Category Archives: breastfeeding

(almost) no-tears weaning

Over the past two and a half years, there have been times I was convinced I would be nursing my child into his twenties. After he got the hang of nursing in his first few days of life on the outside, he couldn’t get enough. Fortunately, I didn’t have to work outside of the home (and spent countless work shifts nursing him while typing one-handed), so BG nursed on demand for a very long time. We also slept either in side-by-side beds or in the same bed for his first year and a half, so he had access when he needed it. It has been easy for us, beautiful, and for ages, I couldn’t imagine how we would ever wean. Just thinking about it made me panic a little.

But there came a time when BG was about fourteen months old when he wasn’t letting me sleep at night. He would have these all-night nurse-a-thons that would leave me feeling stuck in bed and wanting my personal space. It was around this time that we decided to night-wean, and it was brutal. I slept on the sofa for a few nights while my wife dealt with a screaming, crying boy. My breasts would ache, and I would lie there crying along with him. But after a couple of nights, he did calm down for his mama, and I went back to bed. He fought me to  nurse. He was desperate, but I helped him understand that he could nurse when the lights came on. He would bargain with me when he really wanted to nurse. “Light! Light!” (or some approximation) is what he would say while pointing at the lamp in our bedroom. But he eventually got it, and the nights of tears were really very few. There were a few occasions when he would need to nurse at night because he was sick, and we’d have to repeat the process, but those few times were brief as he got more and more accustomed to sleeping at night.

But those tears confirmed for me that I really didn’t want a repeat of those desperate begging cries. I didn’t have a plan for when we would wean, but I knew it would be gradual. It seems now that it was a full year of gradual following his first night-weaning. Slowly, we stopped nursing as much during the day, and by the end of last summer, when he turned two, we were down to just two or three nursing sessions a day: one in the morning, one midday, and one before bed. I loved nursing a toddler, but there were occasions, particularly when he was teething, that I didn’t. There were periods when he would bite down, and eventually last fall, when we were down to just morning and night, he bit me hard one morning–he drew blood. I had no choice but to cut out the morning nursing. Every time we cut any nursing out during the day, it involved a lot of distraction. When he woke up in the morning, for example, there was no lounging around in bed; instead, we got right up and made breakfast. (As a result, he also became intimately involved in our coffee-making routine in the morning. It’s good training.) This happened so suddenly, and I had a moment of sadness for the way it happened, but it was so successful. We were fine.

Honestly, I had a hard time imagining how we would finally stop the final nursing session of the day, but he just kind of figured it out on his own. He would go for a couple of nights without nursing and then would pick it right back up again for a few weeks. I decided I wouldn’t decline if he asked, but I wouldn’t offer either. And for the last six months, he’s been slowly weaning himself from that night nursing. In the last month, he has on several occasions just wanted to have contact with my breast while he rocks with me at night, and just like that, he has finished the process. A week or so ago, he tried to nurse, and it was so painful. I told him it hurt, that “nana” didn’t work anymore. So he stopped. The  next night, he mentioned it, that nana didn’t work anymore, and he patted my breast, laid his head down, and smiled. I asked him if he thought he might be all done nursing, and he said he was. It was so simple, and that’s all it really needed to be. No need for agonizing, for setting a cut-off date. It was just a matter-of-fact, but very sweet conversation. I think this is what is so ideal about nursing–and then weaning–a child who is verbal. I am grateful for this.

And ultimately, I’m so proud of our boy. It’s a big deal to decide you don’t need one of your greatest comforts in the world, but he hasn’t given it all up. We have lots of snuggles when he needs them, and on occasion, he does just get to lay on his beloved nanas when that’s the only thing that will do.

I’m proud of myself though, too. I’m proud of what I invested in the nursing relationship, proud of standing my ground to meet my own needs, even proud of the sacrifices I made to ensure our son’s health. I can’t say there is no sadness at all. I will forever miss the sweet, soft, wide eyes of my nursing baby looking up at me. I’ll miss hungry bird mouth (although I’ve missed that for a long time). I’ll miss the drowsiness of prolactin and the boost to my metabolism. But I’ll never grieve how it all ended. We were both ready, and there is something so very satisfying about that.

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Filed under Boy Genius, breastfeeding

these are some deep trenches

For the past few nights since our son’s transition to his new bed, we’ve gotten less and less sleep. He wakes up and won’t go back to sleep for these long periods. He wants to get out of bed. He wants me to hold him and dance him and hug him. He wants everything but sleep. Because he is not held prisoner anymore, he can also get up. One night, we caught him sleep walking. When he opened his door, I bolted into the hallway only to herd him back to his bed where he laid down, eyes closed, and continued sleeping.

I’m also sick.

