From Nervous to Normal

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information.

When my older son, Kael, was born four and a half years ago, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. I knew that it was best for him and for me, and I had some innate desire to do it. Honestly, I didn’t think once about nursing in public. I didn’t have a plan for how to handle it. I wasn’t concerned about it. I wasn’t confident either. It just never, not even once, crossed my mind.

When Kael was born four weeks early, I found that other issues were weighing more heavily on my mind. Most of my waking thoughts revolved around the fact that he was a sleepy baby with jaundice who couldn’t latch. During my days in the hospital, I had help (?) attempting to get him latched every 3 hours around the clock from the nurses on duty. Eventually, he latched but only with the help of a nipple shield. But, by that point, I felt like everyone in the hospital and maybe in the city had tried to help me breastfeed my son. It seemed as though nearly all of them had seen me attempting to breastfeed, so I figured at that point I was ready to feed him anywhere.

The second week I was home with Kael, my mom came to stay with us. She was SO supportive of breastfeeding. I’m not sure I can emphasize that enough. She kept telling me, “You’re the mom. You know best. Trust yourself.” So, thinking back, that is what I remember from her visit, but somehow by the end of the week when my dad arrived, I had the impression that I should be using a blanket to cover Kael while he was eating. I’m not sure what was said or if it was my mom that said it, but somewhere in that week, I ended up feeling like I should do what I could to cover myself while breastfeeding. Even in my own house!

Between feeling like there was something that should be hidden while breastfeeding, having a baby who struggled with latch, and using the nipple shield, I ended up avoiding breastfeeding in front of other people as much as I could for the first few months. However, it turned out that Kael was pretty cooperative with that. He was a very consistent eater. He ate about every 3 hours for 30-40 minutes. This made it easy for me to plan my outings, because as a mom of a new pre-term baby, I rarely went anywhere for longer than three hours. Also, I knew that if he was going to eat, it was going to take a while. Knowing this, I sometimes arrived late or left early to avoid having to breastfeed for that long time period in a potentially inconvenient place. As he grew, he nursed less and less. I don’t ever remember him asking to breastfeed in a store or restaurant as he grew.

Then came Asa.

Asa was a completely different nursling and completely different baby. He was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. He latched on pretty well, and he ate every hour or so for much of the first six months after he was born.

This was quite a shock to me. I assumed that Kael had been “normal” and that “normal” babies ate on a consistent and predictable schedule. I also had a 20 month old (Kael) who wasn’t crazy about being at home all day each day. That meant that I needed to breastfeed where others might see me. Gulp.

I bought myself some nursing tank tops, and I wore them under another shirt every day. I made plans, and I took both boys out. And, I breastfed in public. Anywhere and everywhere. It seemed like no matter how well I thought I planned things out, the first thing Asa needed when we got anywhere was milk. I breastfed in Subway, Applebee’s, the mall, the mall play area, the park, Sam’s Club, the splash park, the gas station, and everywhere else we went.

At first, I felt very awkward doing it. I was pretty sure most people around me were looking at me, talking about me, or at the very least thinking about me. Looking back, I’m pretty sure most of the times I was nursing no one else gave me a second thought, or maybe not even a first thought!

Over time, I felt less nervous and awkward while I was nursing. I stopped blushing, and it really became as much a part of our routine as nursing at home was. I’m sure I could claim that it was because I just did it more, and I got better at it. While I’m sure that was a part of it, I know there was at least one other major factor that really helped me feel comfortable feeding Asa wherever we were. My friends.

Not only did my friends breastfeed their children, they did it in public. They breastfed at the park, in the mall, at my house, at their houses, in stores, in restaurants, on the bike trail, and everywhere in between. They also had children who were older than Asa. I’m sure I had no idea at the time that seeing other moms nurse their babies while reading a book to their toddler at the library or seeing moms nurse their babies while sitting at a table in a restaurant had such a large part in my change in attitude about nursing my own children, but as I look back, I am confident that having such great role models as friends was so important for me and for Asa.

