Weaning and other thoughts on Nursing
Teddy last nursed two weeks ago.
Even just typing that sentence makes me emotional! I am definitely still in hormonal limbo so bear with me if I come across as maudlin.
I do NOT take my nursing relationships for granted when my babies are born because I had such a hard time with my first baby. At first, we thought he had a rough latch because he had crowned for TWO HOURS and had a very pronounced conehead upon arrival earthside. The head molding could have affected his jaw and latch. We took him to a chiropractor who adjusted him but said we should look into whether Quincy was also tongue and lip tied. Two lactation consultants and doctors later, we had Quincy's lip tie lasered. It sounds scarier than it actually was. It's a very quick, simple procedure and his latch was instantly improved...
...but not enough. He was still only transferring about half of what babies his age needed. Now breastmilk is more nutritionally dense than formula and not all breastmilk is created equal calorically but Quincy was a big baby with a big appetite and I could tell he was just not getting his fill.
So we supplemented - thankfully with donor breastmilk! Yes, donated breastmilk is a totally valid and healthy thing to do. Wet nurses have been around for centuries. Today some women produce more than others and they literally run out of space in their freezers to store it. I got milk initially from friends and friends of friends, but eventually we moved to Charlottesville and I went online and found a wonderful woman with a son just six weeks younger than Quincy. Eats on Feets and Human Milk for Human Babies (HMHB) are the two Facebook groups through which I searched. Our donor could pump 12 ounces in five minutes and did so every 2 hours! She supplied Quincy with milk from about 6 months until he was 13 months old and I'll be forever grateful. Overall, Quincy had breastmilk from seven different women - I'll always wondered and hoped it helped his gut flora and immunity but he got the occasional cold like most babies.
I managed to breastfeed Quincy for five months and the entire time my nipples looked like my baby was chewing on glass instead of nursing - I called them my zombie nipples. That is not how breastfeeding is supposed to go. You are supposed to have sore nipples for a couple weeks and it might take 4-6 weeks overall for you and the baby to get the swing of things but then its smooth sailing.
Now that I've successfully breastfed TWO babies for a full year (Praise God - seriously PRAISE GOD), I know the difference between a good and bad latch. Sometimes I would wonder if I was just an insecure first time mama, but then a dear friend recently had her third child and her story sounded so similar to what happened with Quincy and me. She had successfully nursed her first baby for nearly two years and her second for closer to 10 months and the only problem she had was an oversupply (NOT a problem in my book!). Then her third baby comes along and throws her a curve ball. She is still pumping and supplementing and working on baby's latch and my heart and prayers go out to her.
I share this so that if any mamas are out there struggling to nurse, please give yourself grace. Fed is best, postpartum depression is real, and being a mama is hard enough. And if you're still beating yourself up because you swore you would be the hardcore breastfeeding mama and you have told yourself that babies and mamas didn't have these problems a hundred years ago (I know how you think because I was that mama), I think you're wrong. I think babies with bad latches a hundred years ago, probably transfered less milk and suffered malnourished until they could start solids or worse they died. Praise God we live in modern times with access to formula and the internet to connect us with mamas with milk to spare.
(Gabe STILL sleeps this way, btw!)
So while I am relishing a newly reclaimed freedom with weaning, I'm mourning the end of Teddy's baby days. She has been crawling for a while and furniture cruising, and she is weeks away from walking and being a full blown toddler. The days are long but the years are short, people.
Having weaned three times now, I wanted to share my process/tips. Note: these are most relevant for those aiming to nurse for around a year:
- At 10 months, introduce one 4ounce bottle/sippy cup of breastmilk/goat's milk mid morning. Until 10 months, I nursed ON DEMAND not according to a schedule.
- At 11 months, I introduce a second 4ounce sippy cup of breastmilk/goat's milk mid afternoon. By this point, we were down to nursing 3-4 times a day. First thing in the morning, before nap, after nap, and just before bed. With Gabe, I dropped the after nap feeding next, then the morning nursing session, then the before nap, and finally the bedtime nursing session. Teddy was different - I could tell she really liked to be nursed upon waking so I dropped the before nap nursing session, then the bedtime nursing session, then the after nap session, and finally the morning session. Which brings me to my next point...
- Listen to your baby and your body! I was mentally prepared to nurse longer if my babies really insisted but this happened so naturally. I followed the "Don't offer, Don't refuse" approach. Thankfully my babies ate solids so well that they filled up and it was a very natural transition.
- HYDRATE and eat well! I've had mastitis five times but thankfully never during weaning. I know how sensitive I'll be emotionally and physically and also prepare my husband to help.
- Have cabbage on hand. I didn't suffer engorgement with my first weaning bc I don't think I ever hit full production but I definitely hit a couple bumps weaning the second and third times. Cabbage is magical for engorgement and can help dry up your supply.
- AFTER I know baby is done nursing, I apply peppermint and sage essential oils topically for relief. I also took them orally to help encourage my supply to dry up. I also take garlic and Thieves essential oil internally to help boost my immunity.
- Use aromatherapy to boost your spirits. Postpartum depression can sometimes hit when weaning! My fave "Happy Mama" combo is Geranium, Clary Sage, and Bergamot. By the way, I would be honored to send you a FREE roller bottle of this combo for you, if you purchase a Young Living starter kit via my link here.
- Don't be scared to pump a little for relief! As long as you are only pumping a couple minutes, you won't be encouraging your body to prolong the agony.
While breastfeeding my three kids, I would say I loved it and hated it. I loved the convenience, the bonding, the free natural nourishment I gave them, but I hated my lack of freedom and not feeling like my body was my own. With just a little space, I can recognize what a special time it was and I will always cherish the memories and snuggles even the painful ones I had during my shorter nursing relationship.
I hope this was helpful! I'd love for friends to share their weaning tips in the comments below.
(BTW All baby pictures are from when my babies were just one week old. SWOON! Teddy at the top, then Quincy, then Gabe.)