Thursday, May 5, 2011

Milky Blues

I nursed Will until I was eight weeks pregnant with Emma. By nursing, I mean that I nursed him every morning when he first woke up and then once in the afternoon, right after nap. When I got pregnant, we dropped the afternoon feed pretty much right away. And then one day, we were just done. I don't really even remember the last time I nursed him because weaning was that gentle and uneventful. As my pregnancy progressed and the morning sickness caused me to all but stop eating, my milk supply dropped, and feedings just got shorter and shorter until one day. . . they were gone. I had dreaded weaning, but it turned into a non-event, possibly because he was so ready and I could already envision nursing another baby.

I loved nursing Will. We were forunate in that it was easy for us. We did supplement with formula (for medical reasons in the beginning and then just because he had no issue going back and forth and sometimes it was just easier to give him a bottle as time went on). He had a few nursing strikes where I didn't think we'd make it through, but we did.

When Emma was born, she was a champion nurser. She was also a champion sleeper, which is always a good thing, except that I was super engorged for a few nights in a row and ended up with mastitis. The breast that was affected never quite supplied milk properly after that (I've heard that the infection can make the milk taste funny and she definitely stopped nursing as enthusiastically on that side, which then made the supply drop even further).

I cleared the mastitis and got a kidney infection. The antibiotics gave us both thrush. With a sore mouth, she became less enthusiastic about nursing. My milk supply continued to dwindle. Then another bout of mastitis, which pretty much dried up that breast completely.

About this time, we started supplementing with formula. Unlike Will, Emma had a decided preference for the bottle. It tugged at my heart strings a bit when she so eager glugged down a bottle, but I just wasn't making enough milk to keep up with her.

I would say she was mostly breastfed until she turned six months. Solids took over a big portion of her caloric intake for the day. She still nursed in the morning and afternoon, but she refused the breast at night, screaming for a bottle instead. And this was not the nursing strike that I was familiar with, that I had experienced with Will, where he was just too interested in his surroundings to really focus on nursing. This was a hungry baby that would take both hands and push my breast away with all of her might, twisting her face away from the nipple and angrily protesting the intrusion. When she was finally handed a bottle, she would greedily gulp it down and promptly go right to sleep and stay asleep for 12 hours. If we refused to give her a bottle, she wouldn't settle for sleep, or would fall asleep only to wake multiple times. She would then suck a few times desperately on my nipple, but get frustrated and push it away. It seemed cruel not to give her what she wanted and needed - food. So, finally, we dropped the evening nursing session and just gave her a bottle every night before bed.

Eventually, all feeds but the very first morning feed of the day turned into this battle. Each time, as I handed her a bottle instead of pulling out Da Boob I felt a bit of despair at nursing slipping through my grasp, but it was better not to have to fight the feedings.

Well, for the past couple of weeks, even the morning sessions have been hit or miss. At nine months old, Emma has decided she is "over" Da Boob. I am really trying hard to be okay with this. I know 9 months is an admirable run. I know that there isn't really a lot that I can do about it. I could pump, though I have always been a lousy pumper, and honestly, I don't know where I'd find the time. I know there are people who would tell me to keep fighting it, but that would take away the very part of breastfeeding that I enjoy the most: the bonding and the sweet, natural feeling to it.

Also, I will admit, there is a small part of me that is ready to have my body back; to be able to take medication for a cold or antibiotics for an infection without having to worry about how it will affect the baby.

This is such a small thing, truly. I realize that. Though I have turned into a bona fide "mommy blogger" with my most recent potty training posts, I have not forgotten my roots. I know that my I am grateful that I was able to nurse both of my children for such a long time. But as we are "done" having babies, this is the end of an era. And it tugs my heart strings just a bit.


Sophie said...

2 weeks, 9 months, or 3 years- I think it tugs at a mamma's heart no matter what the age, it's so primal and intense! Sounds like it's the right time tho, for Emma anyway :). You'll always have those sweet (albeit fuzzy) memories... and new adventures are ahead for sure.

Kathy said...

(((HUGS))) It is so bittersweet to stop nursing at any age, as Sophie said. I am proud of you for making it as far as you did. :)

Abby and stopped nursing last month and I have also had a lot of mixed emotions about it. I have a blog entry that I have been working on, but not posted yet, about the end of this era in our life together and in my life as a mother.

I loved being able to nurse both of my living children for as long as it worked for us and knowing that it is unlikely I will have the opportunity to nurse another child in the future is very bittersweet for me.

Sending lots of thoughts and prayers your way.

HereWeGoAJen said...

It is hard to stop nursing before you are all the way ready. I will admit though, that it was nice to not have to monitor every single thing I put in my mouth. I mean, I got to take cold medicine recently! It was almost unsettling to be able to take whatever I wanted.

I'm sending lots of love.

Rachel said...

Such a sweet post about nursing. 9 months is incredible, and you should definitely be proud of that. But it really sounds like your little girl is done with nursing and I think that you've made the right decision not to force it. I hope that you get one more snuggly, happy nursing session in and then enjoy your new freedom.

And thank you for all your support.

Searching said...

Ah, a stubborn, strong willed little lady. ;) I agree with Sophie that weaning would be a bit heartbreaking at any age. You did quite well with both of your babies. I think it is definitely a sad time, but also take time to look back and be proud of yourself. Especially through all the battles you've had. Well done!

Mazzy said...

I'm sad that you're sad!!!

I was so ready to stop nursing when we did (1 year) but I was blessed that we (she and I) both felt the same way at the same time. I am so curious to see how it goes with the next baby. I am such a realist, I cannot fathom for a second that it will be exactly the same way twice.

I'm sending you love and hugs, as always.

Anonymous said...

Weaning is tough on a number of levels. I'm going through it too and it's hard to let go. Jasper love the boob, but for personal reasons I need to stop. We were cutting back anyhow but I just decided that now is the time and she's ok. We are both ok. And we are bonding in different ways now.

Thinking of you, my friend! ((many hugs))