If you plan on (and are able to) breastfeed, you may be surprised at how that first year flies by. Before you know it you're no longer cradling newborn, worrying your engorged boob might crush their face. Instead you'll have a wiggly, strong, and willful toddler on your hands, who views nursing as a momentary break from play and sees mom as a cash-free vending machine.
While you're grappling with these changes, to your baby and your breastfeeding relationship, there are some things you really ought to make sure you do during the first year of breastfeeding. Things that celebrate your achievement and serve as a keepsake from this special time. Things that, sometimes, can even help time slow down. If only for a little bit.
When I started breastfeeding my newborn son, I didn't realize how peaceful our nursing sessions were. Once he was a toddler he became quite an annoying feeder; twisting my bra straps, yanking on my hair, wiggling constantly, and accidentally kicking me in the other boob. One of his favorite games was to finish nursing, go off to play, wait until I had readjusted all my clothes and sat back with my coffee, only to then reappear and ask for "more," like little orphan Oliver from the musical.
In all, I breastfed for over two years and, during that time period, there were many things I did to mark this important milestone in my life and the life of my child, up to and including the following:
Attend A Breastfeeding Event
There is something so supportive about being surrounded by other breastfeeding moms, all feeding their babies simultaneously. It totally normalizes a natural event, and makes you feel like you are part of a community of like-minded mamas. Plus, you have the chance to meet new friends, which is never a bad thing.
Breastfeed In Public
Of course, there is no requirement to feed in public and some women just don't feel comfortable doing so. In the end and always, you do what you want with your body, when you want to do it. However, if you do feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, I can tell you that it's a huge boost to your self confidence. Plus, you can take your baby anywhere without having to worry about pre-made bottles, and that freedom is pretty awesome.
I remember being very nervous the first time I nursed in public. I had built up the moment in my head and even had some potential comebacks at the ready for anyone who might try and shame me for nursing in public. Not a single person even looked my way, though, and I was so relieved. As a result, I have nursed in restaurants, airplanes, libraries, shopping malls, schools, parks; you name it.
Save Some Of Your Milk
I really wish I had saved some of my frozen breast milk to have a piece of jewelry made. There are lots of companies, like Beyond The Willow Tree, who can transform a single drop of mother's milk into a beautiful keepsake. If I get the chance to breastfeed again, I will take the opportunity to remember my nursing journey in this special way.
Enjoy The Cuddles
All too soon, babies morph into wiggly little kids that don't stand still long enough to snuggle. Enjoy all these magic moments cuddling your little one close, while they still let you.
Have a Professional Photo Taken
Sure, snaps taken by your partner of you nursing on the couch are special and definitely worthwhile. However, in my humble opinion, nothing can compare to a professional photograph capturing this fleeting moment in time. I definitely treasure mine, and will forever.
Invest In Some Nursing Clothing
If you decide to breastfeed for any length of time. but especially if you intend to nurse for a year or more, it's prudent to invest in some nursing clothes.
Items that are easy to fasten and unfasten, that allow access to your breasts but provide some modesty (if you care about that sort of thing) and that provide support as your breasts change, are a solid start. My dad (yes, my dad) took my tank tops and sewed little loops onto the straps, a hack that allowed me to thread them through my nursing bra and keep my tummy covered and warm while my baby was still able to get full access to my breasts. Thanks, dad!
"You should only nurse for the first three months."
"You should stop nursing when your baby gets teeth."
"If they are old enough to ask for it, they're too old."
These and other breastfeeding myths will be shattered when your friends and family see you successfully nurse your baby for a full year, and perhaps beyond. Society often has a stereotype of the sort of mom that breastfeeds past a certain point, and I certainly enjoyed challenging assumptions and showing that a variety of moms can (and do) practicing extended breastfeeding.
Enjoy The Period-Free Break
If you breastfeed and you still get your period back right away, I am so sorry. That truly is unfair.
However, for many women breastfeeding slows or stops the return of your period for a significant amount of time. For me, it wasn't until my son was 16 months old, which meant (including my pregnancy), I had been period free for over two years. Hell. Yes.
Marvel At Your Amazing Body
Like many women, I spent my teenage years and my early 20s criticizing and shaming my body. There was always something to improve or change; always an errant bunch of pounds to lose, a flabby something to tone up, something that needed to be covered, "fixed," or removed.
It wasn't until I had a baby, arguable the biggest change to ever happen to a body, that I developed a new respect and admiration for my amazing body. Nursing my child took this appreciation to a whole new level. After all, my body was providing nourishment for my infant, and I had never felt such pride before.
That first year of breastfeeding, indeed the first year of your baby's life, will go by so very fast. Try, if you can, to savor every fleeting moment while you can.