Monday, January 9, 2012

14 Months of Breastfeeding

Just shy of 14 months, actually.

Since I use this space as my personal journal, I'm just going to lay it all out here. I loved breastfeeding and years from now I want to have a written account of what it was like for me. This is that account. Sorry if you don't like boobs. You probably shouldn't read this.

When I was pregnant I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed. I didn't really give it much thought, just assumed I would. Josh was on board and supportive from the start, and I never doubted that I could do it, or that I'd make enough milk, or anything else. It was just assumed that its what we would do - infant formula didn't exist as far as we were concerned. Maybe this is why breastfeeding was pretty easy for me. Up until she was 8 weeks old, I didn't pay attention to the clock, I didn't give her a pacifier, I didn't make her wait three hours, I didn't encourage her to sleep through the night, I didn't allow anyone to bottle feed her. It was all me, and I think many of these things contribute to my success in nursing. My supply was astounding. Not only early on, but the entire time I was nursing. I had some struggles in the beginning with latch problems, but that was solved with the help of my lactation consultant. We also had a bit of trouble figuring out comfortable nursing positions for the first 9 weeks that Audrey was in her Pavlik harness, but figured that one out by taking the stupid thing off when she ate.  (**Side note - sometimes I forget that Audrey ever had hip displaysia. Isn't that strange? I guess it is true what they say about the bad fading away and only the good things staying in our minds).

When Audrey was around 12 weeks old, she had some blood in her stool that the doctor attributed to a dairy allergy. I cut out all dairy for a few months, only to discover a while later that it was likely not a dairy allergy, but an oversupply issue. Too much milk apparently can be a bad thing! She was getting way too much foremilk and not enough thick hindmilk, and that was causing digestive problems. This ended up not being a big deal anyways, because once I returned to work my supply evened out and became more normal. I added dairy back into my diet when she was about 7 months old and we didn't have any problems, and never have since. That was a relief because I am not prepared to figure out how to avoid dairy forever.

Me, topless of course, trying to wake her to eat
I started to think about weaning shortly before Audrey's first birthday. I wanted to do it gradually and try to make the transition easy, so I started thinking about it a couple months before I wanted to be done. I knew I wouldn't continue pumping at work after she turned one, so we began the transition to whole milk starting around 11 months (and I actually had so much milk in the freezer that I stopped pumping a couple of weeks before she turned one). Once I stopped pumping three times a day at work, I saw a huge drop in my supply (less demand = less supply). I was only nursing her two or three times each day - in the morning before we got out of bed, in the evenings before bed, and sometimes right after work as a way to relax and have some quiet time together. On weekends, I continued giving her whole milk rather than nursing her during the day even though we were together.

At 12.5 months, we decided to night wean her. Well, I guess I decided. Josh wanted me to keep nursing her "as long as possible". I told him that when he grew breasts and began lactating then he could nurse her as long as he'd like, but I was done. We co-sleep and have done so full time since Audrey was around 6 months old. The whole time I nursed, Audrey woke up 2 or 3 times (or more some nights) to nurse and I was fine with that because all I had to do was roll over and she'd latch on and we'd both go back to sleep. I wasn't losing any sleep in this situation, neither was Josh.  I'm not sure what motivated me to night wean. I don't think there was any real motivation, it just felt like it was the right time. I wanted my boobs and my body and my space back and I felt that at 13 months she was old enough to understand that night time is for sleeping and not eating. Audrey could have gone much longer before weaning, but I decided to do it myself. Some might say that is selfish to not let the Audrey wean herself. Maybe it is. I don't know.

