Healing Through Breastfeeding: A Sexual Abuse Survivor

By Badass Nikki Patrick

I was raised in a household where my body was not my own. From a very young age, I was used and abused in horrendous ways that make most people shudder to hear about. I was sexually and physically abused by the very person I was supposed to be able to trust and find comfort in, my father.

This isn’t a topic that is easy to talk about, but it is my hope that sharing my story about sexual abuse and its effect on my breastfeeding relationship that other women who have walked this journey will find comfort and strength in my story.

Growing up in an environment with sexual abuse teaches you many things about your body. It’s dirty. It’s an object. It’s for the use of others. It’s not under your control. My breasts became the object of someone else’s cruel torture, purely sexual, nothing more.

At the age of 18, I stood up, found my voice, and never looked back. I have never seen my “father” again, and I never will. The road to motherhood was paved with many roadblocks and stumbling points, but I made it.

When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, breastfeeding her was the furthest thing from my realm of possibility.  I couldn’t imagine nourishing my child from my breasts, which I considered dirty because that is what I had been taught. Also, the idea of someone having on demand access to this private part of my body sent me back to being 8 years old and not able to say no. The idea horrified me and I decided that formula was the way for me.

I brought up my concerns to my OB and was basically brushed off. She seemed very uncomfortable, I’m sure the thought of a child being abused in such a manner is an uncomfortable topic. She told me that “breast is best” and she hoped I would “push past my own insecurities for my infant’s sake.” Because it’s that easy, right?

I slowly began to open up to other women, those who are survivors and some who are mothers themselves. I found a community of understanding. My concerns and fears were heard, validated, and in many cases, shared.

As the birth of my child neared, I experienced a wide range of emotions. I began to daydream about the idea of perhaps trying to nurse my child. I tried to reframe my thoughts, tried to ignore the voice inside me that told me “no.” It didn’t work. When I went in to have my daughter my plan was to use formula, I was totally comfortable with that plan.

Grace was born in the middle of the night after a long, hard labor. I was exhausted. They placed her tiny body on my chest, and something incredible happened. I can’t even really describe the moment with the intensity it deserves. No one in the room knew what was happening except me, and I’m grateful for that. She began to root, and crawl up towards my breast. Her mouth was open and ready and my heart began to accept the idea. She was going to latch on, and no part of my being wanted to stop her. My sweet daughter latched on, looked me deep in the eyes, and healed wounds that had been part of me for 29 years.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, I experienced anxiety and even flashbacks, especially late in the night when most of the abuse occurred. I had to be very gentle with myself, and with her. I learned to balance both of our needs. There were times when she had to wait a minute while I brought myself back into the moment. I would rub her tiny feet or smell her delicious hair to remind myself that she is my daughter, not my past.

18 months later, I am still nursing her. And getting ready to embark on another nursing journey, this time with my son, due in January. In some ways this journey feels even more difficult, knowing he is male. But experience tells me I will be ok and he will find his own way to calm my soul.

It is my hope that by sharing this another survivor will read it and relate. You are not alone, your feelings are valid, and you have a choice now. Nursing has allowed me to view my body in a whole new light. It is not dirty, disgusting, or anyone’s property. It is amazing, able to sustain life, and beautiful. It is also mine, even my breasts. Breastfeeding is a choice I made, not exactly willingly, but a choice. Taking back my power over my body has been one of the most amazing parts of nursing for me.

 

Ask an Expert: Common Newborn Concerns

By Wendy Wisner, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“I am EBF (exclusively breastfeeding) my 7 week old son, William, I never get engorged. EVER. He also does a lot of.. Nibbling ? Like really fast sucking? Is that normal? I can’t remember if my DD did that or not ? He also spits up after every feed? Anyone know some non- medicine ways to help with that? I don’t feel like medicating my 7 week old!! And I am REALLY enjoying breastfeeding this time around so I don’t want to stop! I hated it with my DD! Probably because she was tongue tied and the pain was unreal !”

Congrats on your new baby!  I am so glad you are enjoying nursing him.  All the things you describe (lack of engorgement, nibbling, fast sucking, and spitting up) aren’t issues as long as your baby is gaining weight, is generally happy, and your nipples are feeling comfortable.

But if you have concerns, here are some thoughts.

Most women feel some fullness in the early days as their milk becomes more plentiful (“comes in”), but not everyone feels overfull, or engorged. Again, as long as weight gain is on target, you are making just the right amount of milk, and there is no need to question it.

