When I was late in my pregnancy with the Boodge, I remember standing in the shower, looking at my breasts and wondering when I would see the development of a hole to let the milk come through. I guess I envisioned my nipple taking the shape of a bottle. When I shared that with my dear mommy-mentor friend, she laughed and assured me that little holes would open up all over my nipple to let the milk through.
There was so much I didn't know about breastfeeding, but I was lucky enough to know some of the things that would get me off to a good start. I was familiar with the research that outlined the many benefits to mother and babyof extended breastfeeding. I knew that the World Health Organization, Canadian Pediatric Society, and UNICEF all recommend breastfeeding for 2 years and as long as the mother and child want to thereafter, and I wanted to do that. I knew that it may be difficult at first, so I was prepared for some struggle to get started, and was determined to persevere. And I didn't have any inhibitions about nursing in public, which helped me feel free to go anywhere and enjoy social situations with my baby.
But I had no idea how much it would mean to me and my son, and the bond we share. Nursing him as an infant, I gazed at him for hours, falling more and more in love. My ability to nourish him from my body somehow helped me feel that mothering was natural, and gave me confidence in my new role. As he grew, we reconnected at the breast several times a day and we each restored our energy and peace of mind. It was a place where we could both be still in the tremendous changes we were experiencing, and just feel our bond. I was grateful for the way it soothed him when he was upset and gave him vital nutrients, liquids, and comfort when he was sick.
I also didn't know the ways in which it would be challenging, but I expected that as with any commitment in life, it would have ups and downs. Teething and illness brought a constant need to nurse, causing me to boil inside with the frustration of having to choose whether to comfort my child even if it hurt me, or refuse and deal with a wakeful, miserable baby. Nighttime nursing eventually exhausted me, and when I became pregnant again I found I could no longer cope with waking every few hours to nurse. And the first trimester also brought shooting pains that felt like hot pokers inside my breasts, causing me to seriously question whether I could keep nursing.
I didn't know how some people would react to my nursing a toddler, especially while pregnant. Although I realized I was nursing beyond what most women do, I wasn't prepared to face questioning and judgment about a choice that seems to me to be solely between a mother and her child. I didn't know I would have to strengthen myself inside so that the judgment of others wouldn't influence what I felt was right. I'm grateful to have one good mommy-mentor and the many voices on the internet that assure me that there's nothing wrong with extended breastfeeding, and much that is right with it.
As with any commitment in life, the more I have put into maintaining it, the more important it has become to me. Now, it is one of the most precious things I have given to Boodge, and he to me, so far. When I began I wasn't sure I would go as far as "natural weaning", which is when a mother lets the child nurse until he or she is ready to stop, often at around 4 years old. Before I nursed a child, I thought when to stop was going to be something I decided, and I didn't realize that my child would have strong feelings about it that I would want to consider.
Now, I know that to stop nursing Boodge would be to take away something that means comfort, security, pleasure, emotional restabalization, connection to his Mama. Just as it has come to mean a lot to me, it has come to mean a lot to him, and I don't want to take that away from him until he's ready to give it up. Before I nursed a child, I didn't realize that nursing was about so much more than nourishment.
Before I nursed a child, the idea that I may want to nurse two children, born over 2 years apart, never even crossed my mind. If it had, I probably would have thought that was a bit too "out there" for me. Now, I'm committed to the idea, even looking forward to it in some ways. Boodge is still happily nursing a few times a day, and I'm still enjoying sitting my big pregnant body down to rest for half an hour, connecting lovingly with my little boy who will soon not be my one and only baby.
I just don't see any reason to give up something that is so special between us, especially when our connection is about to change in so many other ways. I'm hopeful that tandem nursing will help Boodge adjust to having a sibling, and even, as many mothers who tandem nurse report, facilitate a strong bond between the two children.
Just as with learning to nurse the first time, I'm prepared for it to be hard in the beginning. I'm ready for tears and meltdowns and questioning whether I can do it. Maybe I'll even find I can't. But I'm also prepared for beautiful moments with my two nurslings, and feelings of pride and triumph just as I experienced the first time. Once again, I'm heading into unknown territory. I'm excited to see what it brings. To follow my tandem nursing journey or just enjoy some good reading about my life as a Mommy, check out my blog.
Katy, Mom to Boodge, and one on the way