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Breastfeeding...the First Six Months

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wow. I cannot believe it's been six months already. I've made it to the 12% club.

What's the 12% club? That's the number of Ohio mothers that are still exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. (31% of Ohio moms are still breastfeeding at least occasionally at six months.)

It's been an amazing journey so far and I count myself as amazingly blessed to have been able to do this. My prayers go up that we'll make it through the next six months. (I'm taking it six months at a time...)

It's funny when I look back on things and see how my opinions have changed over time.

(cue background music and fuzzy outline of reality as we drift into flash back mode...)

When I was pregnant with Elnora, I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine about breastfeeding. She was due two months before me and she commented on how she hoped to breastfeed until her child was three months old. Then she'd switch to formula, because nursing past three months was "strange." I told her that I was aiming for six months, but that after six months, I thought it was a little "strange" myself.

To be brutally honest...there was a part of me that wasn't sad when breastfeeding didn't work out with Elnora. Sure, I lamented the loss of the convenience factor, but the idea of another human being nursing from me sort of icked me out. I knew deep down that it was what was best for her, but it was still something that I planned to do reluctantly. When I ended up exclusively pumping, it seemed like the best of both worlds. I knew she was getting my breast milk, but I didn't have to deal with my own hang-ups about breastfeeding.

The good thing about that year I spent pumping is that I was learning more and more about breast milk and breastfeeding. I was also learning more about the issues facing breastfeeding moms.

For instance, when I had Elnora, I went out and bought a few ponchos so that I could "cover up" while nursing. When I had Emmitt, I bought a few nursing tops because I knew how hard most moms found it to nurse under a cover. (And besides, why should I use a cover?)

When I had Elnora, I thought that nursing past a year was "creepy." I think I even used the line "if they're old enough to ask...." And yet...before Elnora was a year old, I remember hearing a friend use that same line and I found that my opinion had already changed.

"You know, it's not like those moms wake up nursing a two year old. They nurse a baby and that baby gets older one day at a time. Why would you think that all of a sudden they'd wake up one morning and what was ok yesterday isn't ok today? Where do you cut them off?"

Looking back, I think that was the start of the Lactivist coming out in me.

Flashing back to the present, I find that my opinions have continued to change.

A few month before Emmitt was born, I decided to give nursing another try. What's shocking is that while I planned to try again, I was still thinking..."I'll nurse until he's six months, then I'll pump until he's a year." Why? Because despite being the Lactivist, despite being a proponent of child-led weaning, despite not being even remotely icked out by someone else nursing a toddler, it still creeped me out to think of doing it myself.

But here I am...six months later.

Give up the nursing and take up the pump?

Ha! Like that's going to happen.

Earlier today, I was sitting in the bedroom nursing Emmitt before putting him down for his nap. I was thinking about the fact that he's six months old...in another six months, he'll be walking...talking. I hope we'll still be nursing. It's really not much different nursing a six month old than it was nursing a newborn.

He's heavier now...20 pounds instead of nine and a half...

He's longer now...he used to fit in my lap and now he kind of hangs over both sides...

He's got a tooth....it just popped through this week.

But he's still my little guy. He still wants to snuggle up. He still falls asleep at the breast. He still gives me that goofy, milky grin. He still gets happy enough that even though I can't see his mouth, I notice his eyes crinkle and I know he's smiling. He still laughs when he gets squirted in the nose/eye/face with milk. He still holds on to my shirt for dear life and he drinks.

He's still my baby.

Nursing a six month old? Nope...not weird at all.

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  1. Blogger Mama Seoul | 11:55 PM |  

    Congratulations! I hit the 6 month mark three weeks ago. When I started, i was aiming for a year, but now I am aiming for 2 years or child-led weaning. It is amazing both how the time passes and how experience changes your opinions.

    I think you should add breastfeeding milestone marker items to your store like a nursing necklace or a bracelet where you add charms as you hot milestones: colostrum, 6 weeks, three months, 6 months, a year+, etc. Or maybe the new Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance could do it.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:20 AM |  

    How mothering changes us! I feel compelled to share my story even though it's probably quite long!

