Weaning With Love

After 27 months of breastfeeding, R weaned a few weeks ago. We began the weaning process just after his second birthday in May, but I wanted to move slowly. He is my last baby; since I won't be breastfeeding ever again, I really wanted to make sure it was something we were both ready for.

Over the course of a week, we moved from a few times a day down to just nap/bed time. That slowly transitioned to once every few days. After about 5 days of not nursing, I started to notice a change in my mood: I went from feeling normal to feeling really angry, I had a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, I didn't want to leave the house, I was exhausted despite doing next to nothing all day. I recognized these symptoms as matching up with my postpartum depression and anxiety. After speaking to my husband, he acknowledged that my behavior seemed to have changed drastically.

I bet you can guess what I did next. I put that toddler back to the breast for two reasons: I was starting to feel full/uncomfortable, and I didn't want to go down that road again. Depression during or after weaning is not unusual (read more here and here), but it is not studied very often. Many moms report feeling sadness or grief, especially if they weaned before they were ready to do it. If you notice symptoms of depression in yourself during or after weaning, please reach out to your health care provider ASAP. You're not alone in your emotions!

Over the next few days, I made sure to nurse once a day (usually bed time) while doing the things my therapist suggested I do to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. I noticed my mood stayed more normal (whatever that means) and I felt better emotionally. One night, R didn't want to nurse. He said, "no, Mommy," and cuddled up to me instead. That was that, he was done. I haven't offered since that night and it has been about 2 weeks since he last showed an interest in breastfeeding. We had made it 27 and a half months. Now when I ask him if he wants milk, he runs to the fridge in the kitchen. Yup, definitely done.
 


I'm sad to see this chapter in my life end. It helped me reduce my risk of certain types of cancer, helped my sons reduce their risk for diabetes and other chronic illnesses, and it made them healthy and strong. Breastfeeding not only helped me nourish my sons, it helped give me a focus and direction in my life. My journey with my oldest helped me realize that I wanted to support and advocate for breastfeeding mothers. To say it played a big role in my life would be an understatement. You wouldn't be reading this blog post without it!

While there is sadness, there is also joy. Joy in the next chapter of my life as a mother, in wearing shift dresses, in sharing my experience with others in hopes of helping them. Now I will have to parent without my breasts, which is both thrilling and scary. I'll still be discussing breastfeeding and #bfingstyle on the blog, that is one thing that won't change. With that, I raise this large glass of wine or cup of coffee, depending on what time it is as you read this, to my breasts. Thank you for nourishing my babies, for helping define me in such a big way, and for not completely disappearing now that breastfeeding is over.


Pin this post

 
 

Breastfeeding Story: Amy Nurses Through PPD

Trigger warning: anxiety attack

In honor of National Breastfeeding Month in the US, I reached out to mom friends and asked them to share their breastfeeding stories. Women can have a plethora of emotions associated with breastfeeding - it's not all butterflies and rainbows. Sometimes the negative emotions can be a sign of a perinatal mood disorder. Amy sent me her story of breastfeeding her oldest son through postpartum depression and anxiety.

My breastfeeding story includes such a wide range of emotions. I loved it. And I absolutely hated it. I breastfed my two babies (now 5 and 3) for 14 months each. It’s been two of the greatest accomplishments of my life. It was definitely easier the second time around having more confidence and wisdom, but I really struggled with my first baby.

I had a Caesarian birth with my first, and was in the hospital for 5 days since my baby had jaundice. My milk did not come in until day 6 postpartum. It was a long, tearful, and scary 6 days not being able to feed my crying, screaming baby. I was so lucky that he latched on right away. It felt like winning a gold medal! He was always ready to eat, but I had nothing to give him. I used an SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) tube to help feed a small amount to formula to him while he was latched onto my breast. This ‘hamster feeding tube’ as I quickly nicknamed it was a life saver. It helped satisfy my baby without pulling him away from my breast. It felt like a huge victory!

