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