    My nursing goal for my first child was 1 year. I knew this was supposedly some kind of "magic" age from my background as an RN and working for WIC, but I was kind of thinking it would be something I would do sacrificially for him. I totally thought there would be an "ick" factor especially as he got older. When he was one month-old and growing a pound a week, I thought how long the next 11 months seemed. How would I ever make it?! Then he was 2 months, and I remember thinking, "I only get to do this for 10 more months" and feeling sad about it. He was growing so fast and smiling so much, I got such a sense of joy at seeing him grow all from the milk from my body, and I knew he enjoyed nursing more than anything! By 4 months, this whole breastfeeding thing had become so easy and convenient and absolutely joyful, and I realized I had to do something to help other mothers overcome the initial difficulties so that they too could get to enjoy this wonderous experience. Seven and a half years later, I'm hoping to sit for my IBCLC exam in July. In the mean time, I joined LLL, and when my son was 9 months was becoming really sad at the prospect of weaning at a year and the pressure I was starting to get from my husband. He'd say things like, "You ARE weaning him at a year, aren't you?" Another mother at LLL told me about the book "How Weaning Happens." It changed everything about how I thought about weaning and really breastfeeding in general. When my son turned a year he was still as much of a baby as the day before his birthday. In fact, now I think 1 year is an odd time to wean. Maybe when they are 18 months and running around all over the place, but with this year mark there was no great change in our relationship. If anything, breastfeeding became even better. I didn't have to worry so much about being away from him. It was all the joy of breastfeeding with none of the negatives (in my opinion)!

    Then I became pregnant with my second child. Fortunately, my midwife was supportive of my continued BF, but my pediatrician was NOT. He said I had to wean before my baby was born, because nursing 2 "would drive me crazy" and that it was strange and abnormal to nurse past 15 months. In one ear, out the other... I was told that about 90% of children wean during pregnancy. My son was not one of them, if anything, he seemed to enjoy nursing even more (I have a sneaking suspicion colostrum tastes like a milkshake!). Fortunately at LLL, we had one mom tandem nursing that made it seem possible. Really, though, what seemed impossible was weaning my toddler while I was sick and exhausted with the pregnancy. I think THAT would have dove me crazy! I tandem nursed for 16 months. By this point my son was 3 years and 2 months old. He had only nursed once a day in the mornings when he woke up for a while. I won't go into my weaning strategies, but at the point he hadn't nursed for about a week, and asked, it was the first time it became weird to me. I said something like "No, honey, you're a big boy now and we nursed for a long time and it was really great!" He was fine, but did continue to ask for a while longer. Sometimes I wish I'd followed him a little more on that, but with the first kid, you're just sure they will never wean on their own (and so are all of your in-laws!)!

    My daughter went on to nurse until her third birthday. I was pregnant and nursing caused a lot of pain, so I asked her when she'd be done nursing, and she replied "when me three, me be done." I'd gone away for a weekend, and couldn't imagine going back to nursing and the pain it caused me. When I came home, she asked to nurse, and I told her we were all done. She said she'd be done when she was 3, and I told her she already was (she was a week away from her birthday, I still feel a little guilty!).

    Now my third child is 2 and there are no signs he'll be stopping anytime soon. The great part is that I don't sweat it anymore (neither does my husband or in-laws!). I definitely have an even different perspective with him. We're just enjoying this incredibly short special time. Before I know it, he'll be in school all day and needing me much less like his big brother. Who knows, maybe this one will nurse even longer than the others!


  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:26 AM |  

    congrats on club membership - love that piccie!

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:21 AM |  

    Congrats on making it six months! Good luck for the next six (or more). Thanks for being so honest about your ambivalance with breastfeeding. It cam be hard to "go it alone" if there is not a supportive culture around you. I nursed my older daughter for 15 months and felt like I was the only one out there. I work at a hospital and even had a nurse ask why I was nursing over a year since "it has no benefit to the baby". I didn't know anyone else that nursed at all. I knew it was best, of course, but I was weirded out too. My breasts has previously been reserved for sex. Could I really separate the sexual aspect and the nursing aspect? Could anyone else? I knew there were support groups but I wasn't sure I wanted to sit around with "breast nazis" and parade our boobs around. Boy how things change with time. I did go to some LLL meetings and found they were perfectly normal people who had the same concerns as me. I'm so glad I was able to nurse for so long and had a job where I could pump. my second daughter is 7 weeks old and I hope to still be going strong with nursing her in a year!

  5. Blogger rachel_t | 7:33 AM |  


    I've had the same change of opinion about breastfeeding. My daughter will be 1 in 18 days and it won't be weird or icky that she's still breastfeeding.

  6. Blogger Anne | 9:07 AM |  

    It may be a little early, but the first sign my son ever did did was "nurse," (I just used the ASL sign for "milk") at about 10 months or so. His eyes would light up, he'd get a huge grin, and he'd sign "nurse" with both hands until he got my full attention then would settle in with a giggle and even more grins. He just weaned himself at 17 months, and I won't ever get to see that special sign/expression again. It was child-led weaning; mommy wasn't quite ready! Good luck to you and hooray!

