A Breastfeeding Story Part I
Time to Wean
It’s hard to believe that only three months ago on January 8th, I stopped breastfeeding my daughter, Emma. It was her second birthday and we were four months pregnant with twins. I was advised to stop as soon as we learned we were pregnant, especially considering this was a twin pregnancy.
The doctor warned I would need all the energy I could get to ensure a full-term twin pregnancy. Plus, this pregnancy would be different from my first. This time, I would be looking after (more like chasing after) my very physical toddler by day and waking up with her by night. Emma still had trouble sleeping through the night and occasionally I resorted to breastfeeding her back to sleep.
I had mixed feelings about weaning. When Emma was born, I aimed to breastfeed her for a year. I never thought I could go longer than a year. And I certainly didn’t ever think I would want to continue after she turned two! But part of me wanted to breastfeed for as long as she demanded it.
It was hard to hear her whimper “Mommy’s milk, milk!” while she looked longingly at my shirt and slid her hand under my bra. The breast was her source of comfort. I enjoyed being able to feed and soothe her with a simple touch and a complex design of the body. Whenever she fell down or got an “owie,” it was off to the breast we’d go. She never took a bottle, even though I tried. Goodness knows, I tried! My husband’s business travel schedule didn’t allow him to administer the bottle regularly. And when I tried to give her a bottle, she was too smart to take it. She could smell the real deal. Plus, I’ve concluded, if given the choice, babies know there’s no substitute for human touch.
Those first six weeks of learning to breastfeed were tough as I experienced cracked and bleeding nipples. Emma kept falling asleep while feeding. And when she’d stay awake, she became what my Mom calls a “gourmet eater.” She would nibble a bit, pull off, look around, and then want a bit more. Feedings that were supposed to last twenty minutes could sometimes take up to 1.5 hours! That meant feeding her every two hours was like feeding her all day long! And without a bottle, there were very few breaks for me. I had to figure out how to go about my day AND satiate my daughter’s “gourmet” appetite.
To this day, Emma still showcases her “gourmet eater” techniques. Meal times are never quick and easy. Thankfully, having my Mom (who is a Lamaze teacher and certified doula) attend Emma’s birth and stay with us weeks after Emma's delivery helped establish my positive breastfeeding journey. Discussions with my Mom, meetings with a lactation consultant, and reading a wonderful resource that my cousin (who is a Mom and a psychiatrist) recommended, Breastfeeding Made Simple transformed the daunting chore of breastfeeding into a welcomed privilege for me.
Of course I knew when the doctor advised me to wean Emma, it was ultimately my decision. I didn’t need to stop breastfeeding Emma if I didn’t want to. Many women nurse through their pregnancies and even continue breastfeeding both their newborn and toddler post delivery. Of course most of these women aren’t pregnant with twins, running a small business, still unpacking from an out-of-state move, and shooting a fitness DVD. Part of me wanted to continue breastfeeding, but I knew it was time to stop.
Two reasons helped make my decision: 1) I finally concluded this was not the time to be “super woman;” I actually did need more energy to focus on the twin’s pregnancy. And 2) it was becoming increasingly painful to continue nursing Emma as my breasts grew more sensitive with the pregnancy. I always enjoyed breastfeeding (well, after going through the 6 week learning curve) but when Emma’s near two-year-old latch consistently started to feel like a vampire sinking her jaws into me, I decided it was time to stop. So on her second birthday, I pulled the plug.
It felt like the end of an era. (Of course, who am I kidding? Our twins are due in 11 weeks. I know I’m going to be breastfeeding two at once for a long time to come!) However, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Maybe it was the pregnancy hormones. Or maybe I just couldn’t believe two years had come and gone so quickly. Emma was undoubtedly growing up and our time of nuzzling together in the Moby Wrap or on My Brestfriend or under a Bebe au Lait nursing cover was coming to an end.
Breastfeeding had become such a daily routine for us. I identified with other Moms who breastfed on demand, whose children never took a bottle, whose toddler did gymnastics while they nursed, and whose growing child could ask for “Mommy’s milk.” Although I knew it was the right time for me to wean my daughter, I couldn't ignore my sadness. I would have to give up this wonderful source of nutrition for my daughter and excellent natural self-defense for my body. But I guess every chapter has to end. And every Mom has to let go at some point. Part of letting go is recognizing the anticipation of starting something new, whether she's ready to or not.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - coming soon!!
Sarah owner/founder of Asobi Sport Family Fitness - Mama to Emma (2) and twin girls due in June.