“Nibbling” or “fast sucking” could mean any number of things and I’d probably need more information to come to any conclusions.  But good, deep latching and a well-supported baby usually solve most sucking issues.  A tongue tie could also be a culprit for the “nibbling,” as a tongue tie causes the tongue to slip back and trigger the bite reflex.  You could have these things (and more) assessed at by an experienced lactation consultant if you are concerned.

If the baby is happy and healthy, spitting up is usually a laundry issue and nothing more.  If the baby is very fussy during the spitting up episodes, or has other gastrointestinal issues, you can try to tweak your diet a bit to see if it helps.  We know that certain proteins do pass into breastmilk, and many mothers report that when cow milk is eliminated from their diets, their babies spit up less.  Other culprits include soy, eggs, wheat, and corn.  You can also keep a food diary for a few days to track which foods exacerbate the spitting up.

I hope this helps!  Enjoy your sweet baby!

unnamedWendy Wisner is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), writer, and mother of two amazing boys.  In addition to her work with breastfeeding moms, she has published two books of poems, and a handful of articles about mothering and breastfeeding.  She blogs at www.nursememama.com.

A Review of The Ultimate Mum Pillow

I had just given birth to my second son in my living room in a pool of water. I was being escorted down my hallway by my midwives. It was surreal having gone through the most intense experience of my life right here in my home with my own belongings. As I entered my bedroom the first thing I noticed was that they had taken my pregnancy pillow and curled it up at the head of my bed for me to rest on. I was already in awe of these women who had just given me the greatest gift another person could give me and now I was sure they were geniuses. I was in such a vulnerable place; just the small tweak in my environment made a huge impression.

I spent the latter part of my pregnancy pulling this pregnancy pillow around my bed. It was so long that I often had to fish around for the end of it until I broke into a small sweat. I was pregnant in summer after all. Using my core muscles to flail my arms and legs about was like running an 8k. “Where is the end of this pillow!?”

I slid into bed and leaned back on the pregnancy pillow, now my recovery pillow. I laid my newborn son on my chest and we laid skin to skin for several days. I only got up to go to the bathroom or when I just wanted to stretch. When I returned, the long noodle of a pillow would be unwound. I would have to curl it back up again trying to get it just as comfy as the time before. Sometimes succeeding, sometimes not. Always exhausted and sore.

Soon I was able to sit up a bit straighter and wanted to nurse my son in a more upright position while I ate or talked with visitors. This required pillows to allow me to rest my arms. I can say now, 3 months postpartum, that I have never found a solution to breastfeeding comfortably in bed without lying all the way down. I was never fully relaxed. And forget about tandem nursing in bed. There weren’t enough pillows in a 20 mile radius to make that comfortable.

IMG_2575 (2)Breastfeeding my 3 month old on our bed. 

Then I was introduced to the Ultimate Mum Pillow. This pillow is one of 5 pillows manufactured by the Canadian company, Ultimate Mum Pillows, but the “Ultimate” is the most popular. The Ultimate Mum Pillow is marketed as a pregnancy and breastfeeding pillow. When I got my hands on one I was struck by the sturdiness of it. It is not long and noodley. It is intentionally shaped for the 2 purposes.

It’s not so much a breastfeeding pillow; it’s more like a breastfeeding hug. You wrap it around you and it provides support to your back, core and arms. When I breastfeed with it I am completely relaxed. There is not a muscle in my body that is clenched. As a breastfeeding mother this aids in bonding with my son, inducing a letdown and much needed postpartum rest for my body.

I am disappointed that I wasn’t introduced to this earlier. I would love to have been able to use this pregnant and in recovery after the birth. I would have been more comfortable sleeping. As a pregnant Mom with a toddler that is what I needed more than anything. Instead I tossed and turned while my previous pillow was swallowed by my monster belly, throbbing fatigue and busy family bed.

IMG_2647 (2)Breastfeeding my 3 year old on our couch. 

I am always honest with you and I will be honest here as well. The cover is difficult to get on. I worked at it for several minutes. This is may be why it holds such a sturdy shape, but it takes some strong-arming to get it in there. The covers also only come in white for now. Colors coming soon.

