Dealing With the Distracted Nurser

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Dealing With the Distracted NurserNursing is on the minds of many new mothers. No matter if it’s their first child or their fourth, it tends to be at the forefront of their concerns about raising their little one because we feel either strongly in support or adamantly opposed to it and continuously remain concerned about whether we are making the right decision. I was very much in support of nursing, but I have no judgment for anyone that chooses to do otherwise. Military spouses have special situations like long-term separations, PCSes, and distance from family that further complicates matters due to lack of a steady support system.

You would think that something as natural as nursing would come easily, but that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I was one of the “lucky” ones that was able to nurse both of my children. I would like to say that this was the fantastic bonding experience everyone dreams about, but that would also be a falsity.

The truth is, nursing is difficult. That wasn’t something I was prepared for, and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. I was of the mindset that if you got that little one to latch on, you were good to go. That isn’t even the start of it. I’ll skip all the tormented details about those first three weeks that everyone writes about  but I will say the pain is definitely real!

My first child was intolerant to anything dairy. Other than that minor detail that completely altered my diet, I nursed fairly happily until I went back to work and the whole pumping thing didn’t really go well with the stress levels at my new job, so I switched to formula.

For my second child, I thought things would be easy breezy. Why wouldn’t they be? This time I wouldn’t be working or need to be away from him for any period of time during the day. We knew we would be traveling a lot, so nursing him was even more important to me. It might seem like an odd reason to make something so critically important, but it really did make travel much more simple without the need for bottles and formula.  He latched on right away and seemed to come out of the womb a feeding pro. I felt really lucky again. No dairy intolerance this time around, and stationed in Europe, I felt comfortable nursing him pretty much anywhere at anytime.

Although nursing from the outside seemed like a piece of cake, I was a mess on the inside. My supply was up and down, he went through one growth spurt after another, and I had continuous issues with clogged ducts. When I finally felt like I had the whole nursing thing conquered, we started my little one on solids and a whole new challenge emerged. He became distracted. What the heck?! It was so frustrating. I wanted to enjoy nursing and the bonding so much, but it became a horrible task. He wanted to have nothing to do with it. Sometimes I could get him to latch for a couple minutes, and other times I would struggle to get him to nurse at all. This made my milk supply plummet. I was such a huge mess because I really wanted to continue nursing, and I didn’t want to give up even though I knew my life would probably be much less stressful.

It’s something you don’t hear people talk about very often.  I don’t know if it’s because nursing mothers don’t want to admit that they are miserable in this seemingly otherwise wonderful experience. Turns out distracted nursers are fairly common. I researched the issue extensively online and I was finally able to figure out a method that worked for us, but that definitely brought nursing to another level. You see, when babies start to eat solids they are also getting to that age where the world is opening up right before their eyes. They are able to notice so many other incredible things. Add that new level of exploration to the fact that solids are keeping them from being as hungry and you have a child that wants nothing to do with sitting still for five minutes, let alone ten! The goal is to avoid the temptation to be distracted. I had to keep the room somewhat dark, chase my four-year-old out of the room, stare into my son’s eyes, and also wear a nursing necklace. Phew… remembering that is making me tired. BUT, it worked, and we were able to continue nursing until he was well over a year old.

I share this story with you not to give you advice on how to deal with these issues, to tell you that nursing is in any way better than formula, or to give you the message that nursing is a terrible thing. On the contrary, I loved nursing even though I struggled with it, but I don’t think my second child is any different because I nursed him longer or vice versa. Instead, I’m hoping to provide the message that you aren’t alone out there with your nursing struggles. It is but one more thing that makes that first year of parenting an adventure. Listen to yourself, don’t feel guilty “giving up,” but also if you don’t want to give up, know that there is probably an answer waiting for you. Don’t be shy and seek help! For me, as a mother, I also felt better when I could read other stories about mothers going through similar experiences. This made me feel a tad bit more “normal.”

If any of you have gone through a nursing experience that caught you off-guard or surprised you, I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

BlogJohanna Thibault