Posted by: birdsandsquirrels | July 6, 2011

breastfeeding, yet again

What a wild ride this has been. Breastfeeding started out totally disastrous for us,  a year and a half ago. First there was: initial latch problems, cracked and bloody nipples, low supply, mastitis, many many blocked ducts, exclusive nipple shield use (used for nearly 6 months) and thrush a half dozen times. I took herbs and medications to try to increase my supply. I spent a lot of time with ice or heat packs shoved in my nursing bra.

Then things got easier, paradoxically when we started supplementing with formula at 6 months. She gave up the nipple shields, it didn’t hurt nearly as much, but I still kept getting blocked ducts and had low supply. Then at 9 months she suddenly refused all bottles, lost weight for a couple months, and had ear infections and teething torture. At 12 months, things got easier again as the teeth eased up and she accepted more food. Slowly she started drinking whole milk from a sippy cup, eating a larger variety of foods, and still nursed several times a day.

Now at 18 months, she nurses at night to go to sleep, and in the morning. We are starting to drop the morning nursing. It’s funny, she seems to nurse more in the morning than at night (and is more excited about it if I make the nursing sign), probably because she is hungry from having not eaten for 12 hours.

Over the weekend, I slept in a bit and S took her downstairs to eat breakfast and we all forgot about nursing. Then yesterday I skipped the morning nursing but ended up nursing her at naptime. Today I got her up, changed her diaper and asked “do you want milkies or should we go downstairs?” She got down and walked towards the stairs.  She never has really asked for it, but if I ask if she wants milk, she will usually smile and make the sign.

I’m not sure how I feel about weaning. On one hand, I will be kind of sad for it to end. It is such a nice calm bonding time for us. On the other hand I am looking forward to having my body back to myself. I want it to be on her terms, but I am not sure how much I should be helping it move along.

The whole breastfeeding experience has been difficult, and I have conflicting feelings about it. On one hand, I am so very glad that I stuck with nursing, through all the pain and the obstacles. I am so glad that I could give her the nutritional and health benefits of breast milk, but also the emotional aspects of it. On the other hand, much of her first six months was spent in a ridiculous amount of pain. And worry, oh the worry. Is she getting enough milk? Am I getting another blocked duct? I wonder if I could go back, would I do it the same? I probably would. But I wish that I could have enjoyed her first six months more. I wonder what will happen when (if) we have another baby. Will it be easier? Will my supply be better? Will I be quicker to supplement? What are my limits?

Breastfeeding is a hugely controversial issue. I was made to feel so inadequate by the lactivists and even some of the lactation consultants I saw. These are the messages that women sometimes get sent:  you are doing it wrong, if you love your baby you will stick with it no matter how much pain you are in, there must be something wrong with you if you can’t exclusively  breastfeed.

I got so sick of having to explain our situation and all of the challenges when I would go to the breastfeeding support group. I felt like a freak for having so many issues. But at the same time, I needed support and encouragement, and I wanted to be able to help someone else if they were going through the same thing. The last (and best) lactation consultant I met with gave me the best advice, after going through all of our issues. She said, very gently “Maybe you need to redefine your vision of success. It doesn’t have to be 100% breastfeeding. You are doing the best you can, you are giving your baby the best nutrition possible, and I think you are a breastfeeding hero for going through all of these challanges. Most women would have given up long ago.”

 

I wrote this a week ago. We haven’t nursed in the morning for over a week. She hasn’t asked for milkies. I still nurse her to sleep at night, but it is getting shorter and shorter each night. Suddenly, I am weepy and sad because my baby isn’t a baby anymore. She is growing so fast. This may be our last week or two of breastfeeding, and who knows if we will ever have a second baby.

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Responses

  1. it makes me so mad when women are made to feel inadequate because they can’t breastfeed or have problems doing it. you have done an amazing job and i hope you know that 🙂

  2. I miss breastfeeding so much. Peter was ready to wean, but it was hard for me to let go of him being my baby.

  3. He’s in bed now. How about how everyone is supposed to be pro-breastfeeding but when you actually want to feed your baby it is nearly impossible to find a quiet place away from home. I can’t count the amount of times I was forced to nurse Peter in the car.

  4. i still get a little sad about it sometimes! we didn’t plan it…it just kind of happened. which made me sadder–i couldn’t think “this is my last time nursing!” ultimately, you do the best you can and go from there, right? you’ve done a great job!!

    also: i was holding t before bed last week and he pulled open my shirt, looked at my chest, and said, “milk” and just hugged me. it was so weird and sweet at the same time 😉

  5. I totally understand how you feel, although I am one that did quit a long time ago. I absolutely commend you for sticking with it, and think you’ve done an amazing job. I actually would recommend letting it end organically. For me, that was easier than saying “Friday night will be the last time” because I didn’t have to make a big dramatic deal out of that session, you know? It just felt natural to stop when we did. Hope it is as easy as possible for you, though I do understand the emotions.

  6. It’s amazing how charged and emotional breastfeeding is. You made it 18 months, that’s amazing! Davie is just 4 1/2 months, and my extrememely weak supply is already dwindling. I’ve had to supplement from the beginning, and I can’t help but wonder if I had only tried harder, pumped more, maybe we could’ve gone longer? I think you have had amazing stamina and commitment! I think if I would’ve had the pain and latch issues you did I would’ve given up much earlier.

    You should be so proud of yourself, and kieep enjoying your evening milkies as long as she wants to. Nursing Davie to sleep is my favorite part of every day.

  7. I imagine that must be hard, and the challenges immense .


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