Sunday, September 29, 2013

And...We are DONE!

It has been awhile since I mentioned anything about breastfeeding. I am still a big advocate of breastfeeding, and think it is one of the best things you can offer to your baby. Also, I am super supportive of those who choose to formula feed. This is not about anti-this or pro-that as long as your baby is being fed, and taken care of! Anyway, nursing Forrest is one of the best...and worst thing I have ever done. Contradictory, I know! I am glad I preserved, and made it work, and met my goal of making it until a year! The reason why I did not like breastfeeding is because it was hard, painful, and frustrating at times.

I never developed that fuzz feeling with nursing that some mothers reported having with their babies. I viewed breastfeeding as a way to nourish my baby, and that was it. It was hard to be tied down to breastfeeding when I just wanted to get up, and do something else. At the same time, I got a huge sense of accomplishment of watching Forrest grow healthy, and getting through huge obstacles that could have caused me to give up on nursing. I definitely had a love-and-hate relationship with nursing.

While pregnant, I knew I wanted to nurse, and wanted to make it work. It was very important to me. This will I had helped me to keep going in face of multiple duct clogs, keeping up the milk supply, Mastitis, and dealing with a distracted nurser. I also knew that I did not want to do extended breastfeeding beyond a year. I had no beef with mamas who wanted to nurse beyond the first year of their children's lives. After all, WHO (World Health Organization) recommends breastfeeding until up to age of two. But, it was not my thing to deal with nursing a toddler. I've always felt that once a baby was able to consume solids, and drink cow's milk then there was no real purpose to continue breastfeeding because the baby was getting the needs met somewhere else. 

When Forrest was around ten months old, I started asking around about weaning. I had no idea where to start. The idea of weaning was intimidating because I never had done this before. So many mothers I talked with did not breastfeed, and had no idea how to advise me about weaning from nursing. Some mamas I talked with did nurse, and they all had different methods. I felt very overwhelmed by which approach to use, how to deal with my feelings especially guilt, and hoping I was making the right decision to start weaning Forrest. The only thing I really knew was that the process was going to take me all summer. It was not an overnight thing. It required gradual adjustment for both Forrest, and I. After all, I did not want to end up with another bout of infection!

I started entertaining the idea of weaning in early spring because I was dealing with a baby wanting to nurse frequently through the night. Whoever said that you'll be dealing with sleep deprivation in first three months failed to mentioned that you could also be potentially have to deal with sleep deprivation for much longer than just first three months! I nursed Forrest on demand since birth. When he wanted to be nursed, I obliged, and that meant getting up multiple times during the night. This continued until Forrest was around 10.5 months old. I was told by our pediatrician that there was no reason for me to continue to night-nurse Forrest at that age, and he should be sleeping through the night. I felt like a failure for some odd reason.

As a first time parent, I was supposed to make sure that Forrest was having his needs to be met, and nursed him around the clock. At the same time, I struggled with my emotions of guilt, fatigue, and frustration. I felt I was doing something wrong if Forrest was not sleeping through the night at that age. I became desperate for decent night of sleep. I struggled with staying awake through the day. I envied other mamas with babies that slept through the night. I especially so envied Stu for sleeping through the night for the longest time while I was getting up every 2-3 hours around the clock. I worried that Forrest was not getting enough solids, and was starving. Just the idea of Forrest going hungry stressed me out more than nursing itself. 

I came to a conclusion that Forrest was more likely comfort-nursing rather than eating because he was hungry. I started night-weaning Forrest, and it was a hard process. I had to cut Forrest off from nursing, and he did not like it. He continued to wake up multiple times in the night, crying, and protesting sleep until he got what he wanted...or he thought. I did not give in. I rocked him back to sleep without nursing. Eventually, Forrest learned that he had to rely on his pacifier, and self-soothing to go back to sleep without needing to nurse.

By the end of June, Forrest was sleeping from 7 pm until 3:30-4:00 am. I felt like a new woman with sleeping longer hours..uninterrupted at that too! However, waking up at 4 am was not the right wake-up time for him! I wanted him to be able to wake up at his wake-up time to nurse. For the longest time, we struggled with this. This part was the last to be finally corrected, and it took me all summer to finally figure out the answer! In the meanwhile....

I decided to wean Forrest from his nursing sessions before his naps. His morning nap weaning was awful!  It almost made me second-guess whether I was doing the right thing by having a goal to get Forrest weaned by his first birthday. Forrest screamed for good forty minutes before he fell asleep. I had to keep myself busy from giving in and running to Forrest because I felt so guilty for putting him through that. By the second day, Forrest was ready to go down for his morning nap without needing to be nursed! It confirmed my decision that I was doing the right thing by weaning him.

A week passed then I dropped our afternoon nursing session. There was no problem at all. All I did was give him a lunch with milk sippy. After lunch, he went down for a nap with a belly full of food. It was a perfect substitute for nursing. We were down to just two nursing sessions a day, and I loved it! I had more freedom during the day, and Forrest also loved it because he liked being able to watch everything while drinking out of his sippy. He liked to be independent, and expressed no desire to want to be nursed.

