Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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The challenge: When Susan Hayden began breastfeeding her son six years ago, she didn’t know she would find the nurturing and bonding that breastfeeding creates so fulfilling. The bedtime nursing, the eye-to-eye contact, the break from the daily chaos were so gratifying that neither Hayden nor her son were motivated to give it up. That is until Mason, then 31¼2, opened up his mother’s blouse and weighed in.
“He said, ‘Mama, you got a new bra,’” recounts the novelist from Santa Monica, Calif. “He commented on how it was black lace, and I thought, this is just too Freudian for me. The fact that he was able to have a conversation with me about my lingerie made me wonder whether it was time to wean.”
Shortly after the lingerie remark, Hayden’s son bit her while nursing and she knew it was time. She started by substituting a sippy cup at bedtime. “He asked a few times for Mama’s baba, but I told him he was a big boy and didn’t need it,” Hayden says. “Despite all the stories you hear, it really wasn’t that hard.”
What the expert says: His lack of resistance shows that Hayden’s son was ready to wean. “Many children will eventually wean on their own, but it may not be soon enough for mom,” says Petok. She adds that the decision about when to wean is highly individual, though she supports the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to nurse a baby for a year or more.
When a woman is ready to wean, she can start by setting limits on nursing, such as only at certain times and in certain places. She also should not sit down or talk on the phone when a child is acutely interested in nursing, as this is often interpreted as the equivalent of an “Open” sign on a cafe door.
If a child really doesn’t want to wean, postpone it for a month or do it more gradually. Or you can adopt the tactic of one mom who had to wean her 2-year-old because of a medication she was taking: She put Band-Aids on her breasts and told her child: “Mommy’s nonnies have owies.” Guess what? It worked.
The challenge: When Noelle Hawton returned to her job as a public-relations executive after the birth of her son, she brought along a breast pump in a briefcase carrier, pumped twice a day in her office and stored the milk in the company refrigerator. All went well until her son was 6 months old and she had to travel to a conference where she was meeting three people from regional offices to present a proposal. Hawton and the three colleagues, all men, met in a hotel room to create a presentation.
“The whole time I was working on the presentation, the clock was ticking, my breasts were filling, and I was worrying about how I was going to say what I needed to do,” says the mother of two from Minneapolis. “I finally blurted out, ‘You guys, I’m a nursing mother, and I need to take care of business.’”
One man offered reassurance by saying that his own children were breastfed. The other two men were apoplectic. Hawton retreated to the bathroom and pumped, all the while sure the whooshing sound was echoing through the walls. “I had to tell myself to relax and not think about those guys—otherwise, I was never going to get any milk out,” she says.
All the extra work to breastfeed her son was worth it. “Despite the challenges of working, I nursed my son until he was 1,” Hawton says.