(disclaimer: lots of nursing pictures to follow)
Today my Grae Golden turns fourteen months old. I have nursed this baby every single day for fourteen months. Some days (recently) once a day, and other days (most days) 6,038 times a day. Over the last couple of weeks, Grae has showed readiness to wean, and in the last few days will have almost nothing to do with my chest – a place she once wouldn’t remove herself from. I typically don’t write about things until they’re mulled over quite a bit, but I think writing about this in current time will be good for me. It is so bittersweet to finish nursing this little baby of mine. It feels like an accomplishment. It feels like a defeat. It feels like happiness. It feels like sadness. It feels empowering. It feels helpless. It feels like life as a mother. That roller coaster we can’t get off of, and wouldn’t want to if we could.
I spent months of my pregnancy praying that I would be able to breastfeed this baby. I had two very different experiences nursing before and I hoped (and prayed) for the best for this next baby. To my pleasure, nursing started strong and steady. I had a great milk supply to start with which is always promising. Grae was my little piglet and wanted to nurse me all the time, which I gladly obliged. That’s the funny thing, isn’t it? We love nursing as much as our babies do. We overcame some latch issues in that first two months, having two sessions with the lactation consultant. We spent hours and hours of our day perfecting our craft.
I learned to relax so much with breastfeeding this time around. I would nurse her out in public if she was hungry, on the go in the car, at friend’s houses and while shopping. I didn’t even think about it – if she was hungry, we were nursing. I learned to feed with ease in my ring sling and that proved to be a huge convenience in keeping up with my other girls. We’ve spent many nursing sessions on park benches, in dressing rooms, and in decorative chairs at TJ maxx. It felt empowering to me to not take on anyone else’s negativity for my breastfeeding where and when it was necessary. (I even appreciated all the dirty looks I got ;) ).
For months I nursed every hour to two hours day and night, night and day. Grae was my first baby to not ever take a bottle – not ever. This meant she was our third wheel on date nights and the like for quite some time. When I was scheduled to start up shooting again, Grae quickly protested with my first shoot that lasted 3 hours that she screamed the entire time (and my boobs nearly exploded). While I was nursing, I had the strength to step away for even longer than I planned and spent such quality time with my young children at home. My older girls enjoyed my nursing so much that often, they too would bring their baby dolls to nurse with me on the couch – or front porch swing. This just made my mama heart swell.
At first, Grae would struggle to stay latched. We spent our feedings latching and re-latching, latching and re-latching, then she slowly got better and better. As she got older, she would squish and knead while she ate like a baby kitten. When she got tired or needed any comforting she would be digging in and squishing my chest, putting her hand down my cleavage and giving me open-mouth kisses on the skin on my chest. She was obsessed with me, and I with her.
To both my frustration and delight, Grae would not take anything else besides my milky self – even when it was time to start eating solids. She gagged and gagged like I was feeding her poison in protest. We watched her weight slow down and tried to fatten her up as much as possible, but she would only take my (skim) milk. This was a good lesson in trusting myself – even though she wasn’t on the charts or where doctors hoped she would be, she was healthy and very happy on her mama’s milk, and excelling developmentally in every way. There was nothing we could do but wait until she was ready, and by 10 months, she finally took to solids… but still preferred nursing over anything which selfishly gave me a little boost of confidence.
We went through her not being able to sleep without nursing (ZzzzZzzz), we went through various biting stages (ouch!!) and we went through weight scares, but still we pushed on. We spent many quiet nights together in our rocker, many afternoons snuggling on the couch, many happy mornings cuddled close in bed just nursing away. I have truly loved every last minute I’ve had nursing Grae.
As this season comes to a close, like each season does, I am so grateful. This 14 months of nursing was an answer to my tender mama prayer. I did it. We did it.