Monday, March 30, 2009

Learning to feed at 2 years old

I just submitted this to an amazing site called ibreastfed. It's a non-profit collection of inspirational breastfeeding stories, ranging from very simple to awesome. I think part of the goal is not just to share triumphs, but to normalise breastfeeding. We all know it is natural, but so many people seem to think that means it is easy. It is a learned skill, just like walking, and it comes with it's own share of pitfalls. But they can almost always be overcome with the right support. So by showing that all sorts of people have all sorts of problems it can help new Mums to realise that it isn't the end of the world if they have thrush, or grazes, or their baby wants to feed every 45 minutes (hello Midget).

After a few problems with jaundice and oversupply, Molly was a fantastic feeder. In fact she was a little addict who would happily have skipped solids altogether, snacking away into her second year. I had to wean when we were trying for a second baby, but we took it very slowly (in the end it took 10 months!) and it was fairly peaceful and pleasant. I was glad because I didn’t want to tandem feed.

When I was about 3 months pregnant and she had been weaned for 4 or 5 months, she asked for a feed again. She had forgotten how to breastfeed and was trying to suck like a straw, plus by that time I only had colostrum. So it was quick and a bit painful and I didn’t think much about it. A few days later she wanted to do it again, and from then on it got more frequent. Sometimes she’d go a week without asking, then it would be constant for a few days. I could see that it was only going to happen more when she saw the new baby feeding, and decided that we would have to re-learn to do it properly.

She was squashing my nipple just like a newborn, so I decided to go back to the beginning. We practiced opening her mouth as wide as she could, and sticking her tongue out over her bottom teeth. We made it into a game and would stick our tongues out at each other.

After she was attaching in the right place, she had to learn to suck again. I knew that newborns have a lot of jaw movement, so we practiced opening and closing her jaws. At first I would sit her in front of me and she would do the big mouth and tongue and I would move her jaw up and down, then we would swap places. Then she would attach and I would move her chin up and down while she was trying to suck. Then she would try it on her own. So over a few weeks we got to the point that she could suck again. It was always a bit painful, but I was never sure if that was because of what she was doing or if it was because I was pregnant and only had colostrum. We developed a rule that she could only have one feed a day and only one side, so each nipple was only being used every second day.

Once we had the physical side of feeding sorted and it became regular again, I was hit with breastfeeding aversion. In the immortal words of a counsellor, if I were a cow I would have kicked her in the head. Even the thought of feeding made me tense up, I hated everything about it. It made me feel sick I was so tense, and I hated the way it made me snap at her. I seriously considered weaning, but we had come so far I felt it would be too mean to take it away from her again. I could see how important it was for her, so I gritted my teeth and trusted that I would be fine with the new baby.

When Joanna was born she fed like a dream and I enjoyed it. She seemed to be born knowing how to attach and suck, and I never even got a sore nipple from her seven and eight hour feeding marathons in the first couple of days. I had chosen to stay in hospital for a few days, and one of the reasons was I wanted to get Joanna’s feeding established without Molly constantly asking to feed. I was so relieved when I went home and Molly’s first feed was painless, although I still hated doing it.

There were lots of tears and tantrums because she went back to wanting to feed all the time, but looking back that only lasted a few weeks before she accepted that there were limits. The aversion lasted much longer, it was probably 5 months before it went and I still don’t have much patience for her. I had to really concentrate on relaxing and make sure I was comfortable and had something to do like a book.

A year later she has her special time in the morning, she comes and snuggles into bed and has a feed before we get up. I never thought I would still be feeding her at three and a half, but it is so useful. When she is sick or tired or out of sorts the magic boobies still work, and I love our special cuddles. I’m really glad we worked through it and she can still do something that is obviously so important to her.

1 comment:

Perfect Mum said...

Wow that's a very interesting story Deb! It didn't occur to me that breastfed children would forget how to suck and that you have to teach them all over again! Thanks for sharing your story.