What weaning has looked like for us.

When I went back to work Dylan was 7.5 months old and started nursing all night long. She wanted to nurse from the moment I got home until the moment I left in the morning. My first weekend home I nursed on demand thinking it would give me a break at night but instead she nursed for about 48 hours straight. I was miserable, she wasn’t all that happy and everyone was tired. I made the decision to go to a schedule where I would nurse when I got home around 4:30/5pm and then at bedtime. After that I would get her back to sleep without nursing at any wake-ups before midnight. By midnight I was exhausted and would just let her nurse all she wanted which resulted in constantly. It was not ideal but I wanted to compromise and make sure she felt okay. I kept this schedule up even on weekends for the most part.

I need to stress that ideally I wouldn’t have weaned her yet. I longed for a wonderful breastfeeding experience that would end when we were both ready but it did not exist. I really disliked it and I was spending a lot of time feeling negative thoughts. I didn’t think it was healthy for us or our relationship any longer. I’m proud that I pushed through as long as I did and I’m happy to have been even the tiniest bit more successful this time around.

A week and a half ago after a bout of mastitis and some really terrible nursing sessions I decided I was done forever. In all honesty, after I made this decision I tried to have one more time with her to lock in a good last time memory and she bit me so hard I cried. Not the memory I was looking for. We have been bed-sharing since birth and I read a few things that indicated this would make night weaning/weaning more difficult but I didn’t want to abandon her or make her think I didn’t love her so I wasn’t willing to change this yet. I put a shirt on before I climbed into bed with her around midnight and shortly after she awoke looking to nurse. I tried rubbing her back with her lying next to me but she got more and more upset. I decided to lie on my back and I pulled her on top of me (in a similar position to being in an ergo) and I sang to her and rubbed her back and kissed her little head. She whimpered and I cried intermittently but we got through that first night.

On the second night it I ended up in bed with her lying on top of me around 10pm and lasted through the night with the same soothing techniques grabbing whatever minutes of sleep we could get. She was trying to figure out a way to get to the boob still but the armour I was wearing helped set the boundaries (it was really just a t-shirt). As I rubbed her back he would rub my shoulder. I really felt like we were getting through it together.

The next three nights were more of the same EXCEPT she stopped trying to nurse. We were both still sad and my hormones were a wreck but it felt like we were just trying our best to make the change together.

On Friday night Daniela and I went out and left Dylan at home with my mom. She had previously been waking up 1-2 times between her bedtime and my bedtime and sometimes it took a half hour of soothing and singing to get her back to sleep. I went out unsure how she would do with my mom going in to soothe her and I was half expecting to have to run home to a distraught baby. When we returned home around 11:30 my mom said Deej had woken up once only to fall back asleep as my mom was climbing the stairs to go to her. I climbed into bed that night and my baby girl slept beside me, occasionally wrapping her hands around my arm until 5:30. At 5:30 she woke up and curled up into me with her head on my chest and went back to sleep. It was mind-blowing.

Saturday night wasn’t quite as wonderful but I think it was because I put her to bed too early. She ended up awake from 8:30-11pm but then slept alright.

Sunday night I decided I would let her tell me when she was ready to go to bed. I played with her in the living room waiting for her to rub her eyes or let out a big yawn but instead she played and played until about 8:30 and then set her toys down, crawled over to the stairs and headed up. I followed behind, went over to her bed, held her in my arms and she fell asleep within 5 minutes. I laid her down in her own bed right beside mine and she slept until 5am before calling out to get in my bed. We’ve now had 3 nights of this. She is such a peaceful sleeper. I lay there looking over the edge of my bed at her, part of me hoping she wakes and I need to pull her in with me. That being said, I really love being able to sleep on my stomach and/or curled up with my wife.

Overall, I’m very happy with my decision and I feel like it has worked out best for us both so far. I know there will be moments that every ounce of my body aches, but I’m sure we will get through it together.

