Tag Archives: Breastfeeding

Letting Go Of Breastfeeding

August 5, 2014

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When I found out I was having a daughter, I promised myself two things:

1) To never, ever cut her bangs myself
2) To not push her into who I want her to be

Eva was born a completely different kind of human than her brother. She looks different, sleeps different, even smells different. I don’t know why this is so surprising but it is. Every day I look at her and think, “Who are you? Where did you come from? Why aren’t you crying?”

From the beginning, breastfeeding was hard. An opposite experience from Sir Nurses A Lot. She pushed me away, cried in frustration, and squirmed out of my arms from the day she was born. I tried anyway. I pumped, didn’t pump, took away the bottle, brought it back again, and ate so much fenugreek that my skin started to smell like IHOP. Some days I thought it was getting better, but mostly it got worse. Eventually I called a lactation consultant. I told her I was trying so hard but I couldn’t do it anymore. She said, “But honey, look at how much you’ve done.”

I let all my tears go.

Finally at six months, I waved the white flag and Evie drank bottles of formula and some breast milk, only nursing once in the morning. A recreational feed. Her eyes darting over my face even in the darkest room, waiting for it to be over.

Yesterday she gave up that morning feed for good. We’d been struggling for weeks. I took her into quiet spaces, encouraged her with my best la leche voice, but she couldn’t be convinced. And then yesterday morning she looked up at me with her sweet angel face and I thought, I can’t change who you are. I won’t push you into who I want you to be.

And then I let it go.

Of course there is sadness. Disappointment. And then, a little relief. I grieve the loss of a breastfeeding relationship that never happened, but find peace in moving on. Moving forward. Letting go.

It is always the hardest part of parenting for me. It’s not the high-pitched whining or marker on the bedspread or bananas thrown on the floor. It isn’t even the metal tractor I stepped on yesterday. It is always, always the letting go. The constant practice of unclenching my grip and allowing my kids to be who they are, even when they are only a few months old.

I fed my baby with my body for six whole months, and in the mornings for another two. Today I celebrate that.

And then I let it go.

 ***

When Your Baby Hates Breastfeeding.

June 3, 2014

When Your Baby Hates Breastfeeding

If you are a long time reader of this blog (bless you), you know that breastfeeding my first baby was at first annoying, then convenient, then really, really hard to give up.

Waylon and I stopped just shy of two years old so I could try to get pregnant again. I took it hard. As annoyingly le leche as it sounds, breastfeeding a baby is a beautiful thing and it was difficult to let go of that bond.

When Eva was born, I assumed it would be the same. I expected it to hurt for the first few weeks (yup) and then transition into a convenient and lovely breastfeeding relationship (nope).

The pain stopped, but the ease of nursing never started. Sleepy, newborn Evie turned into squirmy, impatient Evie who was fussy and irritated at every feeding, constantly trying to escape my arms.

Everyone said, “It’s just a phase!”

I said, “It’s just a phase!”

It wasn’t a phase.

Soon I started to resent breastfeeding big time which led to one bedtime bottle a day to give us both a break. At first it was all pumped breast milk but then we transitioned to formula. I needed to give my body a chance to breathe. I dreaded every feed, every drone of the breast pump. I wanted to quit. I needed that bottle of formula to save breastfeeding.

For a few months our routine of one bottle of formula worked. Evie is small but she is also healthy and strong. And even though breastfeeding was still difficult, the bottle made it manageable for both of us.

Then last week Eva got sick. Every afternoon she would cry inconsolably. I tried nursing her, tried giving her Tylenol, tried walking her around the kitchen singing Backstreet Boys. Nothing worked. She arched her back and screamed, giant tears rolling down her face.

It was sad. Sad until I walked by the clean bottles on the counter and she lurched out my arms to reach one.

My girl wasn’t sick. She was hungry.

I knew my supply was low, but I didn’t know it was that low. A few minutes later she guzzled six ounces like a starving orphan and I, of course, felt like the worst.

So now I have two problems:

1) An infant who hates breastfeeding.
&
2) An impossibly low milk supply.

I realize these two problems are most likely intertwined. I do not realize what to do.

Next week Eva turns six months old. My goal was to breastfeed this squirmy baby to a year, but I’m realizing that might not be possible. It is only getting harder.

I know it’s okay! and she is fine! and you’re still a great mom!, but I still feel the guilt settling over me like a thick blanket. I can’t provide what she needs. I can’t recreate the breastfeeding bond I had with her brother. I can’t feed my baby.

As I look back over the past few months, I realize Eva has been hungry for a long time. I never feel my milk coming in or any “let down.” I am never overly full or able to pump more than an ounce or two. She never pulls away because she is finally full, only because she is frustrated and tired of trying.

