by Sarah Palmer, Birth Center Mama
Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start for me, similar to many first-time moms. Nursing right after birth seemed sort of pinchy and the first few days Allan slept so much. Fortunately, I was able to see the lactation consultant Heather a few days after birth, where I got some magic APNO cream and verification Allan did indeed lose 10% of his birth weight and had tongue/lip ties. After getting the ties fixed and continuing to work with the TBC lactation consultants and attending some groups during my maternity leave, nursing improved. Allan was fed nearly all breastmilk the first six months. Pumping at work was fine enough, I never had a freezer stash of more than a few days but was mostly able to keep up with demand. I pumped four times a day, including once before bed.
We went on a family vacation when he was 8.5 months and I stopped pumping before bed that week. I was on vacay, so was my Medela PISA. My milk supply didn’t quite rebound after that week. With Allan’s voracious appetite my output only continued to decrease. I pumped less at work, and soon dropped my pre-work car pump as it made my mornings with Allan even shorter. I’m a full-time working mom, I enjoy every weekday moment I get with him. By 10 months I stopped pumping entirely, and we were down to morning and night nursing sessions. I hoped to continue this indefinitely; my goal was to nurse as long as mutually desirable. But these sessions were rather perfunctory on his part. After a few weeks of this “comfort nursing,” I decided it wasn’t worth it. Allan had never had trouble with formula or bottles and I don’t think he was ever in love with nursing.
For all the work that nursing was at the beginning and my worrying about my just enough supply for months while pumping at work, weaning was surprisingly unremarkable. We have other ways of bonding. Allan is a funny, active little guy who sometimes lets me read to him or sing him silly made-up songs. Occasionally I wonder if my dread of nursing those first several weeks led to his take it or leave it attitude. Allan also got his first bad cold when I stopped pumping, so of course, I thought that the “magic antibodies” in breastmilk I denied him immediately lowered his immunity. Logically, I know neither of these things are true and I have more mothering decisions to make that will probably be more impactful.
I wanted to share this in case some mamas are worrying about how weaning will happen. It probably won’t be like you imagine, but I bet pregnancy and giving birth had some element(s) of surprise too. I know for many folks weaning happens before mom or baby are ready and can cause a lot of emotions. For me, realizing that there are lots of ways I mother my child made breastfeeding and its end just another part of my parenting journey.