On day 6 postpartum when my milk finally came in, I felt a wave of burning energy, heat, and anxiety flow through my body. It was very intense, scary, and I did not know what was happening. I felt like the ceiling was crashing down on me, and that there was not enough air in the room to properly breathe. I was literally gasping for air. I tried to take a shower to relax, but I felt like I was drowning standing up in the water. I had to open every window in my house, even though it was December and very cold outside. My body temperature was burning hot.  I could not sleep, could not drink water, could not swallow any food, and I constantly felt like my heart was going to explode.  I would feed my baby, and would feel so claustrophobic I would have to put him down the second he was done eating. It felt like I was constantly suffocating. And I was in so much pain from my c-section, that I wanted to claw the skin off my body. Now that it’s been 5 years, and I can look back at that time with 20/20 vision, I now know it was the start of my postpartum anxiety and depression.

I had so many triggers that would cause postpartum panic attacks, and unfortunately breastfeeding was one of them. However, I was so determined to breastfeed my baby, like it was the greatest mission of my life, that I silently struggled through these feelings, and learned how to pretend like everything was ok. I would breastfeed my baby and look at his face and love everything about those special moments. He was my miracle baby and I loved him so much. But then 10 seconds later, I would put him down and not want to hold him again, and felt the urge to run away. I would constantly ask myself what kind of mother am I to feel this way? How could I want this baby for so long, and then feel like I had to run away all the time? The guilt was tremendous and all consuming. I felt like I was truly an unfit mother. Then the freight train of emotions and thoughts truly began. I doubted my ability to care for my newborn, I doubted my marriage, I doubted every decision I made.

These panic attacks were consistent during the first 6 months postpartum, and I continued to breastfeed through them all. I then started to feel more joy breastfeeding, and less claustrophobic.  I felt more connected to my baby, and the urge to run way was less. But my feelings shifted to more anger, rage and frustration. I was so mad that no one was helping me. That I asked for help from my OB, and I was completely overlooked and forgotten. I was mad at the moms that seemed to have it all figured out. I was mad at the sight of my breast pump. I was mad at my husband for not making me feel better, and for not understanding what I was going through. I was so alone, and so sad. Around 9 months postpartum I was convinced my husband and I were going to get a divorce. I could not stand to even look at him. And this was so unsettling because I truly loved (and still love today) my husband, and thought he was the greatest man alive. We were able to work through it, and after my son’s first birthday, I started to see a sliver of hope for myself, and my marriage.

My son is 2 weeks old in this picture. And I was completely miserable. My anxiety was so high I could barely sit still to hold him. Postpartum depression and anxiety have so many different masks, and I learned how to fake a smile to pretend everything was ok. It never crossed my mind to take a picture breastfeeding my son

My son is 2 weeks old in this picture. And I was completely miserable. My anxiety was so high I could barely sit still to hold him. Postpartum depression and anxiety have so many different masks, and I learned how to fake a smile to pretend everything was ok. It never crossed my mind to take a picture breastfeeding my son

I decided to wean my son when he was 14 months, and luckily we both had a smooth transition. My anger began to subside, and I gained more confidence in my ability to care for a small human. I felt like I was finally able to enjoy the small things I used to enjoy before, like simply going outside for a long walk. I was able to look at my son and see that he was thriving. He was a happy, outgoing, loving kid, and it was the reassurance that I needed that everything was going to be ok.

Today my son is 5 years old, and just started kindergarten. I look back over these past years, and it truly feels like the longest, shortest time. I am thankful that I was able to breastfeed him, and I feel so proud for finding a deep strength from within to overcome all the obstacles along the way. It ignited a deep love and understanding within me for all women, in all situations. We are all so different, and everyone has a story of struggle and triumph. And everyone’s story matters. The beautiful gift about being a woman, and now being a mom, is that I can hopefully help other moms with unconditional love and support. We all need each other.


Amy's experience (and huge challenges) having her own two children ignited her passion for supporting moms during the vulnerable postpartum transition. She suffered severe postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of her first child. It was this difficult experience that shifted her path from working in the corporate world to helping moms throughout their postpartum recovery. She is a certified Placenta Encapsulator, Postpartum Doula, and owner of Mama Peace. She specializes in helping moms struggling with Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs).  Amy volunteers with The Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas (PPHA) on the Board of Directors, and as a Postpartum Doula. Amy lives in Austin, Texas.