  7. Blogger MKM | 9:38 AM |  

    I will admit it. I am a selfish breastfeeder. I work full time out of the house. I get a ride to and from work. On the ride home I sit silently clenching my fists, pissed off at every red light, every person my ride "lets in" in front of her (I am okay with crosswalks though - drivers that ignore them need to be smacked upside the head), every cause for delay makes my blood boil.

    The moment I walk in the door I need to grab my beautiful little girl and settle down for a nice long snack. Sometimes she's happy to obliges, sometimes she's just not hungry.

    And it's not so much that I'm full up and need some relief. I always have an afternoon pumping session around 3:30 or 4 so that when I get home at 5:15 I'm not empty but not full. It's more that I missed her so much that I want that snuggle time. Who could resist such a sweet happy cuddly warm little baby? I mean, look at that face on Emmitt!

    My Bean is almost 8 months by the way and I have never even stopped to think about how long I would nurse or the fact that I've (we've!) made it this far. I have a feeling she'll let me know.

    Congratulations Jennifer, here's to 6 more beautiful happy snuggly months! :-)

  8. Blogger Mommy's Getaway | 9:52 AM |  

    Way to go!! Congratulations for making your goal and setting another one!

    I nursed my first for 11 months and then she did, what I thought at the time, self-weaning. Perhaps that wasn't what it was after all.

    I am now nursing my second and he is 14.5 months old. I am having the 'ick' factor as well as what I call my 'selfish' factor.

    It is a bit strange to have my son walk up to me with his blue blankie and I know exactly why he is doing it. Because he wants to nurse. It is funny and at the same time, a bit unsettling. That is the 'ick' factor for me.

    The 'selfish' factor for me...I want my breasts back for me. I can not separate my son's need for them and my own (and hubby's) need for them. I just can't reconcile the two of them.

    So much to my mixed feelings - sadness and a bit of relief - my son will be weaned on Tuesday. Tonight is the last night for the bedtime 'nursy' and Sunday morning will be the last morning for the 'breakfast' nursy. I am more sad I think, than relieved. But I am a bit ashamed that the relief is there.

    I am very glad to know that I am not the only one who has the 'ick' factor...and who is trying to work through it.

  9. Blogger Elizabeth F. | 12:52 PM |  

    Congratulations on meeting your initial goal!! I did not nurse past 3 mos with my 1st. I had lots of misinformation, well-meaning people encouraging me to get out of the house so that THEY could babysit, etc... and the combo led to disaster. Mastitis, clogged ducts, thrush, etc... led to our weaning. I was soooo emotionally distrought. Hysterical. But relieved once I had made a decision. I hated nursing b/c of the pain, but didn't want to stop nursing.

    With the 2nd baby I had to take it month by month to get through the painful beginning. With lots of support, Going to LLL meetings, not leaving the baby in the early days, etc... all helped us be successful that time around. He nursed exclusively for almost 10 mos., and didn't wean until 25 mos.

    Now, I on baby #3, who is now 19 mos. old. Still nursing strong! It's amazing that my goal changed from "making it to 6 mos." to "The World Health Organization recommends 2 years of nursing, so my goal is 2 years." LOL!

  10. Blogger JudyBright | 1:50 PM |  

    Ok, Here's my 'ick' factor. My breasts. I can distinguish between my daughter's use for breasts and my husbands no problem. My problem is my breasts are so gross. They're huge and saggy and I can't stand having them hanging out. I have to make sure I wear a bra in the house just so I feel a little better about myself. They're just so nasty looking and huge. Plus I have these huge boobs and my DD won't nurse enough to get enough breastmilk and I have to use formula anyway. What's the use of huge boobs if you can't make enough milk with them? Argh.

    Sorry to rain on anyone's parade.

    I'll just hold out hope it'll be better for the next one.

  11. Blogger Unknown | 2:04 PM |  

    Congrats on the milestone! I've hit 8 1/2 months myself and never ever imagined that I would breastfeed. I had no introduction to it considering that my family was bottlefed. I found out later (after deciding to breastfeed) that my grandmother on my dad's side used BFing as a form of birth control. She ended up with 7 kids. But they are spaced very nicely.


  12. Blogger Shay | 2:27 PM |  


    My son and I will hit our six month mark the end of April.

  13. Blogger So Not Organized | 7:32 PM |  

    Well, now I want to know which club I'm in. I nursed my first for 14 months, my twins for 20 months and the baby is going strong at 8 1/2 months. What's my percentage?

