The end of an era
Fourteen months and ten days. That is how long I breastfed for. It has only been a few weeks since stopping and I already miss it.
I think I may have been more worried about being able to breastfeed well than I was about having a drug-fee birth. What if he couldn’t latch? What if my supply wasn’t enough? What if it hurt? I read half of my breastfeeding how-to book and decided that I had learned as much as I could about it (barring any real nursing problems). Instead of reading about all of the types of holds (seriously could never figure out how the football hold was supposed to be comfortable) I did what I could to set myself up to succeed.
- We hired a doula, who I knew would be there to help me if I had any questions or concerns about it after the birth.
- I spoke with a good friend whose son is six months older than Declan. I can still picture us at her table, eating lunch, me hugely pregnant and worrying out loud that I may not be able to breastfeed. She looked at me and said not to worry about it. That it would be natural and fine and everything would go well. Of course she had no way of knowing, but positive thinking plays a huge part in, well, in all things labor, birth and breastfeeding!
- That same friend gifted me with a purple tube of amazingness. After Declan was born I used this after every feeding, starting in the hospital. I never once had dryness, cracking or bleeding. I attribute that to the purple tube.
- We didn’t introduce a pacifier, bottle or any type of artificial nipple until Declan was 6 or 8 weeks old. By then he had his latch down and I was not worried about nipple confusion.
We did have an issue with him being gassy, which almost led to colic. I cut dairy and soy out of my diet and the problem resolved itself. I eventually re-introduced both into my diet when he was about 11 months old. I exclusively nursed him until I went back to work at 13 weeks. There was one formula incident while I was at my six week follow up appointment. My mom was watching Declan for me, the appointment ran late and he got hungry. The formula did not go over well.
Once at work I pumped during the day and Declan used special bottles meant for babies who go between breast and bottle. You can read my post on pumping here. He still nursed in the morning, to sleep and throughout the night. (Even though we moved him to his crib at 8 months old, he would still wake throughout the night. The easiest thing for me was to bring him into our bed and nurse him back to sleep, although this led to more waking during the night to nurse him.)
After he turned 12 months old we switched his daytime bottles to whole milk, which luckily he didn’t react to! He took a week or so to get used to it, and it was difficult on the weekends when I was home during the day to stick to the bottles, rather than nursing him. In mid-March he got sick, then I got sick, then he got sick again, which meant lots of down time for both of us and lots of comfort nursing. At that point he was still nursing to sleep and then coming into our bed around midnight and nursing throughout the night.
And then a few weeks ago I decided that it was time for him to sleep through the night in his crib. While I love the cuddles that come with bed sharing, I work full time and the constant lack of sleep was really starting to get to me. I never felt right letting him cry it out, I never thought he was old enough to understand why I was leaving him there by himself, so we just never did it. But at 13 months old I knew that he understood. Not 100% of course, but he got it. One night, after the third round of putting him down only to have him wake up immediately I had to walk out of the room for a few minutes. He kept crying so I went in and stood there, letting him hug me while he cried. Eventually I got on my knees, arms over into the crib, hugging him, singing to him as he cried and cried and cried. It was so hard but I knew that if I picked him up we would have to start all over. I knew that he was just angry that I wasn’t picking him up. He didn’t need food, or warmth, or a clean diaper. He was just pissed that he had to sleep by himself (as I would have been. Sleeping alone kind of sucks…) After about 30 minutes of crying (and 2 arms that were completely asleep) I walked out of the room again. I went into our bedroom, turned on the video monitor and watched him as he stood up, crying. That’s when I started crying. I was so conflicted. Some mothers do this at 6 weeks and their babies still love them. Some mothers never do this. Which type of mother was I going to be? But before I could answer that question there was silence. He cried for four minutes and then fell asleep. It was 8:32 pm. He slept until 7 am.
The next night I nursed him until he fell asleep, I put him in his crib and of course he woke up. I got on my knees, he put his head on my should and cried, but not with the same anger as the night before. After a few minutes I gave him a kiss and walked out. He cried another three minutes and was out. He slept 11 hours. Life. Changing.
With the sleeping concurred, and only the nursing to sleep left, I tried a bottle before bedtime. I was sure he wouldn’t take it. How could a plastic bottle bring him the same comfort as nursing?! I was wrong. He downed the bottle, fell asleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning. All of a sudden my time breastfeeding was over. With taking a bottle to bed, no night feedings, and him waking up after I leave for work it was over. Just like that. I still have my freezer supply which I plan on using the next time he gets sick to help kick the illness quicker.
I am enjoying my sleep, and the prospect of getting babysitters for after he goes down. But honestly? I really miss the closeness that breastfeeding brought. The day after I realized that my time breastfeeding Declan was over I had a little pity party, silently mourning the end of that phase of our time together. I am so happy, and blessed, that I was able to do it for so long. I can only hope that it is as easy next time.
If you are having problems breastfeeding there are a ton of resources out there. Contact your local La Leche League, and if you are local to Southern California, check out Milkalicious in Aliso Viejo.
I know that breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone, and due to whatever circumstances you may have had to stop earlier than you wanted to. Please know that this post is not about judging, or saying that I am superior (ha!) for going so long. To each their own (especially in motherhood), no judgements here!