I highly recommend the Ultimate Mum Pillow. It will be with you through your entire pregnancy, breastfeeding and motherhood journey. I don’t have any plans to take this off of my bed when I’m done breastfeeding. I’ll be snuggling up this pillow for a long time! So head over to Ultimate Mum Pillows to check out their selection and review product descriptions. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Abby Theuring, MSW

 

Adding a New Baby

By Anonymous Guest Blogger

It started in the second trimester of my second pregnancy. My daughter was about 3 and 1/2. Up until a few months before, we shared a bed every night. See, my husband travels for work and while I was pregnant, we didn’t travel with him. My daughter and I stayed with my parents and we spent about 10 days a months with my husband. Not ideal, but could have been much worse.

We were new back in the area, all my friends from high school with kids were gone, and I had long ago lost touch with the child free bunch. I didn’t really know what to expect about going from one child to two. My mom had vague and fanciful memories from my childhood, as the baby of three. She didn’t offer much advice or guidance and what was happening to me was too shameful to talk about. And so I kept quiet.

As the days past and my belly grew, I became more and more irritated by my daughter. Certainly she had her own feelings about the impending birth of her baby brother, but she seemed excited about it. She had some questions, but nothing out of the ordinary. She was acting basically the same as she always had, like a three year old. So why was she driving me crazier as each day passed? It must be the hormones, I concluded. It was the logical explanation.

When my son was born, it was more wonderful than I remembered, and not in the way where you just forget how wonderful it is to have a baby. It really was better. The first time around was stressful. I cried every waking moment, it seemed. Looking back. I did not enjoy my daughter as a newborn. Not the way I’m enjoying my son.

As the months passed by, I kept nursing my son, we kept bonding. It seemed as though the more I bonded with him, the less I could stand my daughter. I began to dislike her. I resented her when she needed something from me, when she wanted my attention. It took time away from me and the baby. She was trying so hard, too. I felt guiltier and guiltier. Her touch made me cringe. Am I even a woman? Am I becoming a monster? When she laughed or told me she loved me I wanted to shake her. I wanted to hit her. I could not stand my own child. How could this happen? I was so happy. My marriage had never been better and I had never felt a love like I had for my boy. I wanted to ask someone, anyone, if this was as bad as I thought. But I was too ashamed. I thought I should probably see a counsellor. But I didn’t.

I googled it. Nothing. No one else seemed to be falling out of love with their first after the birth of their second. Finally, I got up the nerve to discuss it with my best friend, my husband. He assured me that I did not, in fact, hate my daughter. He was so wonderful to me when I felt like a monster. Maybe it will change…?

Then, slowly, I started to laugh with her again. Not a lot, and there was still more bad days than good ones. It seemed, as the baby started crawling, I could hug her again. We started playing together. The baby started walking and it seemed it was leaving. That horrible feeling. It was going away. Almost as gradually as it had started, I felt myself developing a relationship with my baby again. It was different from when she was the ‘only’ but it was getting better.

So whats my point? I learned, about the same as I started recovering from this…this thing, that MANY other women go through this. But no one seems to talk about it. It just sounds awful. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to be judged. We want people to think, to know that we are good moms. I cried myself to sleep every night during the happiest point in my life.  I KNEW there was something horribly wrong with me. But there wasn’t. So, I want to help other women that might be experiencing this to some degree or another. You’re not a monster. You don’t hate your first child. It will pass. Don’t beat yourself up, Momma. You’re not the only one.

Normalize Love

I am seeing so many incidents of breastfeeding discrimination lately in my newsfeed. I would be willing to bet that incidents are not on the rise, but that women are feeling more empowered to speak out when something does happen. It is still very unlikely that anything negative will happen to you when you breastfeed in public. The majority of women go through their entire breastfeeding journey with no such experience. We should still continue to breastfeed in public at every opportunity to expose the world to beauty, nurturance and love.

We also want to make sure we do not become too reactive. We don’t want to create an “Us versus Them” atmosphere with society. We live in a culture where breastfeeding is not normalized. The majority of incidents are ignorant employees that need further training. The businesses usually make a public statement of apology and express their support of breastfeeding mothers. It is our responsibility to accept these apologies and look at these businesses as allies in our mission.

Badass Breastfeeder logo-OUTLINESThe most important thing we can do is spread the message that we will continue to breastfeed wherever and whenever we choose. The manner in which we have the biggest impact on society is simply living our lives and breastfeeding on demand. Non-breastfeeding parents can show love and nurturance while in public; this helps too because breastfeeding is an act of love like all the rest. Negativity toward breastfeeding is a symptom of a society sick with a lack of love.