 

Pin this post

 

 

Twilight

I'm in the twilight of my breastfeeding relationship with R. We're currently at 18 months, but I know he won't want it forever. I know I won't want it forever. He's slowed down just a little bit. Some days he doesn't nurse to nap. The end is getting close and I have mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, I'll be glad to be done with breastfeeding. A lazy toddler latch and a mouthful of teeth can make sleepy feeds uncomfortable. I'll be glad not to worry about how accessible my breasts will be with the top I'm wearing. My body will be my own once again, without hands being stuck down my shirt. No more stretched out shirts!

On the other hand, I will miss so many things about breastfeeding. The quiet moments, the heavy eyes, the hands and feet in my face, the giggles as I bite those hands and feet. The tantrum taming power, the confidence boosting power, and the snuggling power. The antibodies being passed to him, the reduction in various cancers, the reduction in risk of diabetes for him. I'll miss the bonding and knowing that I am his safe place and source of comfort. 

Photo by the amazing Valerie Cannon Photography

Breastfeeding him for this long has been a wonderful reward for my difficult pregnancy. Breastfeeding him helped me make it through postpartum depression and anxiety. He was the ray of sunshine during the long period of darkness that followed his birth. Breastfeeding him has been more than just nurturing him - it has nurtured me as well. Breastfeeding this sweet boy has meant more than I can express.

Since he's the last baby I will breastfeed, I am treasuring the special moments. Sometimes it's tough - the lazy toddler latch drives me crazy! The end of breastfeeding is a sad time for me  since it's a closure in the pregnancy and childbearing years of my life. But we are not there yet. Until we decide we are done, I will enjoy the twilight.

A Breastfeeding Confession

As a breastfeeding advocate and future IBCLC, I have a surprising confession:

I don't like breastfeeding right now.

My 15 month old is getting his molars. His latch is painful and he flips out anytime I try to adjust. He's fussy and nursing around the clock.  I feel like I have a newborn all over again. He bangs on my chest or head butts me when he wants milk. I'm touched out.


Something that is not said much is that breastfeeding isn't always perfect, fun, or even enjoyable. The breastfeeding relationship is just that, a relationship. As with a marriage, partnership, or friendship, there will be peaks and valleys. There is give and take, even if it seems like it's mostly me giving for the past few weeks. And just as with other types of relationships, it will get better.

I am working on setting boundaries with him: I show him the milk sign (which he knows, but I suspect he forgets) and remind him of gentle hands. If he nurses more than twice in an hour during the day, I offer him a snack or water instead of my milk.

I suppose I could wean him, but I don't want to. He's still getting so many nutrients and immunological benefits from my milk. He's still learning and growing. So much is changing for him and it seems to be happening very quickly.  I'm glad to still be a source of comfort and to be able to comfort him with by nursing him.

So for now, I will try to remind myself that we are likely in the twilight of our nursing relationship. I will take a deep breath and remind myself that this too shall pass. I will trace his eyebrows and stroke his cheeks, memorize his eyelashes and dimpled fingers. I will try to enjoy him, but not force myself to enjoy the moment. Right now I don't like breastfeeding, and that's okay.


What I Loved About Breastfeeding

This week's Breastfeeding Blog Hop topic is Things You Love(d) About Breastfeeding


It has been about 4 months since Ethan weaned. He's asked for milk a few times, but when I offer it to him, he seems confused about what to do. Usually he runs away, heh. It's made me miss our quiet moments even more. Here are a few things I loved about breastfeeding:


Stink eye at 2 days old


Milk drunk baby (but not the thrush!)


Thunder Thighs


Nursing acrobatics


Being able to tame an irate toddler with minimal effort


BF Blog Hop: Memories

This week's Breastfeeding Blog Hop topic is Memories

Ethan and I had professional nursing pictures taken twice during our 21 months, once at 6 months and again at 18 months. They are some of my very favorite pictures of us. While they may not be for every mama, I believe they're a wonderful way to remember a special time in my life. I may not print and frame it to hang in my living room, I will certainly treasure these beautiful pictures.

