I nursed Amber for the last time this week and am still wondering: When to wean?
When I learned that I was expecting my first child, I didn’t give much thought to how I’d feed that baby. At that time I was struggling with the other typical concerns: Will my body do what it’s supposed to? Will the baby be healthy? Will I be a GOOD mother?
As time went by, and my due date fast approached, I started learning more and more about the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mommy and baby. I then started considering nursing; “I’ll try it for a few months” I told people. My grandmother died from breast cancer, and my Aunt is a survivor, so it was important to me to reduce my chances of also getting it. (My friend Darwinian Fail would probably tell me to be screened for the BRCA gene). So when Sierra was born exactly a month early very unexpectedly, I wasn’t prepared for the issues we’d have establishing a nursing relationship. The human race has been birthing and nursing babies for centuries – it can’t be that hard, I thought. I had flat almost inverted nipples, she was incredibly tiny, and sleepy, and jaundiced. And a preemie. (For those of you who’ve ever had a preemie, you know exactly what I mean).
As natural as breastfeeding is, establishing a nursing relationship is HARD for anyone – full term babies, small babies, large babies and preemie babies. But thankfully I had the amazing support of the lactation consultants at our hospital, and from my family doctor (unfortunately he’s retired now). With lots of perseverance, and support from my husband, my mom (she nursed my brother and I), friends (Kimmer) and the rest of our family, I successfully managed to get Sierra to nurse from the boob three weeks after she was born.
So I happily nursed and nourished Sierra for as long as she wanted: 13 months to be exact. I knew she was ready to wean because nursing her was a wrestling match. I’d offer and she’d squirm from my arms and ask for her “ba ba” (bottle). I was also ready to be done. I wanted to play softball that summer without feeling guilty about not being there to nurse her to sleep at night. And we wanted another child.
During my second pregnancy I had a list of things I wanted to do to make my parenting experience better/easier. I was going to offer a bottle early, I was going to pump, I was not going to stress over having enough milk. I wanted the best of both worlds – nurse the baby at home, and have her readily accept a bottle so that I could go out when I wanted to.
Brooke was born a very eager nurser. She was born at a good weight (6 lbs 10 oz) and had a great suck. Our nursing relationship got started without any problems at all.
Unfortunately our relationship wasn’t as smooth sailing as our first few days were. Brooke was a very slow gainer and I was told several times to supplement her, or to give up altogether. This made me even more determined to nurse her. My mom encouraged me to keep going because the Doctors had told her the same thing about me, and quitting nursing didn’t change that.
Fast forward 20 months. Brooke was still nursing, but I was done. Again, softball season was approaching and I wanted to play. For some reason there was not emotional guilt about it – maybe I was exhausted? Brooke was the kind of baby that woke up every two hours to nurse and at 20 months she was still doing that. In desperation for a good night’s sleep I offered her a sippy cup of chocolate milk. She eagerly accepted it and never looked back.
Less than a year later my running became very difficult. It felt like no matter where I was running, I was going uphill. So I complained to hubby about that, and he came home with a pregnancy test… Ooooops! We were going to be blessed again!
This time I had no preconceived notions of what nursing our third baby would be like, how long I would nurse for, or whether I’d be tied to her or not.
My pregnancy with Amber was super easy – I stayed active, and ran almost to the day I gave birth to her. My labour and delivery with her was also easy – 67 min from start to finish! She was also born sucking her thumb, so she had a great suck and was a champion nurser:
Amber was a great baby – we had no absolutely no nursing problems. She gained well, she slept well and transitioned to food quite easily in comparison to her sisters. Despite going back to work a year ago, we’ve managed to continue our nursing relationship.
Amber is turning two in less than a week, and has decided that playing with her sisters, and being just like them is far more exciting than nursing.
Sleep? Well that’s more important than getting up to nurse too. So over the past month she’s asked to nurse less and less to the point where the last few times that she’s asked, she didn’t stay long enough for me to let down any milk. Today, as I write this, it’s been about a week since she last asked for her “‘nack” (snack).
So I guess it’s official. After 57 months of nursing, I’m retiring the ta ta’s. Wow. What an incredible journey it’s been.