We will not tolerate harassment; we will mobilize and act in the appropriate way in such an event. But we will not be sucked down the hole of negativity. We hold our heads up high, we smile at our children, we hug our families, and we extend information and tolerance to those who have not yet been exposed to this.

Breastfeeding will be normal. Normalize love.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Kids These Days

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“Kids these days…

aren’t spanked enough.”

aren’t tough enough.”

need more discipline.”

are pussies.”

are out of control.”

I hear these heartbreaking statements about children all the time. The thing is “kids these days” are every generation. Generation after generation of adults have been referring to children this way. We were referred to this way when we were children and so were our parents. The current generation of children are being talked about like this. And it’s likely that people will be saying this about the next generation of children as well.

The problem is not with the kids. It’s with us. It’s with the people who utter these ugly words. I’m not going to disagree that we don’t need to make changes with our children. I am disagreeing with the way we go about it. The answer does not lie with the children. It lies with us.

The way to make change is not to drag others down, instill fear or cause physical pain. We make change when we build people up, when we empower them and support them. It is our job to give our children the self-esteem, confidence, love and nurturance that they need to grow into a truly changing generation. And to give parents the tools, support and connection  to help them get there.

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Abby Theuring, MSW

Breastfeeding and Church

By Krista Gray, IBCLC

I have spent the majority of the past ten years living overseas.  Since my oldest child is just turning eight, you can imagine the culture shock I’ve experienced since returning to the states at the end of last year.  There is no area this shock is more pronounced than in my views of parenting – I am a huge breastfeeding and baby wearing fan – and no place I feel more discriminated in than the church itself.  As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and mom who has had (and breastfed) four babies overseas, I am secure in who I am and can withstand the comments, stares, and outright glares.  But my heart goes out to all the new moms who experience, on a daily basis, the incredible underlying pressure that is heaped on them when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

Let me say this outright – I am a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.  But gently nurturing and parenting your child through breastfeeding in public – at church even – is not contradictory to the Bible.  It drives me crazy that many churches put up more (nursing in public) breastfeeding barriers than anywhere else.  It may be filled with breastfeeding moms, but they are encouraged to be “modest” and go to a special room – (we’re told because they will be more comfortable) rather than continue to worship in the service with everyone else.  Mothers who bottle feed are welcome though.  We’re told it makes others feel uncomfortable…and the teens…oh we definitely would not want our teenagers to know that a mother is using her breasts for what they were designed for!  We’re told it may cause a visual image in a man’s mind that he will never be able to rid himself of.  (Does anyone know of a breastfeeding mom flashing herself in church…ever?!) So new moms cover and receive glares, leave the service, desperately try to get their little one to nurse beforehand, try to pump a bottle, or miss church entirely so that others won’t feel uncomfortable.  For the record, I am all about not being a stumbling block for someone else in their faith but this is not one of the times I feel this argument is valid.  Let’s think about it this way:

1. Boobs were made for nursing babies.  This is normal.  This is His design.  He doesn’t think nursing is immodest.

2. By making moms uncomfortable enough they feel they mustn’t tend to their babies’ needs in a service we are putting an adult’s [wrong] thoughts about breastfeeding above a baby’s God-designed need for breastfeeding.  We are putting up barriers to a mother’s God-designed parenting through breastfeeding; and we are making a statement that the presence of the person offended by the most natural thing on earth is more important than a mother tending to the most primordial need of her baby.

3. Teens NEED to see this.  That way they can learn that boobs are for breastfeeding and not sexual perversion.  (And when I say “need to see this” I’m really saying, “Need to know a mom is nursing” because, let’s face it, moms are not showing anything for them to see!)  If we want to change a culture’s perception of something you start with the youth not the adults.  Same for breastfeeding; the more children see it the more natural and normal the idea will become.

4. Churches can have all kinds of social events around sugary desserts, cheap hot dogs, and complete junk food given to children and youth (seems to be an essential component)…which perpetuates people inside the church being just as unhealthy and not taking care of their bodies like the rest of society. But give a baby breast milk at the breast…a mom is vilified.  What would happen if those within the church took care of their bodies and were healthier than the general public?  Would this alone not be a testimony?  Where does health and nutrition begin?  Absolutely, hands down, without hesitation through breastfeeding!

5. The Bible talks about breastfeeding.  It is not taboo.  Jesus was breastfed.  Samuel was breastfed. Moses was breastfed. For a long time.  He wasn’t weaned at 12 months either. (I just did a simple Logos search for the word “nursing” and effortlessly brought up over 20 references related to breastfeeding.)

