Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Breastfeeding Journey: A Year and Beyond

When I got pregnant (well, before really), there was no question that I would be breastfeeding my baby. As with everything else I've done when it came to pregnancy and parenting, I researched and educated myself on everything breastfeeding related. I read blogs and articles. I watched YouTube videos. I took a class. I knew of all the benefits of breastfeeding and prepared myself to take every step needed in order to make our breastfeeding relationship successful. In fact, it was probably the one thing that worried me more than anything when it came to having a baby. I had no doubts about my abilities to birth a baby, but the anecdotes you read and hear about moms who didn't produce enough or the baby didn't latch, etc. were terrifying. I wanted this so badly. So, I prepared myself for the "booby traps" and hoped for the best. Here's a post outlining my adventures with breastfeeding in the beginning.

I thought, however, it might be helpful to someone to get an idea of breastfeeding beyond the typical beginning troubles. It seems that once you overcome those initial hurdles, it's just business as usual. But I know I still had questions along the way and I never imagined I'd be where I am now. Staring in the face of tandem nursing (dum, dum, duuuummmm....).

There, I said it. I never claimed there wouldn't be controversy in this post! I'm just sharing my experiences and what is working for us. That doesn't make it right for everyone, but it's right for my family and I stand by that.

Let me back up. Start from the beginning - and by that I mean after the real beginning. Things were pretty uneventful for the first 6 months. I was working part time and Evelyn took a bottle just fine while I was gone. I was pumping about 20 oz a day over what Evelyn needed and storing it "just in case." The end result when I finally weaned myself from the pump at about 7 months was a freezer stash consisting of about 3000 oz of breastmilk.

I was so lucky to have it. I was even luckier I didn't need it and was able to gift some of it to a friend. Evelyn was drinking it from sippy cups until about a month ago. Let's just say the the pump and I have a love-hate relationship. I was not sad to put that thing away.

At 6ish months, we started Evelyn with baby led weaning. She took to food extremely well.

{This picture cracks. Me. Up.}

No issues. I just kept nursing on demand and my supply remained perfect. I never experienced mastitis though I did verge on plugged ducts a few times that I had to work out in the shower and with nursing. Weaning from the pump was a rough few days. I went cold turkey and eventually my body adjusted though I did encourage Evelyn to eat just a little more at that time to relieve the pressure a bit.

I continued to lose weight and stuff my face with obscene amounts of food to compensate. I know, rough problem to have, right?

Then, came the day everyone warned me of. Evelyn started teething. And she bit me. It wouldn't be the last time, but I think my utter shock and scream scared her enough to not try it again right away. Thankfully, it never became a huge issue like I know some moms experience, but my best trick in dealing with it was to just pop her off and put her down. She would be mad at me and I would wait a few minutes, then let her latch back on and if she did it again I would repeat it. She seemed to get the hint pretty quickly. I was a little on edge for a little while during that time (I mean, who likes to get bitten?) and just as everything difficult with babies, that stage passed. She now has 10 teeth - two on top, four on bottom, and four molars - and doesn't cause me any issues. It is very true that when a baby is properly latched, the teeth won't be an issue. So, don't let anyone scare you when they say, "Just wait until that baby gets teeth!" Totally not worth the fear.

My goal was to make it to a year. At that point, I would play it by ear. Before getting pregnant, I used to hope that I'd have a huge oversupply and be able to wean her at 6 or 7 months and be done. Wow. Little did I know how naive I was being. How much I would just adore this relationship. How much it would mean to me to hold on to those precious baby moments as long as humanly possible. To continue to give her a little boost in immune protection and a way to comfort her when nothing else works. Not to mention the benefits to my body!

My first thoughts of weaning came when Rob and I started talking about when we would want to try for another. My cycle returned at 9 months postpartum and low an behold, I was ovulating. We weren't trying really and my cycles were getting progressively longer. So, I went ahead and made an appointment with my OB to see, more than anything, if there was something I could do to at least keep things regular without any other interventions that might affect my nursing relationship with Evelyn. Little did I know that at that appointment I was probably implanting. Five days later, I got a positive pregnancy test.

{Hello, baby #2!}

Well, I wasn't going to wean her just for that. I started researching nursing while pregnant and talked to my OB about it. There was no medical reason for me to stop and Evelyn certainly didn't magically stop benefiting from my milk when she turned one, so we kept going. She has slowly dropped herself to twice a day (and not always that) - morning and night. She sleeps through the night and if, on the rare occasion, she wakes up I do still nurse her.

I prepared myself for her to wean because of my milk changing with pregnancy, but she hasn't. I'm so amazed at my body. My milk is now almost completely back to colostrum and ready for the new one. It will continue to be tailored to the new baby's needs so there are no concerns there. I'm actually pretty happy because that means that Evelyn is getting some pretty awesome antibodies and such during the flu season.

So, what is the plan, then? Well, I don't know. Rob, at this point, is completely on board with us continuing. He knows the benefits and couldn't be more supportive and I love him for that. It's hard to say that I would never nurse her past 2 when I used to tell myself that I would wean at 7 months if my freezer stash were big enough to do so. I thought it was weird when moms would nurse their toddlers and here I am. I will certainly be setting boundaries when the new baby comes. His/her nutrition will come first. And I'm mentally preparing myself for the possibility that she could wean at any time. But, I think I'm just going to follow my gut. It's yet to lead me astray and I remain confident in my choices for our family. I also remain confident that I will not be nursing my daughter through college. So, for now, I'm just going to keep enjoying the peaceful moments and making memories of her waving at me and "blowing me kisses" while nursing. One day I'll miss it.

{A little vintage Evelyn from her first swim in April, 2012}