A letter to my nursling

A letter to my nursling

My sweet boy,

You are such a joy to me. We may be nearing the end of our nursing relationship, but that just means we get to embark on a new adventure together! I have such precious memories of the past two years…

When I was pregnant with you, I knew I would nurse you. There was no other option for me! I wanted you to have the protection my milk would give you, as well as experience the bonding. I had no idea how much I would enjoy nursing you.

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Nursing for the first time!

The first time we nursed was 30 minutes after you were born. Our labor nurse brought you to me and said, how about we feed? I think I was still in a little bit of shock from having just given birth, because my first thought was, Really? He’s ready to feed now? You definitely were! Our nurse helped me position you in the football hold on my right side and you latched right on. It was surreal and incredible. I had just given birth to this angel and now I was nursing him! Even though he was outside of the womb, my body could still provide nourishment for him.

Our nursing relationship was all roses – thorns and everything! I was learning a new skill, just like you were, so we hit a few bumps along the way. When I didn’t latch you correctly, it hurt me. There were times I was afraid to feed because it hurt. Then I felt bad because I knew you needed to eat and how could I not want to feed you! But we got past that. There were times when it seemed like I couldn’t sustain your huge appetite (also known as cluster feeding). Not knowing that this was a normal part of breastfeeding, I thought I was failing you and not giving you what you needed. Luckily your Daddy was there to calm me down and reassure me that I could do it. And so we got past that.

About 3-4 weeks in, I sat down on the edge of our bed to feed you one morning. I latched you on to my left side in the cross cradle position and started daydreaming. Suddenly, I realized it didn’t hurt. I looked down to make sure you were still latched and suckling, and you were! It was then that I realized we got it and we would be just fine.

From then on, we tackled new challenges. Nursing in public? Started out by going to the car or seeking a designated nursing room, but gradually became better at it and we successfully NIPed at the Abbey Gardens, Newmarket Racecourse, London tube, restaurants, stores, airplanes and as part of the Big Latch On – twice! Nursing tank tops really helped Mommy, because you did not appreciate being covered while you nursed! You’ve nursed in 3 different countries – England, Italy and Greece. You nursed on the flights to and from both Italy and Greece, so you’ve nursed over other countries!

Teething? Definitely not my favorite time. You only bit Mommy a few times, but man did it hurt! The last time you bit me, I cried out in pain. You looked at me with the saddest, most apologetic eyes and then started crying, like you felt bad for hurting Mommy! I comforted you (which kind of made me chuckle, since YOU had just bit ME) and you never bit me again.

The Big Latch On 2011
The Big Latch On 2011

There were nights when I was so tired, and it seemed like all you wanted to do was nurse. But those sleepless nights melted away when I saw the contentment on your face as you nursed. You made such cute expressions as you nursed! Often you would furrow your brow and look very serious, as though you were concentrating on something very important. You’d get so excited at nursing time, bobbing and lunging and then latching quickly. When you got older, you’d treat me to smiles! And when you were even older, sometimes you’d laugh while latched (especially if Mommy was tickling you). You and I shared some wonderful belly laughs if you did something funny while nursing.

As you grew older and more aware of the world, you became quite the wiggler while nursing! You were so curious about the world that it was hard for you to focus on your meal. Your curiosity is one of my favorite things about you. You perfected the art of ‘gymnurstics’ early on. I nursed with a hand on my nose, a hand in my mouth, a foot on my shoulder, a tush in my face – but my favorite was when you would reach up and play with my hair when we nursed. Your Grandma told me how your Daddy used to play with her hair while he nursed. Just another way you are so like your Daddy!

When you were about 4 months, I went back to work. You stayed with Mackenzie for the first two months, and man were you a stinker! You were so used to getting your milk on tap, you refused to eat for her. One day, you only ate about 8oz in 9 hours, and that was because she used a syringe to get it in you! Eventually, you decided to take the pumped milk in a bottle, but it had to be very hot and you had to be in the swing. We think it confused you to take a bottle while she held you, since she was still breastfeeding Dylan and you could smell her milk. This time was hard for me, too, as I navigated being back in the workplace and dealing with pumping.

I managed to pump until you were 12 months and able to take whole milk, so you never had to have formula. There were times I was scared and didn’t think I’d have enough pumped milk, but with extra pump sessions, lots of bowls of oatmeal, Mother’s Milk tea and the support and advice of several helpful moms, I was able to provide for you. When you were 6 months you started at the CDC. We were so lucky in that your primary caregivers – Miss Victoria, Miss Camii, Miss Shannon and others – were very supportive of breastfeeding and would often call me to come feed you during the day. I loved connecting with you during the workday this way – it was a great way to take a timeout from the stresses of work.

Nursing you was also a great comfort to me, especially during stressful times. When your Daddy deployed suddenly on my birthday, nursing you made me feel less sad about him leaving. Our kitty Lola died while Daddy was in Korea. I felt terrible and missed her so much, but being able to nurse you made me feel better. There were times when I felt unhappy during the workday and I’d go nurse you at the CDC, mostly to make me feel better! You were always happy to comply.

One of my favorite memories is when you started to ask to nurse. At first, you would sign for it by patting my chest. Later, you would pat my chest and say “Neesh! Neesh!” in a very excited voice. ‘Neesh’ gave way to “Nursh” as you gained better verbal skills. Now, at the end of our nursing relationship, you tell me “I wanna nursh little bit” or “I wanna nursh other side.” The other night, you patted my chest and asked me, “What’s in derr?” When I told you milk was in there, you very confidently told me, “No, no milk in derr. Milk in cup.” The next night, you told me “warm nurse” was in there.

I have very mixed feelings as we near the end of nursing. I’m ready to move on to the next stage of our mommy-son relationship, but you don’t seem so ready to stop nursing. It breaks my heart when you ask me to nurse and I say no. Please understand that I love you more than anything, but Mommy wants to find other ways to show you her love. As I look back over these memories, I’m satisfied with how the relationship has gone. I’m afraid if I nurse much longer, I may start to have unpleasant feelings and I don’t want that to happen.

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My sweet boy and I, Halloween 2012

I’m so blessed to have you, sweet baby. Thank you for sharing this special relationship with me. I love you.