I've also taken countless pictures on my phone and thanks to certain apps (Instagram), they look really really good.


E at 2 days old, waiting to be discharged and giving me the stink eye!


Around 7 months old, pouncing on me the second I walk in the door from work. Still in my office clothes.


Bright eyed boy at 15 months.


The last nursing picture, taken in August 2012.

Since we've weaned, I am especially thankful for these sweet memories. Our special rituals (watching the milk drunkenness take over as an infant, kissing his hands and nibbling on his feet as a toddler) are forever imprinted in my heart. I loved nursing him. I love these pictures.


BF Blog Hop: Breastfeeding Goals

This week's Breastfeeding Blog Hop topic is How did you determine your breastfeeding goals?

Before I was pregnant, I didn't really know a lot about breastfeeding. I thought it was easy and came naturally. I also thought "Meh, I'll just use formula if it gets too hard." Taking birth classes while pregnant really opened my eyes to how important it was. I knew I wanted to breastfeed for the recommended 6 months.

The first few weeks after birth were awful. I wanted to quit a number of times, but we persevered and made it through. Our next challenge was my return to work when Ethan was 12 weeks old. I was really worried about how my supply would fare with so much pumping rather than nursing him all day long. We had a couple of tough weeks, but it went really well.

Six months came pretty fast and I realized I wasn't ready to stop nursing him. I changed our goal from six months to 12. Surely at 12 months I'd be ready to wean, right? I was wrong. As E's first birthday approached, I wasn't ready to stop yet and neither was he. I decided I'd keep going until he decided he didn't want to nurse anymore.

We had a couple of scares, especially when he was night weaned. I thought he'd be so mad that the wouldn't want to nurse at all. Thankfully he was okay with cuddles/water/pacifier at night and after a few tough weeks, he was night weaned. We kept nursing up until a few weeks ago.

I chose our breastfeeding goals, but didn't want to hold myself to them especially after our rough start. If I kept them fluid, I could make the best decisions for my family and not try to attain something that was difficult. I am also kind of weird and like round numbers (6 months, 1 year, etc.), so I knew I'd push to get to one of those goals. In fact, we were so close to 2 years that I really wish we'd made it that long, mostly for the round number than anything else! 21 months and 9 days isn't a nice even number!

How did you determine your breastfeeding goals?

Life Without the Boob

It's been about 3 weeks since E weaned himself. It hasn't been an easy experience for some of us me, but it's been a learning experience.
    Here are 5 things I now know about weaning:
  1. Mood swings It feels like I've had really bad PMS for almsot 3 weeks. My poor husband. My body is no longer making as much (if any) prolactin. I imagine I'm not producing as much oxytocin either. Since oxytocin is responsible for those warm, snuggly, lovey feelings while breastfeeding, I believe that's why I am so moody and sad.

  2. It's okay to be sad Breastfeeding was more than just feeding my baby. As I said in the last post, it made me realize what I wanted to do with my life. Now that our nursing relationship is over, I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little directionless and that makes me kind of panicky. I also feel it's okay to mourn the end of this time a little bit because we worked so hard to get here. The mood swings and sadness have made me kind of worried about depression setting in. I put my husband in charge of being my gauge. If I seemed off, it's his job to hold me accountable and tell me to speak to a professional.

  3. He's moving on E's mostly over breastfeeding. He'll occasionally ask me for milk, but he gets water and milk confused when he's sleepy. A cup of water satisfies him. He does love the skin to skin contact and likes to lay his head on my stomach to fall asleep. Not so bad, unless I've just eaten a big meal.

  4. Phantom letdown I don't know if this is a real thing (Google told me yes). When I lay down next to him I feel like I'm letting down, but there's no milk coming out. My breasts also feel suddenly full when I walk into the bedroom with him to put him to sleep. My body still remembers. I love that.
    Totally random, but wouldn't Phantom Letdown be an awesome name for a band?

  5. Express yourself For the first week and a half, I had to hand express in the shower. I would do enough just to take the edge off and it helped. Thankfully I avoided plugged ducts or worse! I didn't use anything to dry me up, it happened naturally. I did have a head of cabbage in my fridge just in case I needed it.

