Nursing Beyond the Breast
Many mothers find their dreams of a beautiful and easy breastfeeding relationship diminished when faced with a reality of a low milk supply, babies refusing to nurse, illnesses, and more. It can be devastating, even heartbreaking. But reality is that nursing can go beyond the breast. It’s not the only way to bond intimately with your child, and it is not the only way to be a natural parent.
Let me share with you the story of my aunt, Lishchkaya Eskridge, and her son, Diesel. Her breastfeeding journey did not turn out as she hoped it would, but through her desire to put her son first she managed to create a nurturing and loving bond, feel confident in her choices, and feel hopeful for breastfeeding future children. I spoke with Lishchkaya over the phone and discussed her experience with Diesel in his first year.
In December 2009 when Diesel was born, Lishchkaya began breastfeeding as planned. The two of them took to breastfeeding so naturally that even nurses in the hospital commented. Unfortunately, he was born with very low blood sugar and needed to be supplemented immediately. The pro to this, Lishchkaya said, “was that Michael (Diesel’s father) got to enjoy the bonding experience of bottle feeding right off the bat.”
After coming home, It became apparent that her supply was less than Diesel needed to be nourished. “I tried desperately but he was hungry so often, you could tell right away.”
She believed strongly that breastfeeding was the best for Diesel and loved the intimate relationship it built between the two of them, so she continued to breastfeed as much as possible. After every feeding, Michael nursed Diesel with his supplemental bottle. When Lishchkaya started back to work, she pumped during the day and breastfed at night. She also worked hard to increase her milk supply.
“I tried everything I could to increase milk supply- supplements, pumping every hour for three days in a row, nothing seemed to work. I could still only make about 3-4 oz (breastfeeding or pumping), never increasing.”
Eventually, she had to make the very difficult decision to stop breastfeeding. “I cried about it for a long time. I was devastated when I could no longer breastfeed because I enjoyed it and he enjoyed it. It was a more natural way of bonding, my little time with him that no one else could have.”
She pumped often at work and stored up enough so that Diesel could be slowly weaned from breast milk and on to formula full time. In the end, he breastfed for about 3 months and continued to have some bottles of breast milk for another month.
Nursing Beyond Breastfeeding
Through out his first year, Lishchkaya treated bottle feeding as intimately as breastfeeding in an effort to create a continued “nursing experience” for Diesel.
“I mimicked like I was breastfeeding. I would hold him like I was breastfeeding, cradling him and sticking the bottle where my nipple would be. I try to cherish every single moment because I know it’s not going to last. Even now, especially at night when he wakes up, I still hold the bottle for him and snuggle. I touch his face and rub his hair. I give him little baby massages, caressing and humming to him. I still do that most nights. He smiles and touches my face now.”
Sharing What She Has Learned
After hearing her story, I asked her what she learned from her experience.
“If you can’t breastfeed, you can still have that bonding experience with your child. It’s not just about breastfeeding and the nutrition. It’s about nurturing and bonding. And it’s not just for mom, it’s for dad, too.”
She encourages other moms to stay positive. “I know I felt like a failure, like somehow I failed my child. I would advise (other moms) not to feel that way. Make the most out of the experience while you can and try not to judge yourself too harshly, because it’s not something you can help.”
If breastfeeding is what mothers want, she encourages them to try everything and not to give up for as long as possible. She says, “it’s not always the same with your second child. It could be completely different.”
Lishchkaya received a lot of support from her wonderful husband, Michael, her mother-in-law, Mary, and her sister, Alexia. They shared in the journey through bottle feedings, advice, emotional support, and their own stories. Lishchkaya feels that support systems are very important:
“It ended up being cool because there was a lot of time for Michael to be a part of it. He could watch me breastfeed and then give Diesel the supplemental bottle. It could be months before other dads could be involved like that, (but) from day one he was able to take part. That was a huge positive that we weren’t expecting. So be involved as much as you can. Help give remedies, share experiences and reassure (the mom).”
Acacia is a stay at home mama playing through life one moment at a time with her husband and two young sons. She is a natural parenting, cloth diapering, gentle disciplining, home schooling, wholesome foods eating, spiritually centered steward to this great Mother Earth.