And what about the issue of saying moms can nurse but they must cover?  Relegating a mother to be required to cover is like saying she can’t nurse at all.  Let me start by saying this:  if someone is more comfortable with a cover then please use one…there is nothing at all wrong with that.  But there are many mothers and babies where a cover just creates another barrier that makes nursing harder – if not impossible.  Let’s face it, there are ways to nurse in public that are more or less modest.  I have no problem with saying that there are public places (churches included) where one should try to nurse with modesty…but these are places I would advocate dressing more modestly as well.  (Wear clothes that don’t leave you feeling naked and don’t sit front and center where everyone must look at you in order to see the worship leader for example.)

It’s never going to be normal until the majority are doing it.  If you are uncomfortable with a mom nursing in church…please use this as food for thought.

unnamedKrista Gray is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), La Leche League Leader, and mother of four breastfed children, including preemie twins. She has a Private Practice for Lactation in the upstate of South Carolina as well as around the world via Skype and FaceTime.  At Nursing Nurture Krista shares research-based information and experience to help moms in their breastfeeding journeys.  You can also connect with Krista on Twitter {@nursingnurture} and on Facebook {fb.com/nursingnurture}.

Breastfeeding Was Once an Afterthought: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction

By Badass Alison

I never really thought much about breastfeeding in my early twenties. I was more concerned with getting a degree, building a financial footing for myself, and being taken seriously in my chosen career field. These reasons, combined with back issues, led me to the decision to have a breast reduction at 22. In the plastic surgeon’s office, I was told of the side effects: pain, swelling, tenderness, possible anesthesia complications, and at the end of the consultation, “you may not be able to breastfeed.” “That’s ok,” I replied “It’s not that important to me.” Famous last words.

Seven years later, I am married, and pregnant with my first. My baby comes into this world via c section. The reasons for this are not important.  “You gave birth to a teenager!” My OB happily says, before my husband announces “it’s a girl!” She is a whopping 10 lbs, 9 ounces.  I knew, despite my reduction and the c section, that as soon as that baby was placed in my arms, I needed to do everything I possibly could to give her the best start at life.

It’s incredible how your perspective shifts so rapidly. Breastfeeding was once an afterthought, but in a flash, it had become my whole world. I saw how I could soothe my daughter at the breast. I felt the ability to do something amazing for myself and her, and I was determined to make it work. So I set myself up with (what I thought) were the best tools at my disposal. At the hospital I birthed at, I requested a Lactation Consultant and made an appointment at the Breastfeeding Clinic. I had my husband come with me for support. My daughter had lost more than 10% of her body weight upon discharge, and I was determined to not have to bottle feed, if at all possible. I was told, at our first appointment, that my daughter was barely getting any breastmilk, 5 days post-partum. I asked if she had a tongue tie. They said “no.” They checked her latch, and we were shown how to use a supplementation aid at the breast, with formula, and I rented a hospital-grade pump. I was told to pump after every feed. So for a week straight I did nothing but feed my daughter, pump and try to sleep. I think I pumped half an ounce per day, with at least 3 pumping sessions.

I was miserable. My baby wasn’t sleeping, I was in constant pain, and I couldn’t sleep when my baby slept, because I was at the mercy of my pump. I went back to the Breastfeeding Clinic, and was told that while my breastmilk output had increased, I still needed to use the supplementation aid at the breast, with formula. I went home, bought a case of formula, and cried.

My daughter’s pediatrician, at her 5 day post-partum and 2 week checkup, said that her weight gain trend was good. She also told me:

“you will want to get her on a bottle as soon as possible, breastfeeding is not beneficial past 4 months old, and you can stretch your feeds out to three hour intervals, because studies have been done on orphans that have shown that three hours between feeds is enough for optimal nutrition.” At this point, I was feeding on demand, and my daughter was eating every 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Because of the pain, my confusion about feedings, and what I realized were depressive thoughts creeping in, on the guidance of my doula, I sought a second opinion regarding my daughter’s breastfeeding and possible tongue tie. We went to a clinic that specializes in these issues. At the consultation, the doctor charged with performing tongue ties noted that my daughter, at 5 weeks post-partum, was only 10 lbs 1 ounce. She had not regained her birth weight. He told me that my daughter was close to being diagnosed as “failure to thrive.” I was devastated. I thought: “but I have done everything right!” I feed on demand, I pump, I use the supplementation aid with formula, what more can I do?