I am not ready to give up on breastfeeding. I am ready to stop forcing my sweet girl to do something that isn’t working. If that means eventually switching to bottles, pumping for the next six months, and supplementing with formula–that’s okay. I will let it go.

I will feed my baby.

As always, another parenting lesson in the ebb and flow of holding on and letting go.

***

I welcome your suggestions. This week I have committed to consuming six giant Fenugreek capsules a day (they taste like Indian food covered in maple syrup) and vigorously pumping between feedings (Jesus take the wheel). My hope is that I’ll start producing enough to go back to one bottle of formula a day. I’ve also started to introduce a few solids. Again, stories and ideas welcome.

grief & weaning

January 29, 2013

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It snuck up on me like a common cold. First I thought it was nothing and now I know it’s something. A special thanks to A Cup Of Jo and this Huffington Post article for confirming my current reality: weaning can do weird things to the brain.

I first wrote about weaning in the beginning of December in this post. It was happening and although I was sad, we never got a chance to reach the end. A day after I wrote that post, Waylon caught a stomach bug and regressed back to nursing three times a day. For a week it was the only thing he could keep down, and while I should have been frustrated, my only emotion was relief.

Two months later and we begin again. I went away this weekend with my girlfriends and while it was great, it was also the longest Waylon and I have been apart and not nursed. So I thought: maybe I should just let this be the end. He’s strong, independent, completely fine without it, and if I start now–there will have never been a conscious “last time” for my sentimental spirit to endure. Maybe we can easily transition into being weaned! Maybe this is all it takes.

So far, I imagine this is what postpartum depression feels like; an inexplicable sadness combined with a dull ache in my chest. I walk around the house like someone died. Nothing interests me, all food tastes the same, my body is on autopilot. I try to explain it to my friends, but I can only choke back tears.

I tell you this not to evoke pity, but to examine the science. I was never a breastfeeding fanatic, nor did I plan to nurse this long, and yet this change feels strangely heartbreaking.

Unfortunately no one ever talks about depression after weaning. Before A Cup Of Jo’s blog post, I didn’t even know it existed. What a cruel joke; 19 months of feeding a baby only to be followed by sadness instead of celebration. I can’t even tell you why I’m sad, but only that I am sad. Something isn’t right. Something chemical. Something not chemical. There is a tenderness in my bones that needs healing.

I’m going to take that time to heal now.

As always, thank you for listening. It takes a village and you are part of that village.

 ***

Weaning.

December 5, 2012

Yesterday it occurred to me that we are in the process of weaning.

It was a strange realization and surprisingly sad. I had often looked forward to the end of breastfeeding and wished it would happen sooner. Now that it’s here, I find myself hesitating, not wanting to let go of these final moments of infancy with my almost one and a half year old son.

There’s no doubt I led the process. Over the past few months I’ve slowly transitioned my milk addict to limited nursing. Three times a day, only in his room or mine, and never downstairs or in public. I set up these rules for two reasons. One, I wanted us both to have more independence, and two–Waylon was constantly pulling at my shirt in public whenever he was anxious, sad, or tired and I needed that to end stat (it worked).

Here’s the sleep/nursing schedule we’ve been on:

6:30am: Wake up, nurse in bed for 20-40 minutes (on rare, amazing mornings we both fall back to sleep until 8)

1:00pm: Nurse for 5 minutes and down for a 3 hour nap

8:00pm: Nurse for 5 minutes, down for the night

As much as I resisted a set schedule during infancy, routine just works for toddlers. Or rather, this toddler. It makes it easier to plan our days and less hassle for whoever cares for him while I’m away. Like sleep training, less breast time has been a transition that has fallen into a rhythm. We follow this same schedule almost every day.

Until this past Monday.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been giving Waylon the option of nursing after bedtime stories by saying “sing or bed?” (I sing while I nurse). 100 percent of the time he turned around to nurse and I was fine with that. But on Monday afternoon he did not turn around. Instead, he pointed to his crib and let out a soft cry. He was ready to sleep.

He hasn’t nursed before bed since.

My first reaction was hurt feelings. Even though I know it’s normal and appropriate and right, my eyes swell with tears. That’s my baby.

My second thought was about those morning nummies, or as Austin calls it, “Waylon’s morning coffee.” How can I give that up? That extra 30 minutes to an hour of sleep is hard to pass up on these dark winter mornings (I know I’m being lazy). Also, will he ever snuggle with me like that again? IS THIS THE END OF EVERYTHING?

I know that thinking about the last time of anything when it comes to babies is futile, which is why I’m going to try to focus on looking ahead. Not only is Waylon becoming braver, smarter, and taller every day–he is also becoming more like himself. Because that’s what we do as we grow. We become more like ourselves every day until we become teenagers and lose ourselves for awhile. (But don’t worry, we come back. Usually sometime after college when we’ve stopped smoking weed and realize our parents weren’t lying about vegetables after all). It’s a journey. This is a next step in a set of a million steps.

