My Ode to Nursing Gabbie

The lactation consultant in the hospital noted right away, “She has a strong suck.” Then she told me how painful this might be to get used to, and oh was she right. For the consultant who taught the nursing class I took while 8 months pregnant: you were wrong. It does hurt at first, even if you are doing it right. The first few times Gabbie latched on, I de-latched her thinking she didn’t have it quite right. After all that de-latching we had to train her to latch again, despite the fact that she had it right the first time. I had it wrong, and I still feel guilty about that.

Breastfeeding is one of the hardest, most stressful and guilt-inducing things I’ve ever done. I worried constantly about whether she was getting enough. At almost three weeks I thought we had it down, things were going better. Then my supply went into overdrive and we had a whole new set of problems. Add to that the fact that Gabbie has never nursed well when there are other things going on in the room and a weekend trip to my parents and I got mastitis on my left side. I woke up to a sun-burned looking breast and the chills despite the fact I was sweating because I was so feverish.

She would cry every time I tried to latch her on, and so would I. It would take 30 minutes just to get her to eat and then she’d fall asleep after three minutes of nursing. This lasted for more than 6 weeks, and I thought I was going to lose it. Still, I persevered. Once I started back to work and she started daycare, it got somewhat easier. She missed me, and so now she was nursing for comfort as much as for food. As time passed, we got better and better. I still stressed out about it all the time – was she getting enough? Was she nursing often enough to keep up my supply?

She got teeth and one day she bit me. I sat her down on the ground so fast (but still gently) that it startled her. It scared her even more when I walked away crying. I was scared too; scared to let her nurse again in case she did that horrible thing to me again. Scaring her a bit seems to have worked, though. She only bit me one other time, and I kind of deserved it for trying to nurse her when she wasn’t interested.

Gabbie turned a year old and we started weaning. She had her last bottle last week, and now I only nurse her in the evening and the morning. After all of the hard times and frustrations and worry, I’m still sad to be almost done. She nurses less and less every week; now it’s more of a comfort thing than a food thing. I stopped worrying about my supply. If it’s there, great, if not, oh well. Now we’re just enjoying it. I get the feeling we’ll be finally and truly done when I go to Blogher at the end of next month.

Even though it was hard and I wanted to quit a million times, I’m glad I stuck with it. And strangely, even though it was hard and I wanted to quit a million times, I can’t wait to do it again with our next baby, whenever he or she comes. It wasn’t always (or even often) the starry-eyed, mother-baby bonding experience we all probably imagine, but it was ours and I wouldn’t change a thing.


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