They told me she had a third-degree posterior tongue tie. There was no question: it was getting clipped. One quick snip, a few cries, and she latched right away, under the watchful eye of the clinic’s Lactation Consultant. She fed for an hour. We were told to come back in a week to check her progress.

I spent the week feeling like I failed as a mother. I was starving my baby, and it was happening under the care of trained medical professionals, whom I trusted. So I sat and fed my baby. And fed her. And fed her. When we returned to the doctor, my daughter had gained a pound. We were ecstatic! I stopped pumping and focused on my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. And I stopped feeling so ashamed of having to use formula. We are breastfeeding, I choose to focus on that.

Today, at 9 months old, my daughter is thriving. But it took a long road to get there. We still use the lactation aid at the breast, and I still fill it with formula. This is what our breastfeeding relationship looks like, and for us, it is perfect. There are so many things that I wish I had known, but the biggest thing is that I didn’t know how much breastfeeding would mean to me. I wish I had known that doctors, particularly pediatricians, don’t seem to know very much about breastfeeding, or just don’t care. I wish I had cared less about what a liability my large breasts were. I wish someone had told me “you will want to breastfeed. It will mean the world to you.” Because I do. And it does. And I am grateful every single day that I had the support of my husband, and some amazing healthcare providers, to push through, and give our daughter the best possible start in life.

Ask an Expert: How to Deal with Fast Milk Flow

***Ask an Expert is a blog feature hosted by a team of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). Once a month each IBCLC randomly chooses a question from The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook wall and provides their response on the blog.

By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA

Fan Question:

“I need help! My daughter is a week old tomorrow and I can’t seem to get my milk flow under control. It just pours out and she chokes. What do I do to make it easier for her?”

During the early weeks, while your milk supply is adjusting to your baby’s needs, your feeding position can make all the difference. If you sit straight up during feedings, your milk flows downhill into your baby’s mouth, which makes coping with milk flow more difficult for her. Instead, use positions like those pictured here. Move your hips forward and lean back with baby’s whole body resting on yours so your baby’s head is higher than the breast. In these positions, gravity makes milk flow easier for her to manage. Many mothers also find these positions much more comfortable.

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You can read more about these positions at this post.

Lying on your side to breastfeed can also help because baby can let overflow milk dribble out of her mouth rather than having to swallow fast to prevent choking. (Lay a towel under baby first!)

For more details, see Breastfeeding Solutions, my smartphone app for Android and iPhones.

Most important is never to hold your baby’s head to your breast when she wants to pull off and catch her breath. Fingers crossed these tips help!

unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions  In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.

Breastfeeding Evolves

On the real tip, I don’t like breastfeeding Jack anymore. It’s hard to say it. That’s my precious first born. The one who made me a mother. The one who showed me the beauty in breastfeeding. First, breastfeeding was the thing I wanted most in life. Then when I got it I was the happiest I had ever been. And 3 years later it’s now the most frustrating and emotionally overwhelming thing I have ever experienced. Breastfeeding evolves, like everything else.

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It all comes down to this Nursing Aversion. For Jack, breastfeeding is everything. It’s how he eats, drinks, gets comfort, heals from a fall, finds security, falls asleep. I can go on and on. For Jack breatsfeeding has always been the answer to everything. He is 3 years old and for 3 years it’s been almost all he knows. That is what I loved the most about it. It gave Jack everything that he could ever need or want.

Since late in pregnancy I began to experience Nursing Aversion. I am resisting the urge to explain what it is again because I already did that here. But it is an extremely intense emotional, physical and psychological reaction to breastfeeding. It’s annoyance, creepy-crawly, anger, anxiety, toe-curling, shiver-inducing, wall-punching, hair-pulling, want-to-run-through-a-brick-wall all wrapped into one. It is not pain. I crave pain. This is something else. It starts the second he latches on and goes away as soon as he lets go. It’s like nothing I could ever really explain in words. It didn’t happen regularly at first. I was hopeful it was a one-time thing. But it has become regular. And it has not dissipated since the birth of Exley 2 months ago as I hoped. (However, there is a theory that Nursing Aversion is related to hormonal changes during pregnancy and postpartum so maybe it will get better with time. Fingers crossed.)