Breastfeeding started as a voyage into the unknown. When I look back at that girl, trembling at the sight of her newborn, I nearly cry. She was so in awe of that creature. In awe and so unbelievably scared.

Weaning is a milestone. I know it’s corny, but let me have a moment here– I fed this kid with my body for nearly 18 months. That’s something to be celebrated. Today I celebrate that.

***

Year Of Breastfeeding

July 23, 2012

I’ve never been overly sentimental about breastfeeding. In fact, I’ve often poked fun at la leche moms, because despite the fact that they are making healthy choices and encouraging our world to be more boob-friendly, they are also kind of annoying. I know I’m not supposed to say this.

The thing is that from the beginning, the whole business of breastfeeding has been a giant pain. Sometimes literally, with latch changes and teeth, clawing and scratching, and often figuratively, pulling me away from conversations and interrupting my life for yet another stop at the milk buffet.  And yet for all its disadvantages, here I am soldiering on. One year later and I’m still feeding on demand, through the night, and in cramped bathroom stalls–all for the love of baby.

Or is it?

There’s no denying this past year of nursing has taught me a lot about patience and endurance, but it has also revealed to me a giant secret about babies: boobs = quiet.

Is baby hungry? Boobs. Is baby fussy? Boobs. Is baby tired? Boobs! Want a moment of silence? BOOBS.

Surprisingly, this breastfeeding philosophy is wildly unpopular these days. In fact, I’ve had people outright tell me I’m doing it wrong. Part of me agrees. For example, next time I will absolutely not forget to give the kid a bottle once a week. I didn’t realize that shying away from bottles would cause Waylon to refuse to take one all together, cornering me into a wall of dependency. I also agree with the camp who says that breastfeeding your babies to sleep prevents them from sleeping through the night. They are absolutely right. As of last night, Waylon is still getting mid-sleep nummies.

Here’s the thing, the pros of breastfeeding far outweigh the cons. Do I groan at 3AM when I hear Waylon fussing in his bed? Yes, but I’m almost immediately back to sleep when he’s nursing next to me. Am I annoyed when I have company over and he’s pulling at my shirt? Yes, but afterwards he’s much happier and playing with his toys independently. It’s a great trick and more than convenient having these baby soothers built into my body.

I think a lot of people who see me continuing to breastfeed and co-sleep assume that I’m an overindulgent parent. So far I’ve heard, “You’re going to spoil him!” “It’s obvious who’s in charge in your house!” and “Looks like Waylon has you right where he wants you.” I try to laugh off these conversations, but it does cause moments of self doubt. So much so that on a few separate occasions we’ve tried to let him cry it out or have skipped feedings to work on his patience.

Finally I emailed two mamas who breastfed and co-slept until their kids were well past a year old. I tried not to sound desperate, but I was little desperate. I told them I worried about the pattern I’d set up for Waylon, that he’d probably be sleeping with us when he’s sixteen, and that he was too dependent.

Much to my relief, they both responded with multi-paragraph examples of how their kids are fine, no longer breast-feeding, and perfectly adjusted to real life. One of them even lamented not breastfeeding longer. She said, “After I weaned both my boys started getting chronic ear infections and we dealt with tons of doctor’s visits/antibiotics/tube discussions. Around 2 the ear infections stopped. So, that’s more motivation. I say all this because weaning is really enticing when you have a baby who nurses all night and weaning might be the cure all. But man, nursing is the best, whether you feel all swoony about it or not.”

The other wrote back with specific examples of weaning, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping with all four of her children. She even had the decency to dig out her old baby books and copy down verbatim how she was feeling at the time and I noted that all her children were much closer to two than one when they were weaned and out of their bed. I breathed a sigh of relief.

What’s most ridiculous is that these moms were some of the only moms I felt comfortable asking. Breastfeeding has become one of those dicey topics that shouldn’t be dicey. I’m still confused what we’re fighting about. Are there really women out there trying to convince other women not to breastfeed past a certain age? Are we still throwing stones at those who don’t breastfeed at all? I’m honestly confused.

At least once a week someone asks how long I plan on keeping up this gig. Usually it’s non-threatening and, despite being a bit tired of talking about it, usually leads to a great discussion. But there are also the raised eyebrow conversations, the ones where I end up talking too much and making up statistics so I don’t look like a crazy la leche freak. It’s not my favorite.

Look, I’m going to nurse this kid until he self-weans or turns two, whichever comes first. And after it’s all over, you better believe I’m going to cry about it, because despite being an annoyance, it’s also really beautiful and unbelievably convenient.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

***

Thanks Erin and Jennifer for answering my desperate emails.