Things seem to be heading back to normal now. I'm feeling less moody for the most part, E is thriving and being a busy almost 2 year old. Rather than focusing on weaning, I'm focusing on the fact that we made it 21 months (and 9 days) despite our rough start and me working outside of the home. It wasn't always easy, but it was worth all the agony. I would do it over again in a heartbeat!

Weaned

Well, I think we're done nursing. I know I've said this before, but I really mean it this time. What makes it different? Ethan hasn't nursed in almost a week. The last time he nursed was last Wednesday, 9/19/12, just before bed. Since then, he asks for milk and but doesn't nurse, just snuggles up against my breast. Sometimes he won't even do that, he'll just lay his head on my stomach and fall asleep. Guess he loves the skin-to-skin. He's done the same thing almost every night since then.


One of my favorite pics of us ever, E is almost 6 months old

It's been a long time coming, he's been slowly cutting down the sessions. After I stopped pumping at work back in March, he would jump on me when I walked in the door from work. I didn't mind, I was pretty full by the time I got home. That stopped sometime in July; he'd still want to nurse after I got home, but it he didn't want it as urgently as before. At some point between July and September, he cut out the post work nurse and would nurse to sleep. Now he is all done.


Nursing E at almost 18 months old

I'm really sad about this. We've had an amazing run, 21 months and 9 days. I never thought that we'd nurse this long. I never thought that I'd want to nurse this long. But here we are, just a few months shy of the 2 year mark. I'm especially proud of how long we nursed because I work full time outside of the home. I was hoping to make it to that point, since we were so close. I am also sad that I didn't realize it was his last time. I wouldn't have been so quick to offer him a paci or play around on my phone while he nursed.

To me, it's been about much more than just breastfeeding and nourishing my child. Our adventure together has given me a purpose and direction in life. For years I've felt directionless. Two years ago, I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I "grew up". Then E was born and we had our rough start. As our nursing relationship developed, I realized that I wanted to offer moms non-judgmental support through their rough times. It really lit a fire within me and I am so excited that I am on the path to making a career out of something I'm passionate about.

So what do I do now? Do I keep offering? What if he asks for it? Should I let him? Mamas who've been through this, I need your experiences please. Sorry this post is kind of all over the place. I've been feeling kind of all over the place with this.

Yes, I'm *Still* Breastfeeding

This week's Breastfeeding Blog Hop topic is Why do you breastfeed?

I always knew I would breastfeed. I knew it years before I had a baby, and the Bradley birth class I took reenforced those beliefs. It was the obvious choice. We didn't have a smooth start, but we're still going 19 months later.

Now that E is a toddler, I often get asked why we're still nursing. While his nutrition comes primarily from solids, he still breastfeeds 2-3 times a day. I still nurse him to sleep occasionally. He's night weaned, but still wants a drink first thing in the morning and as soon as I walk in the house from work.

I breastfeed my toddler because:

It's our time together. I'm at work all day, I miss my kid. It also helps me unwind and relax after a particularly difficult day. It helps lift my mood instantly. Thanks oxytocin! E isn't much of a cuddler, but he loves snuggling while nursing. I get to kiss and nibble on his hands and feet. Sometimes I get a milky smile that reminds me of when he was a baby.

It's still good for both of us. Even though it's not his primary source of food, E is still getting antibodies from me, and he's helping me reduce my risk of certain types of cancer. Kellymom has a great list of the benefits of breastfeeding past infancy.

Haters are my motivators. If someone tells me they don't approve of something I'm doing, that's usually more incentive for me to do it. I guess I am stubborn that way. Pardon the cliched expression, but lately the negative comments have been fuel for me to keep going. There. I said it. I know I'm not the only one that thinks that way.

I didn't set out to be a long-term breastfeeder. In fact, the whole idea of nursing past infancy kind of weirded me out. Then I started breastfeeding. My original goal was 6 months, and now it's until it is no longer mutually desired. This is what works for us, why change it? Why do you breastfeed?