse my son past a year was complicated yet again as I needed another surgery on my wrist. This time I knew to watch my supply and at the first sign of trouble I got help. Under the supervision of a trusted, certified Lactation Consultant and with the invaluable help of Dr. Newman’s breastfeeding clinic I was put on a medication to increase my milk supply; domperidone.
I could have stopped rather than take the medication as I knew it would require time to see results as well as time to wean myself off of the drug in order to maintain my milk supply on my own. Again I found that the nursing relationship I had with my son was worth the trouble. At this point I decided that my son, not me, should have the deciding voice in when to stop breastfeeding and as he was not ready to stop then I was going to do everything I could to provide him with the milk he needed. My son and I persevered and our nursing relationship survived the second surgery and my recovery.
We have now just pasted his second birthday and I am proud to say I am still nursing my toddler. He learn to ask for it when he wanted it and also learn limits on when I was comfortable nursing him and when he needed to wait. Over time the relationship has evolved so now he only nurses when he wakes up in the morning and again when he wakes up from his nap. These two quiet moments we have in our day bring me such joy as my busy toddler is off and running the rest of the time. He is on to his next adventure so I hardly get any down time with him that does not involve his ‘choo choo’ or whatever set of blocks he is building with. Even this schedule is flexible so that when he is at daycare a couple days a week we only have the morning nursing session. This is such a change from feeding an infant on demand at the beginning of his life!
Of course my life has thrown us another curve ball and I am recently pregnant! My son’s needs are changing as my milk changes readying for the new baby so I do not know if we will still be breastfeeding once the new baby is born, but I am up for it if he is. Again our nursing relationship has to be re-evaluated in light of these changes, but as with everything else that has crossed our path; we’ll figure it out together and make sure everyone’s needs are being met.