Thursday, December 9, 2010

My 16 Month Experience With Breastfeeding

Before R and I had even met, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my future children. My mom was a huge inspiration since she nursed me until I was 9 months old. I also knew about all the health benefits for the baby and the extra calories it burns for the mother post partum. So when M was born, without a doubt I knew I wanted to breastfeed her right from the start.

A pregnant woman's body goes through so many changes from the point of conception, through the pregnancy, during labor, post partum, and during breastfeeding. I think that every single inch of me changed in some way at some point during it all. And just one of these many stages of change in preparing for baby is the production of colostrum. Yes I know it sounds weird and icky to a few people, but colostrum is truly a wonderful thing! In fact, when I first noticed a little bit around week 26 of my pregnancy, I texted my mom that "my boobs work!" Of course I had no idea at the time whether the colostrum would continue and turn into true breastmilk after M was born, but I had high hopes. I was already so proud of my body and natures way of providing nutrition for a baby.

Fast forward another 14 weeks and I was thrilled when my milk came in. And OH BOY did it come it! This was the most painful part for me. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were most painful when I had gone more than 2 hours between nursing or pumping. I was so very thankful that M had a great latch from the beginning, but what made it difficult for both of us was that I had a bit of an over supply. I became a bit of a squirrel {as R called me} because of the stash of breastmilk in the freezer. I was obsessed with adding to it every day.

Yes it is time consuming, yes it can be painful, yes it may restrict what you can eat, but I knew all that before I found out I was pregnant. Now it was time to face any difficulties thrown at me so that I could provide the best I could for my daughter. I took such pride in nursing her and did so on demand, thankful that I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home-mom and continue with this {lack of a} schedule for M.

For R, he never expressed difficulty with not having his own bonding time with her. He had his own special daddy things. I know that some fathers have a tough time with not feeding their child, but we thankfully worked things out so that he never felt left out of creating that special bond with M as well.

At 10 weeks I did hit a slump in my supply and I was devastated! I was pumping around the clock again, even getting up every two hours throughout the night. I took a couple fenugreek capsules every day with breakfast and dinner, drank mothers milk tea throughout the day, and consumed more oatmeal than anyone should. All these things definitely helped and in no time {although it seemed like forever} I had an over supply again. As much as that over supply hurt like hell, I wanted that more than the loss of breastfeeding because I wasn't willing to work on it as hard as I did. It truly involves A LOT of work! As long as you are committed to breastfeeding, no matter what your reasons are, I believe you can get through any of those difficulties and breastfeed for as long as you choose to.

When M was 6 months old, we started her on purees and she LOVED them! I knew that feeding her solids could possibly take a hit to my supply but I kept on nursing her on demand and pumping as needed to keep up my supply. If I ever felt a dip then I would restart the fenugreek, tea & oatmeal in mass consumption. Again, I was so very thankful to have reached the 6 month point! It was my main goal before M was born. Now on to 9 months. Then to 12 months!

With only a slight hiccup over Easter weekend when I ended up in the ER twice with a severe case of hives  and not knowing whether my medications were safe for breastfeeding. I nursed M for an entire year and was on cloud nine. I knew that this was a huge accomplishment and I was so very proud of myself for sticking with it no matter what was thrown at me. It was now time to decide how to introduce cows milk into M's diet and how much I desired to continue nursing. Most importantly though were what M's needs were in relation to breastfeeding.

Neither of us were ready to be done. I continued nursing her 3-5 times a day during 12 months and while we slowly introduced cows milk. I then dropped our afternoon nursing session and was mostly nursing 3 times a day when she turned 13 months old. At this time I contemplated fully weaning her. I even set a schedule for it and an end date. But I couldn't follow through. I knew that M wasn't ready yet and when I acknowledge my inner feelings about it, neither was I. The only change I made at this point was to nurse her before both nap time and bed time. Yes, at 13 months old I was still nursing her to sleep. I saw no problem with it though and ignored any articles or comments against such things. Every situation is different and nursing M to sleep after a year old was right for us.

About a month later I dropped nursing M to sleep at nap time and made sure to drink a lot of water so that I could keep my supply up just enough to nurse her just at bedtime. I knew it may not work, but I wanted to try. Neither of us were quite ready to be done. I kept nursing M at bed time up until 1 week ago.

While on vacation visiting my parents, I made the decision to end our single breastfeeding session. I knew that M was only nursing at this time for comfort and that she was no longer getting much breastmilk at all. My thought was that if I was to have our last nursing session away from home and from our beloved nursing rocking chair {which is seriously the BEST chair ever!!} that it would be easier for both of us.

Now that 1 week has gone by without breastfeeding, I am feeling good about my experience and the manner in which I ended it. At bedtime now I am cuddling and rocking M for a few minutes before putting her to bed and I do not feel as though we have lost that special bond what-so-ever. My memories of breastfeeding are happy ones and I greatly look forward to nursing future children.

Elle 26 - mom to M - 16 months old

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