  14. Blogger Tia | 5:18 AM |  

    I can't tell you how much your story is like mine....truly it's as if you are telling my story.....My goal with Jonah was 6 month. I thought it would be icky and wasn't thrilled about BF over a year at all. But as a year approached I couldn't even imagine weaning him. He weaned himself (partially due to my second pregnancy) at about 12 months. With Jonah I would run to the car everytime he needed to nurse, not because I was embarrassed to be nursing but because i wasn't very comfortable doing it! I felt clumsy and awkward (and my children do NOT like nursing with a blanket over their heads!) Now......Ellie turns 1 in a week, with no sign of weaning soon and it's been absolutely wonderful this time around. I have really enjoyed BF so much more with her it makes me sad now to think of weaning.....we have such a bond, and I feel soooooo wonderful about what it means for her healthwise. I get told by different people all the time that I should start "thinking about weaning....." My response is "Why?" Why do I have to think about it and worry about it and put some timeline on it? Let me just enjoy the experience of sustaining and providing for my baby, one day at a time. Just like we deal with one new tooth at a time;)

    I ordered a couple of shirts!!! I am so so excited!!!!

  15. Blogger Judy | 9:59 AM |  

    Congratulations on 6 months, on getting over your original hang-ups, and on being able to be so honest about it ... especially while calling yourself the "lactivist."

    I had some of the same hang-ups, and was nervous after failing at bfing by first child, but I nursed my first son for 29 months, through a pg, and in tandem with his little brother for four months.

    Now my second son is a few weeks shy of one year. I'll be honest and say that now, after being pregnant and/or bfing for nearly 4 years, I'm ready to just be done. I try to tell myself that in the long run, over the course of a lifetime, it's such a small sacrifice, but man do I want to be done. And another honesty? I think my breasts look gross now, and I want a boob job before I get too old to enjoy it!

  16. Blogger Unknown | 8:11 PM |  

    Congrats on hitting the six month mark! i passed the same milestone three weeks ago with my son, and have decided to stop "nursing". i have been exclusively pumping since he was a week old, and am just not making any more milk, unfortunately. After reading your post, I can't believe how similar your experience is to my own! I have the same "ick" feeling regarding nursing and was more than happy to give up the struggle to get my ds to latch, and pump exclusively. at the same time, i am not at all grossed out by other mothers who nurse and wholeheartedly support their right to do so whereever they please. my first goal was six months, and now that i have made it my milk is almost all gone. i am sad that i won't be able to provide my son with breastmilk, and feel terribly guilty, but selfishly i don't have the energy to try and "relactate". i am trying to just remind myself that six months was longer than i thought i would make it, and was extremely beneficial to my son while it lasted. Thanks so much for your honesty about your feelings, it's great to see that other mommies feel similar to myself!

  17. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:48 AM |  

    I'm new here but have to comment when I saw your post. I just hit 6 mos. with my little guy after quite a rough start and am still amazed at how things have changed. I started reading your blog when I was exclusively pumping -- the first 3 months of his life. He had problems latching, I have flat nipples, he was 3 wks early, small and hungry. After 6 weeks of tears, depression, and a feeling of like a failure for "giving up", I decided to pump full time and feed him that for at least 3 months -- when I'd be going back to work. It was THE best decision I could have made, and it saved my sanity and my budding relationship with my baby. I never looked back... Although, I was totally fed up with full-time pumping at 12 weeks!

    And you guessed it -- 2 weeks before I went back I tried to nurse him (on a lark, when he was fussing and I was pumping) and he LATCHED and DRANK...of all things!

    We've been nursing ever since and I pump during the day at work and he gets those bottles at daycare (no worries about whether he'd take a bottle!).

    The past 3 months have gone by so fast and I find myself exactly where you are -- looking ahead to a year and thinking "Do I really NEED to wean him them?" I still feel sort of icky about nursing a rambunctious toddler, but one year doesn't seem so different from now anymore...

    After SO many troubles, tears and surprises, I move on with no set goals. I've been happy just taking it day by day, knowing that every day/week/month more he nurses is really just a "bonus" for us. And yes, oh yes, am I looking forward to retiring the pump for good.

    We're all good mothers for doing whatever we can to care for and love ourselves and our children. I finally learned that the hard way...

    Cheers and congrats!

  18. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:16 PM |  

    I hit the 6 month mark last week! :D And although I've thought about when it'd stop I just feel sad thinking about it....

    I LOVE how you mind changed, as mine did. I never realized how protective I'd feel over a breastfeeding baby and her Mom until I was one myself :D

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