I’ve been breastfeeding my son for 808 days. I’ve breastfed him ever single day that he’s been earth-side. It’s been nearly 27 months.
For me, breastfeeding was never a choice I made. I never considered formula or bottle feeding with breastmilk because I never really knew anyone who did either. My mom breastfed me and then my twin sisters. I remember my aunts nursing my cousins. Then my older cousins breastfed their babies. Breastfeeding is the biological norm and it was the only way I knew.
With that being said, I also didn’t know why women called themselves “lactivists” or joined La Leche League. I definitely didn’t understand when they’d post breastfeeding badges on Facebook. Like what? An award for breastfeeding? Why? That’s just what you’re supposed to do. Lol! I can laugh at all of that now! Now, I GET IT! Breastfeeding is a HUGE commitment. It is time consuming, emotional, selfless, and sometimes- really hard!
The first latch wasn’t awe inspiring. It wasn’t rainbows and unicorns. I didn’t feel an oxytocin rush. Shortly after I had Everette he wanted to nurse. I had what the IBCLC/nurse referred to as shy nipples. She taught me how to use a nipple shield to help him latch. I remember feeling frustrated and disappointed. “This is the natural way to feed my son and I’m failing. I need this shield.” I’d think and say to my husband. I loved the way he put it in perspective. “You need glasses to help you see and you need this nipple shield to help you nurse. Don’t worry about it babe.” He was right. I used the shield for less than a week and then was able to nurse without it. (Many women nurse with them throughout their journeys!)
Breastfeeding HURT! I know now that that’s not totally normal. My son probably had a bad latch. But when he was brand new – I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to feel pain. I remember my whole body tensing up and my toes literally curling in pain. I’d tell whoever was in the room to stop talking. I’d tell my husband not to touch me. It was a legit pain when my son would latch. It didn’t last the entire nursing session but OMG let down and poor latch = bad combo. (Seriously, if you’re experiencing pain while nursing PLEASE reach out to a IBCLC -international board certified lactation consultant.)
Nursing started to feel more normal. We were both learning how to do it. Our relationship was evolving and it was becoming easier. I remember one of the first days saying “I’ll never leave the house because I am NOT nursing in public!” Hahahaha lesson learned: never say never. When we ventured into the city for my 2 week appointment with the midwives I nervously nursed in the waiting room while wearing a cover. I remember feeling surrounded by love and encouragement there. That’s what’s gave me to nurse with more confidence while out and about (still with my trusted cover, of course!)
Eventually, at church I’d go into a side classroom to nurse *uncovered* during the services. This was my choice – the church didn’t ask me to, etc etc. Everette was at the distracted nursing stage so this worked out perfectly.
Then, I mastered the two shirt method & breastfeeding while babywearing and 💥…
Before I knew it, I was breastfeeding EVERYWHERE. While grocery shopping (thanks babywearing- you da real MVP), in church, at the mall, while at dinner… You name it – we’ve been there, done that. I still laugh at the image of me breastfeeding a toddler while taking communion!
The closer we got to his 1st birthday the more pressure I started to feel to wean. “Just give him a cup” “he’s getting too old for that” “if he can ask for it (sign language) then he’s too old.” None of that set well with me. Give him a cup? Okay, with what in it? Juice? Nope. Cows’ milk? Why? No one could give me a good answer. So wait, when he can ask for an apple I should quit giving him apples? I knew it wasn’t right for us. So we kept on boobing. These pictures were taken at 11 months and I remember being so nervous to share them on Facebook!<<<
und 19 months I thought I'd try to nightwean my little boob monster. I bought a book called "Nursies When the Sunshines." We made it part of our bedtime routine. We discussed it. It seemed to be helping but it didn't totally click.
I breastfed on demand for 22 months straight. In May my mom and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Punta Cana to surprise family at a wedding. We had planned our big family vacation to Italy for June. I kept saying "I bet he weans in Punta Cana! I hope he'll nurse until Italy! It will make the flights so much easier!" Hahaha! Again, I had no idea what was about to come! The minute we left for Punta Cana I swear a switch flipped for Everette. He wanted mommy milk NON-FREAKING-STOP. We were in a new, unfamiliar place, AND he began getting his two year molars. I was SO TOUCHED OUT. He was nursing an immeasurable amount of times a day and all night.
(22.5 months -Venice, Italy)
Wean? How in the HELL does anyone wean? Binkies? Bottles? I’m sure they’re not easy to get rid of, but MY BREASTS AREN’T going ANYWHERE. They’re attached to me, remember? Lol!
I started having really bad nursing aversions. I was resenting the fact that my son wanted to nurse nonstop. It was a really bad feeling. I knew I was doing what was best for him and meeting his need for comfort in the way he needed me too, but it also made my skin crawl. It made me want to scream. He nursed nonstop while we were in Italy (more molars, more unfamiliar places). -side note: I am no longer feeling any aversions, they lasted a few months but it wasn’t every single time I nursed either.
Like I said earlier, nursing is a relationship. All relationships need both parties to be involved. When life returned to normal after our trips I consulted online forums/groups, friends, and my original lactation consultant from the day Everette was born. I did everything the recommended: don’t offer/don’t refuse, redirection, time limits (songs/timer), wear more layers of clothing, keep trying tonight wean, read more books, have more discussions, offer drinks/snacks instead.
After a few months of all of these suggestions and methods I took the plunge. A few weeks after he turned two I was like this is it – we’re night weaning, we’re setting limits. I’d nurse him to sleep and then put on a sweatshirt. He’d wake and ask for mommy milk and I’d offer a water cup and snuggles. It was so hard to not “give in” because he was tired, I was tired, I felt bad, etc. After 3 nights or so of this… BOOM! Something magical happened. My son SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT! Yes, sleep is developmental and YES he was able to meet the milestone. I was so proud. Oh and really kind of sad! What can I say? The hormones are REAL!
Once I realized that the limits and redirections were gentle and he was okay without mommy milk constantly, I changed up our routine so that he ONLY nursed at nap time and at bedtime.
emotional side of weaning has been hard for me. I wanted this. I wanted to wean. But what I didn't realize is that it would hit me really hard. I don't know the science behind it or anything but since we started weaning my weight has started to creep up and my anxiety has been rising. I will adapt. I will overcome. I wanted to share this because I naively thought weaning from breastfeeding would be easy. No one ever talked about how they stopped weaning or how they felt – they just seemed to stop one day and that was that.
Everette hasn't nursed for a nap in three days. Coincidentally he hasn't napped in three days either. The last two days he hasn't even asked for "mommy milt" at all until bedtime. Last night and tonight he only nursed for 3-5 minutes and the was fast asleep. We're not totally done and that's totally okay. We're going slow and easing both of us into the next chapter!
It really is bittersweet. My boy is growing more independent every day. He's healthy, happy, and thriving. I'm so thankful for the bonds we've created throughout our nursing relationship and I lop forward to seeing how our mommy/son relationship continues to blossom through the next season of life!
PS. I'm still sleeping in a sweatshirt just incase the mayor of boobtown gets any crazy midnight ideas! Hahaha!