I kept the morning and bedtime nursing sessions for a longest time because I was trying to correct the problem with Forrest waking up at 4 am. I had hoped that once I found a solution, and have Forrest sleep until 6 am then we would work on weaning last two nursing sessions. Nothing worked. I kept putting off bed-time nursing because I was not ready to let go of that final connection I had with him. It became more about me than him. All this became evident by the fact that one night I had to put Forrest in the crib at bedtime to wash his poopy diaper, and planned on nursing him after I cleaned his cloth diaper, by the time I returned, Forrest was already snuggling in for the night. It became clear to me that he really did not need to be nursed before bed anymore. I started putting him down for bed without nursing at the night, and we had no issue at all.

However, we still dealt with 4 am wake up call to nurse! I asked around, and a mom suggested me to do something. It was a solution. It was kind of like "why didn't I think of this before" duh type of thing! 

All Forrest needed was a bedtime snack with a sippy of milk fifteen minutes before his bedtime routine.  He also had his sippy with fresh water in it in case if he woke up in the middle of night, and wanted a quick drink. He no longer asked for us to come to bed to check on him unless if teething started bothering him, and he needed medicine. That's it. It helped him to stay full all night!

Nursing was replaced by reading a bedtime story. After the bedtime story, Forrest went down for bed with his sippy with water, and his pacifier. I did notice that he needed a longer time to relax, and fall asleep whereas with nursing, he fell asleep faster. After a week of this, I felt Forrest was more than adjusted. 

Originally, I planned on keeping morning nursing session a bit longer. After a few nights (about a week, really) of not needing to be nursed before bed, we woke up late one morning, and had to hurry for an appointment with Forrest's allergist. In the midst of hurrying around, I forgot to nurse Forrest, and had him eat breakfast with milk sippy. Later that day, I realized we didn't have our morning nursing session, and it came to me as a surprise. Forrest did not ask. I did not offer. 

There was that. 

The end of our nursing relationship.

Did I feel sad that it was over? No. There were many ways for me to bond with Forrest; bedtime story reading, cuddling, walking, playing, and spending time together. My favorite thing to do with him was cuddling! For some reason, when I was nursing Forrest, we were unable to really cuddle because then Forrest would want to nurse! Cuddling was limited to Daddy, and Forrest or Forrest with other family members. Once nursing was done, I was happy to be able to participate in this activity as well! 

Also, I was relieved to be DONE. Nursing for a year was a lot of work especially with so many problems. Did it jade me from wanting to breastfeed again? Absolutely not--I planned on doing exactly the same for my future kids. I met my goal of a year nursing. How awesome was that, really. Not many mothers were able to do it for a year or more. So for me to be able to do this made me felt really good. 

I was happy with how easy the whole process was for both of us. Ironically, weaning was easier than breastfeeding! If Forrest needed to be nursed a bit longer then I would have done it in a heartbeat. It was just that I had many signs that pointed to Forrest being ready, and it happened to be compatible with my goals. I knew that weaning was not going to be an overnight thing, and was in no hurry the whole time. My ultimate goal was to have Forrest completely weaned off before Christmas. It did surprise me that we finished it three months early! 

I do notice that Forrest eats MORE now that he is not nursing anymore. He eats like a teenage boy! It is funny, he eats more, and I eat less. I don't have ravenous appetite anymore now that my body does not produce what Forrest needs from me. My appetite is back to normal, and my weight is being maintained. Some women do worry that they will suddenly gain weight once they are done nursing. I can't speak for everybody because all women are so different. In my case, I have noticed that I am now eating for just one instead of "two" therefore, my metabolism is back to working just for one person (me).

Forrest does have his occasional cranky days in the mornings when his gums are bugging him, and he wants to be nursed out of comfort. This grumpiness often passes by quickly because he is soothed in other ways by playing, listening to music, cuddling, and teething toys. I do not regret having him to be weaned shortly after his first birthday.

Weaning is definitely a long process. I did not want to cut it cold-turkey, and end up with mastitis again. I wanted Forrest to be ready instead of forcing him to give up on nursing if he was not ready. Fortunately, he was ready, and the whole weaning process showed that. I did not regret weaning Forrest at all. The only challenge I faced was modifying how much Forrest needs to drink, and eat during the day to make sure he was getting all of his needs to be met.  My only advice with weaning is to be PATIENT, and follow your baby's suit.


  1. Thank you! I am relieved I am not only one who have exactly same emotions and the point of view of breastfeeding that you expressed. I always feel guilty about not continuing the breastfeeding. This blog makes me feel better. Again thank you!

  2. Ashley I could have written this! I am there with you about the night time feedings. I know he doesn't need it but I wasn't quite ready to pull the plug. Then he would have a great night sleeping, only waking up a few times and it would give me hope... . Then he would take it away hahaha.
    I think night weaning may be a great idea in the next month or so. I also have zero plans to Bf after one. After Christmas this year we will wean slowly over the month and I will be free!

  3. I'm impressed that you remained committed to breast feeding purely on principle! I loved breast feeding my kids--the first two until they were one and the last until he was almost two--and I cried when I decided to stop. Except for the latch on pain in the first month for me it was easy. I never pumped or used bottles, and for us it really was a nice bonding experience. I genuinely miss breast feeding. I don't think I would have bothered if it had been a chore.