Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How long are you going to breastfeed?

I have been asked this question regularly since I started breastfeeding my baby. 
My usual response was "At least a year."  After Bug hit that one year mark my response morphed into "I don't know. We'll see."

Well, the time has come. At 15 months and 1 day old, Bug-A-Boo decided he no longer wanted to nurse. 

Throughout our breastfeeding journey we faced many challenges. Starting with Jaundice and slow weight gain in the first month. We had a very supportive pediatrician that never forced us to supplement and said he would only suggest it if Bug lost weight. He also said if the situation came about that I should find a friend who was nursing that could donate milk to us rather than using formula. We visited a lactation consultant, checked his eating, seemed to be fine so we just waited to see what would happen.

The first 8 weeks were really painful for me. The first two being the worst. I cried every time he latched on, it was as if I was being stabbed through my back. After those first two months though I was no longer in great pain and Bug was gaining weight like a champ.

As Bug continued to grow his nursing habits changed. He went from 50 minute nursing sessions to 20 minutes and eventually 10. At about 4 months he became distracted. It was hard for him to concentrate on eating when there were other people around. The best way to nurse was in a quiet dark room. His naps were irregular and he started waking again at night to make up for not eating during the day.

His first teeth came in when he was 5 months old. This didn't really seem to affect his nursing. But when those top teeth started coming in he started biting. He drew blood a couple times. I never thought I would get through that stage. But after a few days of anxiety to nurse him he stopped biting. Only to show his teeth again every time new ones came through, which was the prime teething indicator.

At six months we started baby led weaning. Meaning he started eating sensible, whole, soft foods and feeding himself. No purees or spoon feeding. It wasn't until about 9 months when he really got the hang of eating solids.

When he was 9 months old I discovered that he had an upper lip tie. 
This was my "Ah ha!" moment. I then realized why he was slow to gain weight and why nursing was so painful for me in the beginning. Because Bug had the lip tie it was harder for him to learn how to successfully extract milk, which caused a funky latch. The latch is what caused me to be in so much pain. What upsets me most about this is that the lactation consultant never looked for lip tie when we went to visit her.

Being that Bug was 9 months when I discovered this my pediatrician and I decided not to correct the lip tie. I also consulted a friend who is a speech pathologist. Bug was making the appropriate sounds for a baby his age and she didn't see too much of a concern for having it corrected either.

We then came upon his first birthday! I was so thrilled to have made it a full year brestfeeding. He was still nursing about 6 times a day. He had his one year appointment and was growing wonderfully. The pediatrician was thrilled to hear he was still nursing.

Just after the one year mark Bug dropped another feeding. A few weeks later I dropped one, then another. He was down to nursing only twice a day, right away in the morning and just before bed.  I figured I would keep this going either until he stopped (which I didn't think would be so soon) or until my husband gave the go-ahead for another baby (no sign of my cycle yet).

Well, it has been almost a week now since I last nursed Bug. We were following our normal routine. I started to nurse him before bed, but after latching he would just start playing. After two minutes I just put him to bed. Tried again in the morning, same thing. So I haven't offered since. Because we had been gradually dropping feedings over the last few months I have avoided engorgement, which was one of my weaning goals.

He is still getting breastmilk. We have been dipping into the freezer stash since he was a year old. But it won't last much longer. It is going really fast now.

He had his 15 month check up a couple days after weaning. The Dr. asked what kind of milk Bug was drinking, I said "breast milk", and he said "good for you!". While we don't have much of my milk left I am so happy I was able to give him the best for this long. I take comfort in knowing that he has a decreased risk for asthma, allergies and diabetes (all of which run in the family), that he has had the natural anti-bodies, that he is a healthy little boy.

Was breastfeeding easy? In some ways yes, in some no. I never had to mix a bottle. I didn't have to pack milk when we were out and about, it was already conveniently there. I didn't have to wash bottles. I had to take time to just sit and enjoy my baby while he nursed. I always had an excuse to 'get away' and just relax when we were at group functions.

I am glad I made it through the first year. I didn't get to hang out with friends often, unless baby came with me. I couldn't just pass him off to someone else to eat (but I didn't want to either). I had some rough nights where I just wanted to sleep and would have liked for my husband to feed him, but it didn't last long. When you think about it, a few years of your life where you are completely attached to your child is not that long. I am 29 years old. I still have plenty of time for me. The first year of my child's life is all about him. Now that he is no longer nursing I have had more opportunities to see people that I haven't seen in the last year and a half.

By far, the benefits outweigh the cons. Any cons that I had for breastfeeding were all selfish.

I feel like everything happened the way it was supposed to. Bug and I were both ready to be done. I am not one to be sad as my children move from one milestone to the next. Motherhood has been an adventure and I am embracing each phase of my child's life.

Although, I am not looking forward to the return of my monthly cycle. I am also not looking forward to working out, breastfeeding has been my most successful weight loss program.

Here's to toddlerhood... and maybe another baby?

What were some hurdles you faced in your breastfeeding journey?
Did you/will you let baby self wean, or did you/will you facilitate it?


  1. My first baby self weaned (a little to suddenly for my poor breasts, ouch, engorged) at 16 months. My second baby I led the weaning around 16 months because I was exhausted with nursing and being pregnant combined. My third is 11 months and is almost exclusively breast fed. She tries solids (not baby foods) but doesn't eat enough to count as anything. I plan to let her self wean.

    1. I couldn't imagine nursing and being pregnant! Way to go mama! My first didn't nurse and my cycle didn't return at all while nursing my second.