On Tuesday night/Wendesday morning, BG slept like crap. This was a night of two lengthy wake-ups (one was nearly two hours of me trying to get him to stay in his bed, stop sreaming, and go back to sleep) and the sleepwalking. I had worked until midnight. BG woke up for the day at 5:30. The last remnants of BG’s breastfeeding have been first thing in the morning and just before bed, so my wife brought him to me to nurse in hopes that I might sleep a bit more and extend his sleep too. I was desparate for more sleep after three hours of very interrupted sleep that night. Shortly after my wife left for work, my son started pinching me, scratching at me, and finally, as I was blocking his little claws, he bit down. Hard.

I yelped, then immediately placed BG on the other side of the bed, and put pressure on my very sore breast as I snapped, “No Biting!” He looked surprised but didn’t try to nurse again. He knew something had gone awry, but in his sleep-deprived crazy state, I’m not sure he new quite what. Not wanting to dwell in the moment, he told me it was time to get up and make coffee. I reluctantly agreed. It was, after all, not even 6:30. I pulled back the blankets and began to stand up when I noticed a half-dollar-sized spot of bright red blood on the front of my shirt. My nipple was bleeding and hurting. I started crying. My son laughed at the red spot on my shirt. I cried a little harder. I told him “na-na” was very hurt. That his bite had caused a “big owie.” He was ready to move on. I was hurt. The sting and ache of the cut was one thing, but I also felt betrayed by my son.

He has nipped me before, typically when he’s been teething. One time previously he bit a little hard and left me with a bit of an injury, but this was far worse. This drew blood. This was the result of being irritated with me, with losing control. I could hardly relate to him all day, but I had to. I was on my own with him most of the day, and he and I were both in rare from (and by this, I mean we were crazy with fatigue). All morning, he cried and whined and fought me over and over. I had no tools to cope with this small tyrant who had invaded my son’s body. All my patience had been used up in the middle of the night. Finally, I sat down on found an episdoe of Sesame Street. I sped through the segments he didn’t like–the things that made him frustrated again–and I snuggled with him during the segments he liked. But then he started kicking and smacking the computer. I had to shut down the one bit of respite I had found. This catapulted him into a full-blown tantrum. I thought a bath might calm us both down, but this made it worse. He didn’t want a bath, he didn’t want me to give him a bath. I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to be in his own skin. I was summoning every speck of patience I had ever known. I dressed him, put on some music, and danced him down to his nap.

I collapsed on the sofa, and my cat joined me. I watched some bad television and finally fell asleep. My boy slept for nearly two hours, and I awoke from my own nap to him smiling over me.

When my wife finally came home, I had to take our cat to the vet. Earlier, I had found a giant absess on his back, and he had to go in. I never imagined going to the vet would be a means of getting some time to myself, but it was important–both to help the cat get well and to help me find some sanity. When I had to leave the cat at the vet for surgery and put down nearly three hundred dollars that we absolutely don’ thave, I nearly lost it.

I was reeling from the day, knowing that I was going to have to take the next big step toward weaning. So far, this process has been slow but natural. We’ve eliminated more and more nursing until these last two bookends have remained, but I’ll no longer be nursing my son in the morning. Our bedtime nursing will be all that is left, and that won’t be much longer either. I’m afraid of him biting me again, and I don’t want that. I don’t want to be tense with my son. I don’t want this event to color how I feel about him. I just never expected the end to start this way.

Today has proven better, albeit challenging in a new way. BG is quite sick and has been fighting a horrid fever all day. We had to pick the cat up from the vet and care for him all day. My two boys–my son and my cat–have required everything from me, and somehow I have had it to give. I’m tapped now. I have no idea how I’ll finish my work for the week, how I’ll get to spend time with my wife, where time for myself will come in. I can only live each moment hoping reprieve and strength and grace will come soon.

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Filed under behavior, breastfeeding

better than a cow

Baby Genius recently had a doctor’s appointment to check his hemoglobin levels. He has been bordering anemic for many months, so his doctor wanted to check him out. As it turns out, he’s fine; he just likes to cut it close. That’s how he is. At this appointment, we also discussed his eczema, which we suspect is still connected to a dairy protein allergy. His doctor thinks we ought to keep him off of all dairy until he is eighteen months old, at which point we’ll try it again. We agree. 

At some point in this conversation, we may have mentioned needing to stock up on goat yogurt again, and the doctor asked if we were giving him goat’s milk. I told him no, that we didn’t see a need, since he is still breastfeeding. The doctor seemed surprised. “Are you planning on stopping that anytime soon?” I told him no, that considering his dairy allergy it makes sense for him to continue breastfeeding. He was still surprised. “At his age, your supply really can’t keep up with his nutritional needs, so you do need to make sure he’s not replacing food with breastfeeding.” I had to make sure I heard this right. Did he really assume that we were somehow not feeding our son appropriately? I reassured him that we are very conscientious about our son’s diet, that he eats a wide variety of foods several times throughout the day.

