It has been fourteen months since we started this journey and it looks like it’s coming to an end. It’s been four days since Max nursed last.
I always new I would breast feed my babies, there was just no question. My personal goal for myself was to breast feed for the first year, and I’m happy to say I’ve surpassed that goal. Luckily when Max was born we had very few issues with breast feeding. When we were in the hospital I had to go visit him in the nursery every couple of hours to nurse him. We had 10 minutes together for each session because he needed to be under the bili lights. Not a lot of time for a new mom and baby to develop a breast feeding game plan, but we were able to work with the lactation consultants there (who were wonderful). He was super sleepy from being jaundiced and keeping him awake and alert was key, and difficult. Our troubles seemed to disappear once we got home. It went swimmingly, like riding a bike. It was like I had done this before at some time, and it just worked.
I loved the closeness, and the bond we created, but as a new mom I was so concerned with how much he was getting and how long he would nurse for. For the first two months of his life I wrote down every single nursing session, what time he started, what time he stopped, and kept a tally of how many wet and dirty diapers he had. For some reason doing that reassured me that I was giving him enough.
I started pumping when I was still in the hospital. My milk didn’t come in until 6 days after Max was born. I pumped as often as I could to keep my supply going up, and I quickly built a small freezer stash. In those first few weeks Rob would give him a bottle each day, but then we stopped that for some reason and he wouldn’t take a bottle again until about 6 months. Pumping saved me. If I wasn’t able to pump I would have never been able to get away for longer than 2 hours.
Nursing and Sleep
Max has never been a great sleeper, and neither have I for that matter. But I noticed something. Around the time we started giving him a bottle of cow’s milk at night he started sleeping through the night. Basically the less often he nursed, the longer he would sleep at night. I’m not saying (I kind of am) that giving him cow’s milk instead of breastmilk made him sleep better. I don’t care what made him sleep better, I’m just glad he’s doing so.
Issues Along the Way
I got mastitis, a very painful breast infection, when Max was about 8 weeks old. I was put on antibiotics and was told to nurse and pump as often as possible on that side, despite the pain. It felt like someone was drilling razor blades through my nipple. Good gravy I hope to never experience that again. Then when he was 8 months old I discovered an open lesion on the underside of my left nipple. After some tests with my midwife it was determined that it was a fissure. Just a sore, thankfully nothing more. I was given lidocane and told to keep it dry.
At Max’s 9 month checkup he was underweight and his pediatrician recommended supplementing with formula. I noticed my supply was dropping (which actually made sense since this was around the time he started eating anything and everything) so I did all I could to upping my milk production, pumped regularly, took fenugreek pills and drank mother’s milk tea like it was my job. It worked, thankfully, because Max refused formula. I was so worried he wasn’t getting all the nutrition he needed, so it was then that I gave him cow’s milk for the first time.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to stop breast feeding. I love doing it, I love knowing that I provide nourishment for my child, but holy shit I’m so glad to be getting my body back to myself. I am just so glad he doesn’t depend on me for his nourishment, and I don’t have to be around every two to four hours to make sure he’s fed. I feel like a weight has been lifted. I hated the feeling of being tethered to him, like I had no choice in the matter, and I kind of didn’t. Breast feeding came easily, but it is hard work. Your body is constantly running like a machine to produce milk, so you have to make sure eat enough, drink enough fluids to keep up with production, and that constant production wears you out.
I still offer it to him multiple times a day, but the last three days he pushes me away. I’m going to miss it for sure, miss having Max and Me time. I’ll miss watching his fat little boy face falling asleep in my arms while nursing, seeing his little hand creep up toward my face and watch him grin the cheesiest grin as he grabs my mouth, and the sweet little noises he would make. I’m going to miss the effortless weight control that breast feeding gave me (I should really start eating better now!). I will definitely not miss the need to wear only tops that are boob accessible and stupid ugly bras with gigantic buckles.
In the Media
Breast feeding has been in the media a lot lately, and I’m having a hard time wondering why. It just doesn’t strike me as something that should be considered taboo, or wrong in any way. One of the latest breast feeding snafus is the Time magazine cover, which I’m sure everyone has seen, and the article behind it about attachment parenting and extended breast feeding. I didn’t read the article, so I can’t comment on it, but I ask this to everyone who thinks it’s ‘gross’ or wrong in to breast feed your 4 year old child Why the hell do you care? At least she’s not giving her kid a bottle full of Mountain Dew.
More recently a photo taken for a breast feeding awareness month campaign of two Air Force mothers in uniform breast feeding their children. It never occurred to me that this would be an issue, breast feeding in uniform, but apparently it is for some. I’m not in the military, and I don’t know what the code is (from what I’ve been reading each branch has a different code of conduct), but I just don’t get what the problem is.
I’ll step off my soapbox now.
I believe a bond was built between me and Max with breast feeding. I’m sad to be done, but grateful that we were able to have that time.