I love breastfeeding Exley. I don’t feel that with him. Maybe a little of the nipple sensitivity, but none of the crazy emotional stuff. With such a crazy household these days it’s a great way for me to find the time to connect with Exley. Jack has adjusted to the tandem feedings, but Exley doesn’t seem to like it. He tends to get really fussy when Jack is latched on. Maybe he can sense I become uneasy; who knows. But I try not to feed them at the same time much anyway. I only do it when I have no other option.

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I hear from people “maybe it’s time to wean him.” My first reaction to that is this. My second is “seriously? You don’t think I thought of that?!” I don’t get it. For me weaning is not just waking up one day and telling him “hey kid, the tap is dry.” I have to think of it from his perspective and work with him. If breastfeeding is truly everything to Jack then I can’t take that from him without giving him something to replace it with. There has to be a balance between his needs and my own. Shortly after Exley’s birth I decided I would put up limits and boundaries around breastfeeding Jack. I tried to knock it down to 3 times per day (Jack amped up his nursing late in pregnancy and has not changed since-honestly the kid will nurse all day if I let him). But with the recent arrival of a new sibling and his world turning upside down this was too much of a shock. He had an extreme emotional reaction to this. Temper tantrums, hitting me, losing sleep, etc. Now I see that I need to go a bit slower considering everything he has gone through.

I still limit the frequency a bit by using distraction or simply saying “no” and helping him through his reaction to it. What I do more is allow him to nurse and tell him that he can nurse for 1 minute. When the minute is almost up I count to ten and he has to let go. Usually he complies. If he refuses to let go I do it for him. I explain this is my body and I am deciding it is time to let go. (I figure this helps him to learn about protecting his own body as well). Sometimes he lets go before the minute is up. Maybe he is just making sure I won’t say “no” and that is comfort enough. I also have tried to introduce him to new foods, have his favorite foods around and even some treats. I always make sure to have plenty of water for him. I validate his feelings that it is hard to see a new baby having boobie all the time. I also explain that he is a growing boy who needs food that the baby can’t have. I make sure we get out of the house as much as we can. We go to playgrounds and parks every day to meet up with our neighborhood friends. Here is more about making weaning positive.

During the nursing sessions I try to use distraction for myself such as playing on my phone. I put counter-pressure on my boob, pushing it into Jack’s mouth to dull some of the sensation. I have gone so far as to pinch myself. I try to get plenty of rest (LOL), drink tons of water, not nurse them both at the same time, deep breathing and techniques learned when preparing for labor. Here is more about dealing with Nursing Aversion.

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Having said all of this it remains the most stressful time ever in this house. Putting up boundaries for me only leads to dealing with the emotional backlash from Jack. I get it. It’s the most stressful time in his life too. He still has the occasional temper tantrum when I say “no.” He still hits me on occasion. Becoming so frustrated and confused at how to deal with his feelings. I try not to take it personally. I try to stay calm. I try to help him express his feelings. I try.

We have also been working with Jack to learn new ways to cope with emotions. We have been working on identifying feelings. Encouraging crying, talking and yelling. Encouraging him to get more involved with things like puzzles, dancing, rough-housing, play-doh, truck parties, drawing, reading, painting, playing with oats, learning jokes, etc. All the things that we normally do, but making a point to initiate these things everyday so that there is less time to get bored and turn to nursing. It’s all developmentally normal stuff. These changes in our home have just made us look at them with more thoughtfulness.

I remember all of the comments from you ladies like “my babe self-weaned at 2 ½!” Ugh! I envy you! I honestly think Jack will nurse until he is 7 years old. I mean right now I hope not, but if it gets better I am happy to do it. Or maybe he will follow my current lead and go down the path of weaning now. I try to just take it day by day because thinking of the long-term is too stressful. Plus, I have gone through so many changes during my breastfeeding relationship with Jack there is no reason to believe it might not change again. I would love to love it again.

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I truly believe that weaning will take months if not longer to do gently. Jack has turned to nursing to deal with the recent changes in his world, he is an extremely sensitive guy and I feel I must be thoughtful and gentle with this at the same time as putting up boundaries for myself. We don’t plan to have more kids, but if we do I won’t choose tandem nursing again. It’s funny to me now to look back at how much I wanted this. I wanted it so bad.

I try to keep it in perspective. This is a small snippet of our life. Most of the time we have a great time. And this too shall pass. I am also learning that everything changes. Everything.

Abby Theuring, MSW

If you are experiencing Nursing Aversion consider joining this Facebook support group.