Thursday, September 6, 2012

Good for the Whole Family

I’ve often heard moms say that they don’t have time to breastfeed because they have older children to take care of. They don’t have time to “sit around nursing all day”. So what if you do stop breastfeeding so that you can have more time to spend with your older children? What does that teach the older children? That baby’s needs don’t matter? That if something is inconvenient then you just switch to something easier, even if the inconvenient thing was better? The truth is kids are really inconvenient (not to mention loud, messy, and demanding). Why is breastfeeding so often at the top of the list of things to be tossed? I love how this mom points out, “Some portion of ‘The Family Schedule’ belongs to you (the nursing baby).”

I was there once. I was surprised when I heard myself think it. I considered not breastfeeding because it would take too much of my time and energy to do it. How could I, of all people, consider that as an option? My situation was a little different than most because my baby was a bit of a surprise and came to us through adoption, so I had no milk. I was needing to induce lactation.

Baby came home to us in July 2009 at 18 days old. My older kids, two boys, "Scootch", 7, and "Curly", 9, were on summer break from school. However, we had decided that when school began again in August they would not be going back. From now on we would be homeschooling. Several people asked me when we got the baby, “You’re not still going to try to homeschool are you?” The truth is the thought never crossed my mind not to. We had taken a long time to make this decision to homeschool. We had decided that this was what was best for our two boys. Now that we had a new baby girl the needs of my boys did not suddenly change. It was still best for them to stay home. The reverse was true as well. This baby needed to be breastfed, regardless of the schedules and needs of other family members.

Baby sister meets big brother 
When my boys were babies I took all of the time I needed to make breastfeeding work. Why should it be any different for this baby?

I had about 6 weeks of summer left and I started the process of relactating. It was so frustrating to have this baby and no milk! It took a lot of time. A few weeks into the school year and I was beginning to doubt that I could do it all. To make things even harder she was premature weighing 3 lbs 2.8 ounces at birth, and only 4 lbs 0 ounces when she came home. She had a weak suck and she could not draw milk through an at breast supplementer meaning I needed to spend even more time pumping and bottle feeding while practicing at the breast.

I confided in my good friend, “I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t have the time. How can I do a good job homeschooling the boys when I’m spending so much time with her trying to bring in a milk supply? All the time at the breast, pumping, mixing formula and preparing the bags for the Lact-Aid. Maybe I should just give up on the whole breastfeeding thing.”

My friend could see the bigger picture when I could not. “It is important to the boys too. Their sister is important to them. Let some of the school work and other things go.” That was over 3 years ago and I still remember her words. She is important to them.

Scootch and Baby sister

She was right. This tiny baby girl meant everything to the boys. They loved their little sister. This was just as good for them as it was for her. I couldn’t see it then, but three years later I can see it.

Curly and Baby sister
What did they learn by watching me work so hard to breastfeed her? First, they learned an awful lot about inducing lactation! They would watch me pump. When I first started to get drops of milk Scootch (7) walked up and saw the little bit of milk in the bottle. He started jumping up and down and called for his brother to come see, “She’s getting milk, she’s getting milk!” I had no idea they’d be so excited.

They watched me spend countless hours nursing their little sister. They watched as the bottles were replaced by the Lact-Aid, and then the formula supplements gradually went away altogether.

They learned that their little sister was important. That babies are important and that they deserve to have their needs met. They learned that nursing was important, even if you don’t make enough milk. They learned that everyone in the family is important, and that we do what we need to do to take care of each other. They’ve learned that family is more than just DNA.

We did school work while I wore baby sister in the Moby wrap. When she got bigger, they wanted to wear her in the back pack. They were learning how to love and care for a baby.

They wanted her to have the best, just like I did.

The fact that she was important to them was reason enough to spend the time and work hard for breastfeeding to work, even if it meant I had less time to spend doing certain things with them.

Letting her play with their Legos is proof of how much they love her!

One homeschool project was building a sled for little sister.

Now that she is three, she knows how to pester her big brothers, and she does! She can be the annoying little sister, but these boys love this little girl. They would do anything for her. Taking the time to bring in a milk supply and breastfeed her did not take away from them, instead it gave them, and all of us so much!

Then there is always this argument: