Before Lucas was born I read 0 pregnancy books and 1 parenting book (but it was well before I started thinking about having kids and for cultural enrichment). That is to make a clear preface that I am no expert but I took cues from the ladies in my life (in person and on the internet) and perhaps my breastfeeding/weaning experience may be helpful to someone out there one day.
My decision to breastfeed was motivated by the health benefits and fear that one day there may be a recall on formula I fed my baby. However, I had heard enough stories about people being unable to breastfeed that I did my best to prepare for that possibility mentally.
For all the things that didn’t go as planned with Lucas’ birth, nursing was not a challenge. When he was handed to me in post-op he scooted his way to mealtime position and went at it. Admittedly, it gave me a false sense of security and I was almost forced to pump our second night because he was going too long between feedings.
This was my first encounter with lies I was led to believe on the rare article I scanned on The Bump. I assumed Lucas would be screaming and crying most of the time and especially when he was hungry – not the case. The pacifier the nurse brought him back with after his circumcision was very comforting and kept him so content he didn’t feel like eating. Fortunately, literally minutes before the nurse was set to bring a pump he nursed.
At home I encountered the second lie – babies eat every 3 to 4 hours. Now perhaps in my scanning of articles I missed the from start to start or whatever but what I do know is that Lucas wanted to eat constantly. Often every 2 hours which seemed insane or excessive to me and any attempt to put him on a schedule was met with loud resistance. I think the key is all babies are different but mine required a lot of food/quality time.
The final ‘lie’ is that nursing is hard/hurts. Breastfeeding is VERY hard and it hurts (at least a little bit) for a long time. Latching did a bit more than sting for 3 months (and I was feeding Lucas like 10 times a day!). When I got mastitis (I believe from wearing sports bras for two days), I LITERALLY thought I was dying. I went from a slightly sore boob, to collapsing exhaustion, to the shakes, to overheating in only a few hours. It was crazy but I was fine after a couple days and breastfed throughout.
My favorite thing about breastfeeding is that I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to make bottles. I would never write a post about sleep routines because I suck at it. Until recently Lucas was getting up 3 or 4 times a night to nurse. It hurt my heart to do a cry it out method and, honestly, I love the late night/early morning cuddles. But also it was easy because in one way or another I mostly slept within arms reach of Lucas for a year and only needed to be partially conscious to feed him.
I started pumping a couple weeks before I went back to work to get a supply. Pumping was a pain, boring and depressing. The first few weeks I literally cried – I think it was my hormones. It’s an unenjoyable task; however, I really wanted to breastfeed Lucas for a year so I kept it up. I am fortunate that I have a private office at work; however, I am not always in my office. Consequently, I have pumped sitting next to co-workers and in open aired areas. I grew up very modest but now I can’t even bring myself to care. The trade-off with pumping was that while it was inconvenient for 40+ hours a week for the rest of the time I didn’t need to worry about bottles when we were out.
The irony of the ‘ease’ of breastfeeding is that I began to feel it was going too well. I don’t judge those who breastfeed but societal judgement on nursing older children is not lost on me. As Lucas approached his first birthday I was stressed. He was nursing multiple times a day (and night) and I didn’t know how I’d be able to wean – especially because he so obviously used it as a comforting mechanism.
Since I didn’t know how to stop him, the first thing I did was to stop pumping. The freedom of not lugging around a pump, needing a fridge or exposing yourself to co-workers is truly liberating.
After a few weeks I began giving him a bottle of milk during the daytime hours. It was not exactly easy and he would pull on my shirt and cry and sometimes not take a bottle but eventually his hunger won out and his resistance waned.
At 13 months Lucas was still getting up at night to nurse. As previously noted this wasn’t too bad because I could remain mostly asleep but now I had to wake up to convince him to take a pacifier, fight him trying to rip off my shirt and sometimes walk him around. This was not fun and I was more tired than ever but it only lasted a few days.
Habits were changing and getting him to take a bottle at night instead of nursing to sleep wasn’t too bad. It also gave Danny the chance to take on the bedtime routine which was nice for everyone.
The final feed was the morning. Lucas generally wakes up earlier than we do so we bring him in bed to get a little more sleep. It was easy to grab him, change him and nurse him back to sleep. The transition from baby to toddler is subtle and I don’t even know when it happened but one day (around 14 months) I got him a bottle instead of nursing him and like that it was over.
Part of me is relieved it was easier than I hoped. Another part of me feels like a door has been shut, locked and never to be opened again. I told myself during our nursing sessions to enjoy it because you never know when the last time would be and it was truer than I thought. One day it was just over. I’m back in regular shirts and am no longer groped in public (and because I waited two weeks between dropping each feed my boobs never hurt and I don’t think they’re all that different than before).
I also thought it would be a traumatic experience for Lucas since it was such a comfort for him whenever he was upset but when he was done he was done. He doesn’t try to nurse and I don’t even think he remembers he did.
I know this is just the beginning. Habits will disappear and a new normal will be established without notice or ceremony. Video and pictures can remind us but these moments are so fleeting.
Nowadays very word Lucas says is exciting (and he has a nice vocabulary) but one day I’ll probably beg him to talk less (and then later talk more). No matter how hard, frustrating or exhausting a parenting stage is, know it won’t last forever – and it most cases it won’t last long enough.
P.S. Always have water on-hand. Breastfeeding/pumping is dehydrating.