Did you smoke, drink, or do drugs while nursing your baby?

Nursing your baby for 365 days non-stop or longer is a long time, but not that long if you have made up your mind to stay close to your baby and to breastfeed until you or your little one no longer enjoy that kind of time together.  

Even if you planned to nurse that long, that is a long time to give up something you have been in the habit of doing just because you have decided to breastfeed your little one…  Just like nursing one day at a time, we have habits that are hard to break, or habits that we continue because we can’t stop. 

The big “A” words for addictions and abuse may rarely come up until you are pregnant, or nursing and you begin to wonder.  Will what I am doing hurt my baby? If I am solely responsible for their health and well-being; then maybe I will stop or try to stop a practice that is potentially not in their (our) best interest.  Perhaps considering my own health and well-being prior to this pregnancy was not incentive enough. Harm to the unborn child or the innocent infant as if it was defined as a separate entity unto itself raises the stakes.

Pregnancy is one thing; a finite set of time is different from the time after birth and others can observe and step in and judge you as the surrogate mom.  My daughter-in-law and I share a love of salami, cured, uncured Italian pork products are a treat. Shortly after the birth of the baby we shared a delicious deli sandwich that tasted the best ever… because it had appeared on a long list of items she had willingly given up for the weeks of pregnancy.

I recalled giving up coffee (caffeine) and soda. I never drank so that wasn’t an issue, occasional marijuana to enhance “?” was not a problem. The list was short, and I don’t recall any hardship.  I was much more impressed with folks who could give up cigarettes, alcohol, fried foods, sugar, an intolerable boyfriend and an array of other things they “did” daily so not appropriate for an infant or toddler.  I was supremely impressed with women with serious drug habits who were able to abstain from the minute they knew they were pregnant until the instant the baby was out. Alcohol use was less a reliable indicator of abstention, while it was probably the most likely predictor of fetal alcohol syndrome, many women did not associate weekend occasional binge drinking as affecting them at all.  Denial of abuse of any kind is a feature of addiction or abuse.  Is there something more “real” about involving someone else involved in your secret. I also remember doing things that I hadn’t done before, like eating more vegetables, drinking water, counting grams of protein, reducing sugar, drinking milk before I knew about lactose intolerance, and those wonderful daily naps.

Some women don’t choose or can’t give up or add anything to their already tight health regime. They live to tell the tale and either feel guilt and remorse while noting their child survived the life they led as did they.

Please tell us your story. Many women even today feel that their child’s health status today directly stems from something they did or were exposed to before they knew or when they knew but it couldn’t be helped.  No judgment, compassion and love pave the way for new beginnings and forgiveness.

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