01 August 2013

Breastfeeding Support Over the Years

I have been breastfeeding (almost continuously) for seven years and three months (May 2006 to present). The first two tandem nursed for over a year. My second baby weaned while pregnant with my third, so technically I took a four-month "break" between July and October 2010. Three kids all nursing to toddlerhood. That's a lot of milk. 

I found that the support sometimes flowed and sometimes trickled (silly pun intended).

When starting out with my first, Agent E, I had zero idea what to expect (like most new parents). During the pregnancy I refused to take a breastfeeding class or find a La Leche League meeting. It's not that I couldn't find one, I really did refuse to even look, because I didn't think it mattered. In fact, I found the very idea of needing someone to teach me how to nurse my baby to be completely ridiculous. 

Yes; I know. I'm rolling my own eyes at myself.

Eventually, through an extraordinary combination of unwavering support from Hubby, an Aunt who breastfed her own three children in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and finding a local LLL, we managed to get through those early days and weeks and persist for over three years. (Her weaning story can be found here.)

Suffice it to say . . . I lived, I learned, and now I highly and enthusiastically recommend the breastfeeding class and finding an LLL (or similar) meeting to any expectant or new mom who asks. 

By the time the second baby, Agent J, came along, I became much more confident. Agent E was not even two yet, and continued nursing, so I had absolutely no issues with Agent J as far as latching, milk production, soreness, nothing. It was a very smooth transition from nursing one to nursing two.

Despite my relative easier time with Agent J, it was during my pregnancy with her and immediately after that I became most involved with community support (e.g., LLL) and online support (I "discovered" Facebook when she was about nine months old). After two babies and nearly three years of nursing, it finally sank in that perhaps there is something to this idea of helping other mothers helping their breastfeeding journey.

Fast forward to baby number three, Agent A. I knew I would nurse this child just as I had his sisters. However, I had the most trouble with pain, latching, etc. with him—my third!—and that shocked me. Had he been my first, I might have thrown in the towel. But I had seen this movie before. And I knew how it ended. There wasn't really much in terms of organized support where we were living at the time, but through a combination of helpful also-currently-nursing mom friends and the online world, we made it through.

Not only that, I soon became viewed as "the experienced one." It even got to the point where casual acquaintances would request I point them in the right direction or offer a suggestion. Oh, ask Valerie, she's been breastfeeding forever.

I've now been nursing that third baby for two years and nine months. I'm honestly at the point where I'm ambivalent about the whole thing and would like to wean soon. I would love to have a community to turn to during this time. And for the first time, I don't feel like I do.

True story: When the LLL chapter closest to us fizzled several months ago, a local mom took it upon herself to create a new support group. It sounded fabulous. I went to the first meeting and it was great. For some reason we couldn't make it to the second meeting, but shortly after it was held I received an e-mail (as did everyone in the group) that it was simply too many people, too chaotic, and from now on they were limiting the group to women currently breastfeeding a baby. 

Yep. No pregnant ladies, no moms with older kids nursing toddlers, no mom/grandma/friend helpers, no mothers who have recently weaned. 

The organizer's logic was "because these are the people [moms currently nursing young babies] who need help the most." The meetings in her opinion were too loud and too many children running around and so she wanted to put the brakes on that right away. 

After I picked my jaw up and let my anger subside a bit, I sent Ms. Organizer an e-mail back. Which turned into multiple back and forth e-mails.

To make a long story short, she opened the group back up to all women wanting to learn about breastfeeding, offer support, or get help with any part of the journey no matter the ages of their children.

Unfortunately, it still didn't work for us, however . . . we went to a few more meetings and always felt shunned. Not many others had older kids, and almost none nursed toddlers. I ended up being that older mom with the gaggle of rambunctious kids that used to scare me. So we left. Even though we needed community now possibly more than ever.

So this time I felt truly on my own. I found a few acquaintances who nursed into toddlerhood and invited them to play dates. I did my own reading on toddler weaning and tried the suggestions in private, with no one with whom to compare notes, instead of reaching out to a group. 

I guess you could say that during my years of nursing I've experienced the full gamut of breastfeeding support: denying I needed it, embracing it, being it, desiring it but not having it, and creating it myself.

I'm not yet sure where I will go from here. I like the idea of creating a space for Mommas of older nurslings to get the support they need, but I'm not sure exactly how that would look. But just writing this post has made me consider it a little more seriously, so who knows.


  1. Thank you for sharing, it stinks that there are no good support groups in your area. Maybe create one? Maybe a local Mom's Club? I've heard them described as crazy with a lot of kids running around... but they do volunteer work too so who knows. You could always start a group of your own too!

    1. I did MOMS Club when my first was a baby, and yes, they are pretty much insanely crazy. I was even the president of our club briefly. Unfortunately, it's one of those things where basically there has to be a specific chapter in your zip code or neighborhood, or you can't join. So, there is none in my area, and even though there is a chapter 15 minutes away, they won't let anyone join who isn't in the specific parameters for their membership. I think there is definitely a need for BF support that focuses on the toddler years and weaning. I think the closest I have here to support for breastfeeding/almost weaning toddlers would be the local API chapter, which I haven't been terribly involved with, but perhaps should be.

  2. "That's a lot of milk!"

    Sure is! And a lot of dedication and love as well. What a nice post - sorry to hear about your LLL experience feeling "shunned" for being the bf mom with a toddler nursling . . . as an accredited leader, in my accreditation process, I was taught that if a meeting was too loud or busy, that there are many other options to consider than telling people they're not welcome anymore! Yikes!

    You truly have run the full gamut of breastfeeding - and I applaud you and thank you for that!

    1. It wasn't LLL, it was this new group that formed after the LLL chapter nearby kind of fizzled after the leader left town and no one wanted to take over. One thing I forgot to mention is she also made people RSVP for meetings and capped it at a certain number of people. Eventually I think they got two more people to help out with organizing and now have two meeting per month. But . . . it's still so sad that her first reaction was to limit who "really" needed help and then to turn people away if they didn't tell her they were coming in advance. Not very supportive, IMO.
      I've had great experiences with LLL in the past. That's great that you are a group leader. I've thought about it, but never really took any action toward actually doing it.