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Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding

Before giving birth my only parenting goal was to breastfeed.  Everyone told me how much better it was for the baby, how important it was for our relationship and what a beautiful thing it was.  I was told that it was natural and women were “made for it”.  I was convinced that formula was the devil and was terrible poison to give my child.

When breastfeeding proved to be more than just a challenge for us and despite all the support and the trying my baby kept dropping weight my midwife said “I think you really need to supplement”.  A midwife saying this is pretty hard to hear because you know they don’t want to be saying it.

The tears I shed and the disappointment I was overwhelmed with were only made better by a plan that this was temporary and it was just until we could get my supply up.  I was nursing on demand and then would supplement and then would pump after each feed as I was advised.  I was taking herbs, prescribed domperidone, eating lactation cookies and a balanced diet that avoided all things that could decrease supply.  There were a few days that required very little supplement and I would feel okay until the next day where he suddenly needed what seemed like a gallon of formula.  Despite all goals, there was no decrease in reliance on formula.  There was actually an increase of demand.  My supply increased, but never enough.

I was sure I was failing my child.  I couldn’t do what my body was meant for.  I hated myself. I hated the formula. I was angry that Carter wanted more then I had to offer.

I was embarrassed that I was failing.  I hated that people would ask me about what he ate or would assume I was breastfeeding and then I would have to explain that I was supplementing.  Every time another baby progressed more than mine I would blame myself the lack of breast milk.   

Partly because I wanted to and partly because I was guilted into it, I continued to give him whatever I had until he was 7.5 months old and then the breast feeding era ended.

I have a million plans in my head of how to make breastfeeding a success with baby number two although I don’t think I didn’t try anything the first time.  Mostly we just have to wait and see what happens.  I will do everything in my power to make it work.

All of that being said I can’t express the relief I felt when I found this study that the benefits of breastfeeding over formula have been drastically overstated.  The environmental benefits of breastfeeding are more than enough for me to still wish to breastfeed over formula feed if possible but I’m happy to see someone say that formula alone will not ruin my child.  I’m glad to know that my attributes as a parent, aside from my failed boobs, are worthwhile in his development and health.

I’m very happy for people who can breastfeed with and without challenges but there needs to be a change in how we treat it.  It’s not fair that so many moms are walking around with guilt and are constantly told about what a wonderful thing breastfeeding is if it simply isn’t an option.  Breast milk is wonderful but it is not the only good option and it does not define you as a mother.

The end of a mini-era

Today is bittersweet. Today was my first day of not breastfeeding. At this point is has been over 36 hours since I last nursed my son. I woke up this morning and when I would normally nurse him first thing I handed him a bottle. It felt okay at first but as the day progressed I felt increasingly sad about it. Breast feeding was never easy for me and I never produced enough milk despite all attempts, all lactation consultants and internet research. I worked so hard to be all that he needed but I was just starving my baby and I couldn’t keep that up so we had to supplement early on. It got better for a while and then I got mastitis which then reduced my supply even more to a point it could not recover from. I then “quit” when he started biting, and then started back a few hours later. I had a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding but my love always won.

I go back to work next week and we’d like to start trying for our next child soon so the decision was made that I would stop. Yesterday morning was not intentionally my last time nursing, And so I didn’t focus on all the positives and enjoy the little things like how he holds my finger while he’s eating or how he looks into my eyes more deeply than any other time of day. I didn’t take the time to love the parts I love and now I regret that. This morning I ripped the band-aid off. I had been putting a cabbage leaf in my bra to reduce production for a few days and I just didn’t feel the desperate need to breast feed so I just went with it. As the day wore on I considered just taking a little time with him and holding him close while he nursed but I knew it was selfish and just for me to feel better. I started this blog because I want time to reflect after he goes to bed and tonight I’ve been mostly feeling like a wreck. My brain is confident in this decision and grateful that he is doing well with it but my heart is aching. I was the only one that got those moments with him and now they are over.
I want to say this means I’ve learned a valuable lesson to treasure each moment, but I’m sure I’ll need reminders along the way.

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