It feel a little strange writing here again. I have been away for a long time but I missed writing posts. I wanted to come back and share what I am currently experiencing as I don’t see much about this aspect of nursing. When I had my first baby he spent more than a week in the NICU and as a result I mostly pumped even though I also tried nursing him for months. He preferred the bottle. Almost 5 years later I had my second baby and this time I was able to nurse him from the moment he was born. What a totally different experience! I cannot explain how amazing it was to get to experience everything I had wanted to do the first time around but couldn’t.
Nursing is hard. I want to reiterate that because it’s often glossed over. Choosing to nurse is a commitment. It is NOT easy, it is NOT something we are born knowing how to do. Sure, we know that we need to put our nipple in the baby’s mouth but really, the baby needs to have most of the areola in their mouth to effectively feed. Breastfeeding is a skill. My biggest struggle with nursing was lack of sleep. I was so incredibly tired the first few months. I considered giving up because the idea of having my husband take a few night feedings was very tempting. And you know what? That’s totally fair! Had I done that I would be no less of a mother for it. But I’m also lazy and cleaning bottles etc was not appealing. Plus, I really wanted to exclusively nurse.
Did I? Nope. I pumped for a few months and created a nice little stash for myself. This allowed me to do things like leave the house on my own during the day. I also kept formula on hand for when I didn’t have thawed milk at the ready. For me it wasn’t about supplementing, I produced plenty of milk, it was about convenience.
My goal was to nurse him for at least six months but my real goal was to make it to a year. After the first 3 months we were cruising along. At 4 months he was sleeping 8-10 hours a night and by 5 months he slept a solid 12 hours. I always nursed him on demand but he developed a schedule. Once he started solids he dropped a few nursing sessions and for a few months he was nursing 3-4 times a day. After he turned 1 he was nursing 2-3 times a day. I was planning to keep going until he decided he didn’t want to nurse any more.
I was ready for it to happen so soon. A few weeks ago re refused his bedtime nursing session. I was a little surprised and mildly concerned that he was starting to wean but the following morning he nursed. His nursing sessions had become shorter and he was easily distracted so I figured this could be it. That night he again refused the breast. I knew then that he was telling me that he was ready. I wasn’t but since the day he was born I have let him lead the way in our nursing relationship and I needed to listen to him one last time.
The next morning I got him from his crib and instead of snuggling on our nursing chair we went straight to the kitchen. He did not complain. He ate his breakfast and never asked for milk.
I have cried a lot since that day. It has been a bittersweet transition. What a privilege and an honor I have had. It’s denied to so many. I am grateful for the 14 months of breastfeeding that we shared. I will treasure them always.
What I was not prepared for was the hormone crash of 2018. I have been on quite a ride. From hot flashes to an uptick in my anxiety and panic attacks. I am off kilter. I cry every day over nothing. I am constantly emotional. Some days are better than others and I am ready to go see my doctor if things don’t improve within the next month, but I am positive that I’m going to be okay. After 2 glorious years without a period I had one in April and I think those hormones are in the process of leveling out as well.
So, as my body recovers from two years of pregnancy, nursing and everything in between I want to share my experience because I was not expecting this. Hormones are powerful and right now I am at their mercy. I take comfort in knowing that I was able to nourish my baby.
I don’t have any solutions to offer but I hope that if you’re struggling after weaning that you know you’re not alone and that it’s normal to feel sad. For more information about all things breastfeeding related including weaning visit KellyMom.