I have loved reading so many powerful stories this #worldbreastfeedingweek and since Adina and I weaned just a few weeks ago, I was inspired to get personal and share our breastfeeding journey. Nursing for us started off tough and was not always easy. Adina was taken to the NICU minutes after she was born and didn't get to do skin-to-skin or breastfeed right away. It took a little while for my milk to come in and in the early days, Adina would fall asleep as soon as she would latch on. There were many tears (from both of us.) She would cry and cry before and after feedings and for a long time I felt really defeated and guilty, like I couldn't feed my child. I thought this was supposed to be "so natural" but it was really, really hard.
I was pumping before and after feedings and trying every trick in the book to increase my milk supply. I remember chugging water, drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating lactation cookies, taking fenugreek herbs, and cooking with brewer’s yeast to help. In hindsight, I wish I had spent less time doing all of these things and worrying and prioritized resting and recovering more during those early days. All of the stress I experienced surrounding breastfeeding (on top of the already high level of stress associated with being a first-time mom and having a newborn to care for) caused me lots of anxiety.
Because of my own struggles, I developed a new level of respect for all mothers and what they do and go through for their babies. There are so many obstacles that come with breastfeeding - oversupply, undersupply, engorgement, mastitis, plugged ducts, tongue ties, thrush, chapped nipples, cluster feeds... and oftentimes, a lot of physical and emotional pain. Some mothers exclusively pump, some cannot breastfeed at all and some choose not to. No matter how you feed your baby, nourishing and nurturing your child takes incredible strength.
Adina and I stuck with it and SLOWLY things got better. As she grew, she wasn't as colick-y and I began to feel more confident. Once she started eating solid foods, things also improved since she wasn’t relying solely on breastmilk or formula for nutritional nourishment. Between doing weighted feedings, attending breastfeeding support group meetings and reading online support forums, working with a IBCLC, and supplementing with formula (which was one of the best things we could've done for our breastfeeding relationship), we were determined to make it work. I offered her breastfeeding whenever it was time for a feeding and gave her a bottle of formula afterwards if she was still hungry. Although I was reluctant to give her formula at first (for fear of affecting my milk supply and feeling like *I* wasn’t enough), it was SUCH a huge relief once it became part of our routine. I didn’t worry about if she was hungry or not and I liked that I could see how many ounces of milk she was drinking. With breastfeeding, it always felt so mysterious since I couldn’t see or measure how much milk she was getting.
And I am BEYOND grateful that we were able to stick it out because I actually became so attached to breastfeeding! Around 11 months, Adina started to refuse her bottle. She wouldn’t drink formula from a sippy cup either and although we tried giving her whole milk, she would take one or two sips before dismissing it all together. I became so stressed all over again about feeding her! But her bottle refusal resulted in her desire to nurse more. I knew since Adina was eating almost all kinds of food, that she didn’t rely on breastfeeding to satisfy her hunger or thirst; it became more of a comfort to her. I did find it a little bit ironic that she picked up her interest in nursing around her first birthday after a year of ups and downs in that department. But I didn’t mind. Nursing a toddler was a whole different ball game than nursing an infant, but it became our special thing. It was how we started and ended each day. I loved that when she was in pain or crying, I could instantly comfort and soothe her. We nursed on planes, in parks, on the beach and I wouldn't have it any other way.
When Adina was about 15 months old, we found out I was pregnant again. I spoke with my midwives about nursing while pregnant and talked to friends about their experiences breastfeeding during pregnancy and tandem nursing. After giving it a lot of thought, I made the decision to gradually begin weaning Adina so I could give my body a little break before baby #2. I learned it is common for milk supply to decrease on its own during pregnancy anyway, so it seemed like a natural time for us to start the weaning process.
I’m glad I did it little by little because it was not easy for us. For several months, I was feeding Adina on demand (at home, in public, inside, outside, you name it!) but once I decided that I wanted to have her weaned by the time I was 6-7 months pregnant, I knew that had to change. I became much more diligent about only feeding her at home and at certain times (usually after she woke up from sleep and before bed.) So we gradually got to feeding her 4 times a day - first thing in the morning, after her 2 naps and before bed. Then I tried to drop one feeding at a time. So the first week took her first nap feeding away, the next week took away the second nap feeding and so on. (Truth be told, it took us a little longer than a week for each one, but you get the idea.) When we dropped the bedtime feeding, I relied on Michael a lot! He put her to bed every night for that whole week, which was crucial since she falls asleep for him without requesting milk.
When Adina and I were together, I tried to distract her with other things (games, snacks, water, screen time) when she asked to breastfeed and replaced those nursing sessions with something else (usually food or water.) For those few weeks, Adina was way more clingy and tantrum-y but we made it through! By July, when she was just about 20 months, we were down to the morning feed and it was the hardest one to cut off. I loved our morning routine of snuggling in bed and nursing, *especially* since Adina is an early riser. I enjoyed taking our time and lounging for 20-30 minutes before getting up for the day. But it became clear that she associated coming into my bed first thing in the morning with nursing so we had to change our routine. That meant reading books, playing games, starting breakfast, and on the super-early mornings before 6 am, watching Moana, instead of coming back into my bed right away. I also made sure to wear tops with more coverage, which helped a bit.
We had our last morning nursing session when Adina was a couple of weeks shy of 21 months. Although I knew we were both ready, it was bittersweet when it finally ended. It’s only been a few weeks, so she still asks for it from time to time, but usually moves on to something else pretty quickly. Nursing Adina for 20 months was really hard at times and I didn’t think we would even make it passed 3 months, let alone passed a year and a half. I’m so glad we fed her formula too, since it made all of our lives easier and our nursing experience a much happier one. Despite all of the challenges we faced early on, let me tell you, it just gets better and sweeter. I will always cherish these moments with my girl that literally no one else could give to her and am grateful to have been on this journey with her. ❤️
If you have the time, I would absolutely love to hear a little snippet of your personal nursing journey! #worldbreastfeedingweek #wbw2018 #supportisbest #informedisbest #NationalBreastfeedingMonth #normalizebreastfeeding #breastfeeding
Professional photos by Faryl Loew Photography