Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What is "extended" breastfeeding like?

It's no secret that I'm a fan of promoting breastfeeding. (At least, I hope it's not a secret, because then I need to talk to my PR department.)

Here are some more (rambling) thoughts.

My Favorite Breastfeeding Moments

Sadly, this moment is now just a memory. But in the past, when Silas used to fall asleep nursing, he would enter this stage of being mostly asleep, but j-u-ust awake enough to continue nursing. Then he would fall asleep completely, without my noticing.

Then, he would laugh in his sleep.

Look, you know that if you like baby laughter, it is the sweetest sound ever. Well, when a baby laughs because he is in a deep sleep and he still happens to be cuddled up to you, it adds a wonderful touch of surrealism to make it a perfect moment.

Now if I want Silas to laugh while he nurses, I can just make a funny noise and he will crack up. Everything is funnier to him when he is nursing, for some odd reason!

Why nurse past a year?

Some babies initiate weaning on their own, sometime around their first birthday. After all, ever since they received their first bite of solid food, a baby is on his or her path to weaning. And, let me tell you, that path can be very different for each baby. In Silas's case, he still loves to nurse. And nursing still is a wonderful experience for me.

So you can pick and choose whatever reasons you want to nurse past a year. If it's working for baby and for mom, then I don't need to bore you with World Health Organization guidelines or anything like that; just go with the flow. 

Well, when will you wean?

Oh, boy. Here's the thing. There are a lot of different mothers and babies out there in a lot of different situations. Pretty much in every case, mothers and babies wean for a lot of different reasons. But of course I will advocate for nursing as long as you can! After all, there's nothing damaging about comforting your baby.

I think a lot of the time, we apply adult constructs to our babies. Breasts are sexualized. But a baby doesn't understand the phrase "sex sells." A baby (and yes, a toddler who can ask to nurse) just understands that he can find comfort and milk at the breast. Sometimes, when Silas wants to nurse, he'll start to get really clingy and fussy. The way his eyes light up in simple happiness when I ask him if he wants to nurse, and the way he lies calmly and nurses only serves to show how comforting and bonding the process is for him. (To be fair, though, he does spend some nursing sessions trying to stretch and to move and to try to put his toes in his mouth).

We are currently working on actions he can do to show me he wants to nurse instead of fuss. My favorite is that he will stop playing and start down the hallway to my room, since the bed is the most comfortable place to nurse him. Once he gets into the room, he will climb up on our bed (a mattress on the floor) and sit down next to where I sit to nurse him. Then he will squeal happily.

Anyhow, it's obvious I'm a hippie at heart, so currently, yes, Silas is nursing past his first year and will be nursing for the foreseeable year. It's an interesting change because he's able to go longer without nursing, and he can be more distracted than when he was younger, so I find myself nursing in private more often than when he was younger.

What if he bites you?!

Silas was an early, early teether. I guess he doesn't appreciate a good, gummy baby smile, because he cut his first teeth before he was six months old. Look, I know all babies are different and some babies are going to bite and there's nothing to be done. But in my experience, this is what I've come across:

1) Babies bite to express emotions. Like, the first time Silas bit me, it was out of frustration. Unbeknownst to me, he had tried to eat a small bit of leaf, and it was stuck on the back of his tongue. So when he tried to nurse, it was irritating him. So he bit me.

I was surprised and of course it hurt some, but in that case I was more worried than anything. (Actually, Smiley recalls that I told him I needed to bring Silas to the emergency room because I was pretty sure he was deathly ill. Silas NEVER had issues with nursing).

Babies will also bite at the end of a nursing session when they become bored.The fix there is to watch for when they slow down and try to remove them before that happens.

2) Babies bite for fun! Yeah, babies like reactions. And sometimes, they find out that if they bite down, they get a hilarious reaction. This is a tough one. Your best bet may be to provide a reaction before a bite can occur. Kiss your babies fingers and hands and make silly noises while they nurse, for example. Or sing a favorite song. I sincerely hope it gets better for you.

3) Babies bite to relieve teething pain. Somewhat related to the emotions above, a baby will bite down on anything if they find it helps to relieve teething pains. You can try letting baby chew on a toy before nursing, or, if applicable, you can give a dose of motrin 15-20 minutes before you nurse. (Obviously this isn't always a good solution).

One fix for biting that I have heard many times is that if your baby bites you, you should pull them forward slightly, blocking their nose and airflow for a BRIEF moment, in order to shock them into letting go. This is done to create an association between biting and not being happy.

Of course everyone who has told me they did this said their baby responded well and stopped biting. I considered trying this, but truth be told, when Silas bit, I was always so shocked that the best I could do was pretty much instantly end the nursing session. But perhaps it will work for you! Or you could instantly end the nursing session as well; it might depend on your baby.

My condolences if you cannot get your baby to stop biting, because seriously. Friggen ouch!

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