But this had me reeling. This doctor was always very supportive of breastfeeding, but it seems he is not so comfortable with it after one. I didn’t ask why because I think I know why. We live in the U.S. Breastfeeding after a year is unusual. I have known people who were told that breastfeeding after one has no nutritional benefit, that breastmilk loses any nutritional value–and this by medical professionals. Yet these same medical professionals tell women they need to give their kids cow’s milk “x” times a day. What? We are so comfortable in this culture with feeding our kids another animals milk–milk that was produced ostensibly for that animal’s baby. But when it comes to giving our kids milk from our bodies, milk that was made for keeping them nourished and healthy, people get all weird about it. What is that? Why?

I know for a fact that the milk my body makes for my son still has nutritional value, that it still has health benefits beyond nutrition (probiotics, antibodies, feel-good hormones, to name a few), and that no cow or goat or sheep has milk that is made the same way.

Now, I’m not suggesting I’m going to nurse my kid until he’s five. And while I don’t have a specific date for when I plan to stop giving him his “na-na” (maybe around two?), what I do know is that to continue breastfeeding him is natural and even normal.

I’m curious though, what do you think is the best age to stop nursing? If you’re breastfeeding, when do you plan to stop? If you did breastfeed, when did you stop?

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tales from advanced breastfeeding

Baby Genius is still breastfeeding regularly throughout the day, and he really tanks up as we’re waking up in the morning. Typically, this is much earlier than I would prefer, so he nurses while I try to get a few more minutes of sleep and at least stretch our rising time to 7am.

Yesterday morning, BG awoke at his usual 6:45 or so, and he was nursing ,nursing, nursing on my left side. Apparently it had emptied out, and I thought he was finished. He sat up facing me and looked at me sort of inquisitively. He then cocked his head, lifted my shirt on my right side, bent forward (still seated), and proceeded to nurse again. He sat there for ten minutes, bent over, nursing from above, happy as can be. He had the whole situation under control.

I am learning that I have a very resourceful son.

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Filed under Baby Genius, breastfeeding

Xtreme breastfeeding

I have a secret. I am an abused mother. My abuser is sitting next to me as we speak, chewing on his bonding doll and patting my leg. He’s about 19 pounds of pure sweet–until he’s latched on to my breast.

We are fans of the Sears’ Baby Book, and  in the early days of our life with Baby Genius, I particularly enjoyed the discussion in this book of different types of breastfeeding babies. There is the “nipper-napper” who can’t get a full meal in because he always falls asleep. There is the “chomper” who gums or bites her mom while nursing. There’s “Mr. Nurse a Little Look a Little” who eats then looks around, then eats, then looks around. But the one they don’t talk about in the Sears book, the one who Baby Genius has quickly become is “The Abuser.”

My son and I have always shared a pretty easy breastfeeding relationship. We were  lucky, I guess, because he developed a good latched fairly quickly and had a good appetite, and I had a good supply and enjoyed the whole process. I still enjoy it, in fact. There is nothing quite as sweet as snuggling up with my baby for a nursing session.

Until he starts kicking me in the legs.  Or biting me. Or pinching my arm. Or slapping me repeatedly.

Yes, my sweet Baby Genius does these things. The kicking he has been doing for awhile. He kicks with both legs at my inner thigh, and sometimes pretty hard. This is particularly painful when he hits this varicose vein area I have on my right leg. I used to be able to gather his legs up and contain him, but as he gets bigger, this is becoming increasingly more difficult, and sometimes when I do gather him up like this, he kicks me in the arm, the throat, or my other breast.

The chomping, as one might imagine, is more painful, and I can usually break him of it by either pulling him close to me so that he has to open his mouth to breathe or by removing him altogether and closing up the milk bar. Right now, he’s teething, and for a time, he would stop nursing and chew on his fingers if he needed to chew. I called this a victory, but I think I called it too son, for now out of the blue, he’ll bite down and proceed to pull himself off v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. He grins as he does this. Needless to say, we’re working on this again, lest I either lose a nipple entirely or they’re stretched to look like garden hoses.

The worst of all, though, is the pinching. I know it doesn’t sound bad. How bad could a little pinch from a baby be, right? Well, let me tell you. I have baby finger-sized bruises all over my upper arms. My son is a brute. He loves to pinch my upper arms while he’s nursing. Sometimes he’ll get both hands in on it and just pinch and pull at my skin until I’m sure he’s going to pull it off. He pinches the muscle under the skin too.  He pinches like he’s got needle-nosed pliers attached to his hands and a man with olympic strength is operating those pliers. Occasionally, when his nails are getting a little long, he causes abrasions. He has even drawn blood.