I have always heard other breastfeeding moms encourage people to nurse when their babies need to. At one time, I even felt like it was some sort of agenda. Now, I feel like I am more able to see it for what it is. It’s normal. It’s part of mothering a breastfed baby. It’s feeding and comforting. I’m due in October with baby number three, and I am not sure if this baby will be more like Kael or more like Asa, but I know that regardless of his nursing needs, I will be more prepared to meet them wherever we are.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 – Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

Being Done

Being Done

It’s been a week, and there has been a BIG change.  But, on the other hand, it doesn’t feel like much has changed at all.  My previous blog was primarily a breastfeeding blog.  For the past four and a half years, I have eaten, breathed, and dreamed breastfeeding.  I know that sounds weird, but I think it’s true.  From working through my own struggles to breastfeed my sons to moderating a breastfeeding support board, I can’t even count the hours I have spent thinking about, reading about, and breastfeeding my own kids.  And, now, I’m done.  They’re done.  For the first time, since November 2005, I am not nursing anyone.

One of the first things my friends have said when I told them is, “How do you feel about that?”  In my head and my heart, I am so happy for both boys.  Kael nursed until just a few days before he was 4 1/2.  Asa nursed until about 6 weeks before his 3rd birthday.  Kael started off as a 4 week pre-term baby who struggled to latch.  He was a sleepy baby.  He had jaundice.  Then, somehow as he grew, day by day, we both became more comfortable and more confident in our relationship.  We both began to depend on on breastfeeding as a major part of our lives.  When I got pregnant with Asa, Kael was almost 12 months old.  He persevered and nursed through my pregnancy with Asa.  He nursed like an infant when Asa was born.  Asa was a high needs baby when he was born.  He had reflux and a dairy sensitivity.  He was also very anxious around people other than my husband and myself.  He spent a lot of time being held and in the Ergo.  At the time, it was hard.  Very hard and very draining.

Kael

Asa

Both boys weaned on their own, and they both chose the day to be done.  We had talked ahead of time about when they were ready to be done the celebration we would have, and it would be a very important day.  Kael chose his day at the end of April.  Never did I imagine that Asa would choose his only 4 weeks later!  When Kael was born, I had a goal of breastfeeding him for six weeks.  As you can see, it went a lot further than that.  By the time Kael was 3 months old, I knew that I wanted him to be able to nurse for as long as he wanted.  I am so happy to say that he did.

So, on the one hand, while I am so happy to have breastfed them until they were ready to be done, and I am proud of them for knowing when they no longer wanted to continue having “Mommy Milk,” I am also sad knowing that this is a chapter that is finished.  They will never be my little babies again.  Also, for the first time in 4 1/2 years, I am not a breastfeeding mom.  There was a time when I was pregnant with Asa that I thought Kael was weaning.  We’d had a busy day, and he didn’t nurse at all, not once, during the day.  I felt really sad about it.  I felt like I had let him down by getting pregnant with Asa and affecting my milk supply.  It was also around that time that I first read the essay Weaning Ella from Brain, Child Magazine.  It is a touching essay of a mother’s decision to stop nursing her daughter.  When I read that essay, I felt nothing but sadness.  I felt sad for myself, for Kael, and for the mother and daughter in the essay.

Even though I thought I was done nursing Kael at that point, he apparently didn’t realize that.  🙂  He picked up his nursing again before Asa was born and nursed like crazy after his brother’s birth.  When I think back to that time, I know there is a great difference between how I was feeling then and how I feel now.  Even though I am sad for the relationship to be over now, I don’t feel any sense of regret or guilt.  I feel like he was ready, and I was ready (sad, but ready).  I know that both of my boys are ready for their independence.  I know that they are ready to move away from me in their own ways.  I know this, but darn it, there’s just something I’m not ready for in all that!

Kael

Asa

So, while there are times when I am sad, and I’m not even really sure I can put my finger on the reason for the sadness, I am also excited.  I’m excited that we have Baby #3 on the way in October.  I’m excited that Kael and Asa are growing and changing every day.  Even though one relationship has come to an end, I know that I still have so much to learn about them and from them as they grow.

Asa and Kael at Lowe's Kids Day

Kael and Asa at the Pumpkin Patch