My chubby little girl
The night weaning process was difficult. Audrey did not want to give up her night drinks. We did it over the course of a week and it was miserable for everyone involved. Audrey would wake up and try to nurse and I wouldn't let her. That was infuriating to her! She would scream and cry and Josh and I would lay there with her, cuddling her, kissing her, rubbing her back, talking to her. This did make me feel like a big a-hole mom for denying her something that she so badly wanted, but I never got uneasy feelings or feelings that what I was doing was wrong, so we kept on with it. Within 5 nights, she was sleeping 7pm-5am without waking for milk, and when she would wake around 5 or 6am, I'd nurse her and then go back to sleep (or get up for work). I continued this for a couple more weeks, and was nursing her before bed and in the early morning before work, and then she dropped the 5 am feeding on her own. One night we went up to bed and I nursed her to sleep and that was it. I told Josh that for the next few weeks, he'd have to be the one to put Audrey to sleep and he agreed. Surprisingly, she did not protest that at all. In fact, it was much easier for him to put her to bed and it took him half the time (she has a tendency to climb all over me and laugh and play and be would up when I do bedtime with her).

About a week after our last bedtime nursing session, I got super engorged and my left  boob was looking like a bowling ball and I ended up with a clogged duct. It was truly the most painful thing I've experienced with breastfeeding - worse than cracked and bleeding nipples. It was like a fire hot pain radiating out from my breast and every step I took or movement I made I could feel it. I couldn't take it any longer so one night I woke her up around 3 am and nursed her while I massaged the duct and it released. Best feeling ever. I thought that was our last nursing session...until a week later and the same thing happened AGAIN. So again, I woke her up in the middle of the night and nursed her and released the pain and haven't had any issues since. That was 7 weeks ago.

I had some worries about weaning. I was afraid I might experience some sadness or slight depression, as I've read and heard that this is common for women when they wean. While I did have conflicting emotions about it, I didn't actually get too down about it or feel depressed. Again, I think it was because the time was right for us. It felt like the best thing and I never questioned my decision. I also worried about weight gain after weaning. While I nursed, I had an insatiable appetite and never seemed to put on any pounds. In fact, I maintained my weight at 5lbs less than I was pre-pregnancy. I was (and am) afraid that all that weight would catch up to me once I stopped and my metabolism and hormones all settled back down. So far I have noticed a slight gain (I don't have a scale and haven't been to the doctor so this is only based on how my clothes fit), but nothing too dramatic.

I felt like my breastfeeding relationship with Audrey was perfect. I loved coming home from work and cuddling up with her and reconnecting after being apart all day. It relaxed me, and it relaxed her. Breastfeeding, for me, was never a source of stress, but was more a source of comfort. I'm proud that I accomplished (almost) 14 months of breastfeeding. Sometimes I wonder if it will be easier or harder with future babies. I think back to the first month of nursing when I would actually take my shirt off every time I had to feed her because I couldn't figure out how to do it with a shirt on. Haha. My poor friends and family had to sit there will I sat in only a bra on the couch, sweating and with all that post-partum fat hanging out. Luckily they still love me, and adore Audrey (Thank Goodness). I remember how Josh and I would stare at her eating and we'd laugh because, really, we were staring at my boobs, but to us it was so amazing how it all worked and how naturally it came to Audrey and to me. I nursed everywhere, anywhere. I wonder if next time I'll be more reserved and shy about it? I guess when the time came to feed Audrey, I just did it, I never really thought about it. I wonder how many people I made uncomfortable by nursing in public. Oh well! I enjoyed my breastfeeding journey and I'm looking forward to nursing any future babies as well!


  1. Great job! Good for you. Weaning is a mutual decision...between momma and baby...whether it be 6 mths, 36 mths, or anything in between. You've done a great job and what a fabulous and tender post. I loved reading it and got teary eyed as I scrolled through the pics in between.

    I love the three of you.

  2. I loved reading this. and I never minded when you fed in front of me. I just remember the first time Mike came over and you were like, "Umm I'm about to feed her and you should probably go unless you want our friendship to get a whole lot weirder!" haha! I think it's beautiful and I DO adore Audrey! :) I hope I'm half the mom you are one day! I love you!