Sometimes, when Baby Genius is particularly tired and rambunctious, he does all of these things at once, and he’ll add some rhythmic slapping to the mix, hitting my forearm or my chest over and over again. These are times when I feel like I’m trying to wrangle some sort of  Tasmanian devil. This is when I begin to understand why women stop breastfeeding.  But these are also the times when I wonder where my sweet baby has gone and who this rowdy boy is who has replaced him.

And then, just like that, all activity will stop, and I’ll look down at him to see a pair of big blue eyes loving me. I’ll see those eyes flutter closed as he nestles into me and falls asleep. Then that amnesia of motherhood takes hold, and I forget I’ve just been beaten and battered by my baby. I disregard the bruises and the bleeding, and I’m just happy to nurse my baby again.

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Filed under Baby Genius, breastfeeding

my life with udders

udderfeed

I never had any doubt that I would breastfeed, and I was fairly determined that BG and I would be successful with it one way or another, even if it meant countless hours at La.Leche.League meetings or with lactation consultants handling my breasts. I grew up with a breastfeeding advocate for a mom, and I remember when I was little watching her and her friends making onesies that said, “Breastfed is Bestfed” to sell at the local fair. I never had to wonder whether I would breast or formula feed. I always just knew I would breastfeed, and I knew I’d make it work. I am lucky, though, to have been brought up knowing that while this is a learned art, it is something I would be able to do.

Before BG was born, I spent a good amount of time telling myself that this was going to be a challenge. I engaged in a lot of positive self-talk, encouraging my future self to stick with it, to seek out help as I needed it, to be patient with myself and the baby, and I’m so glad I did.

The first few days as a breastfeeding mom are hard. My first encounter with my son at my breast involved someone else holding my breast, massaging the collostrum out of it, while I held him. It was urgent because we needed to bring up his blood sugars, and it wasn’t that first intimate feeding I had hoped for. I’m honestly surprised that I was not upset by this. My wife was, but I somehow took it in stride. For the next couple of days, BG would fall asleep while feeding all the time, and I was so worried he wasn’t eating enough, especially because of his initial low blood sugars, but he and I started to get the hang of things. My nipples were cracked and sore and occasionally bleeding, but damnit, we were going to do this somehow. He had the pinchiest of latches, and because of the enormity of my breasts, I couldn’t see well enough where the latch was going wrong.

We had a home health nurse come visit us the day after we came home, and while she was overall rather surly and unpleasant, she did help us figure out our problem: he was tucking his bottom lip. My wife now had a job. She became the official lip flipper, and within a couple of days, all was well. It’s a good thing too because this was when my milk came in and my breasts swelled to a size I had never seen–and they hurt, oh they hurt.

Since then, however, our breastfeeding relationship has been wonderful, and I’m so happy to have stuck with it through those hard first days. I’m still learning how to gracefully nurse in public. So far, I’ve done it in a restaurant, in the lobby of a hospital, at an outdoor restaurant, in a waiting room, in the car, and in a park. I have a scarf I carry in the diaper bag for attempts at being discreet, but BG isn’t crazy about having his head covered up. This is when I really wish had smaller breasts because hiding them would be so much easier. It takes quite a bit of effort to cover up these big girls.

I love this process, but it has its downfalls. If BG sleeps too long and then nurses on one breast, the other will soak my entire shirt. I have woken up to find not only my shirt but our sheets soaked. The leaking is diminishing, but that let-down reflex is something else! As a large-breasted woman, I also miss wearing bras that provide me some shape. I’m not willing to go the underwire route because I’m afraid of plugged ducts (I seem to be tending toward them already), and I can’t spend gobs of money, so I’m stuck with either nursing tanks or these cheap things that have either a uni-boob effect or a no-bra effect. It’s really not lovely at all. Still, it’s worth it. I just have to remind myself that happy, healthy breasts are far preferable to a perky, well-defined bustline.

I honestly don’t know how long this breastfeeding relationship with BG will last. I hope to breastfeed him for at least a year. I imagine we’ll play it by ear after that. For now, I’m just happy to be able to do this, and I feel so lucky that we haven’t had the struggles that so many women have.

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sloshed

DSCN0420

Malea requested a photo of our milk-drunk boy, so here he is: our drunken son. We were in the Napa Valley, and he was as blotto as half of the tourists stumbling out of the wineries.

On a similar note, I pumped for the first time last night, and we now have two two-once bottles of white gold in the freezer awaiting C’s one month birthday. Once he’s a month old, J will start introducing a bottle as I work. As we were looking for a place to conveniently store the breast pump, extra bottles, and such, J found our wine bar to be quite appropriate. The milk bar now has an official location.

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Filed under Baby Genius, breastfeeding