Like his mama

I’ve known for a while that Jack is a LOT like me.  And one of the things about me is that I’m damned stubborn.  There are certain things in life that I just don’t do until I’m pushed and prodded.  Jack is turning out to be the same but I didn’t realize that until we started to wean.

For months I’ve been trying various tactics to sway Jack from nursing.  Delays, distractions, and even outright refusals on my part.  Still it didn’t look like he was going to give up nursing any time soon.  Fortunately the custody arrangement Joe and I have has done a lot to help out in this process.  My once crazy oversupply settled down considerably as we skipped so many nighttime nursing sessions when Jack was with his dad.  One hurdle tackled!  I didn’t know where to go from there, though.  No matter how persistent I was with weaning tactics, he was stubbornly holding on to breastfeeding.

To give some background, I am a proponent of self-weaning.  I don’t care if other moms do it that way, but that is what I believe in for myself and my child.  With that said, I also believe that nursing is a relationship, one in which both participants should have a say in what happens.   Breastfeeding has always been a huge challenge for me due to touch issues from my messy childhood, but it was worth it to me to ignore those issues if I could in order to give my child the healthiest start possible.  Two years was my goal – I was pretty sure I could hold out that long, and I did.  When we hit two years, my impatience grew exponentially.  Then, a month ago, I reached the end of my rope when it became clear that Jack was no longer being settled at bedtime with nursing.  He nursed, then asked for cow’s milk, then asked for water, then flailed about until he fell asleep.  It was taking over an hour to get him to sleep once we got into bed and I knew this didn’t happen at his dad’s.  It was clear that nursing wasn’t doing the trick it used to, and on top of that Jack started to kick and hit me during our nursing sessions.  The benefits were no longer outweighing the cons for me or for Jack.

Enter David, my boyfriend.  He noticed how frustrated I was getting, so he studied Jack and me in order to figure out when/why Jack was asking to nurse.  He pointed out that Jack usually seemed bored or in need of comfort when he asked to nurse.  Put together with the fact that I had noticed nursing wasn’t working at bedtime, I realized Jack was probably ready to stop nursing and just didn’t know there were other ways to get his needs met.  With that, I decided to attempt a true weaning effort.  I waited until a weekend so that if I was up all night trying to get him to sleep, I wouldn’t have to worry about working the next day.  I explained to Jack that “mama’s milk is broken; there is no more” (and receiving kisses for my “owies”) and reminded him a few times when he forgot.  We spent extra time snuggling and increased the number of books we read to get sleepy.    It actually went very smoothly and Jack slept through the night with no problems.  That was 12 days ago…

So we are done.  Jack’s asked for mama’s milk maybe 2-3 times in the last two weeks and when I reminded him we no longer have mama’s milk, he wasn’t upset at all.  No tantrums, no tears.  Big sigh of relief from me!  Now that I look back I can clearly see all the signs of his readiness for weaning.  All he needed was some prodding!

On the road to weaning

We are somewhat working on weaning.  Well, some say that weaning begins when solids are introduced, but that is not how I think of weaning.  Up until very recently, I have always let Jack call the shots on nursing.  Nursing is an important part of his nutrition as well as his emotional development, and I don’t want to take it away before he is ready.  With that said, I have found breastfeeding to be emotionally difficult for me throughout the duration, and I feel that I am reaching my limit.  I am trying to strike a balance that will work for both Jack and me.

As Jack has shown less interest in nursing and more interest in the world around him, I have begun to test the waters a bit.  I have really made an effort to get on top of solids to ensure that meals are prepared quickly when he gets hungry so that he is less likely to get impatient and decide to nurse instead of eat solids.  Consistency and proactivity about meal and snack times have been key.  Additionally, when he does ask to nurse I try to see if I can offer cow’s milk or water instead, or a hug if it seems that he wants attention.  This has been working really well, with only minimal balking from Jack.

I’ve stepped things up as of late.  Many a morning I have had to leave for work before Jack is up, so we skip our morning nursing session.  Some mornings we run late and although he asks to nurse, I offer him food or water or cow’s milk and he is perfectly content with that (although it surprises me every time!).  I have been attending group therapy directly after work on Thursdays and so we have delayed that post-work nursing session or skipped it in favor of a longer nursing-to-sleep session after I get home.  He has been sleeping so well lately that some days we are down to only one nursing session!

I’m going out of town tonight and I have thought a lot about what will happen while I’m away and when I return.  I know that some kids Jack’s age wean themselves when their mamas travel away for a few days, and I’m prepared for that possibility.  Still, I can’t really see that happening.  It would sure shock the hell out of me.  More likely, the remaining nursing sessions will continue to dwindle away until we cease for good some time in the fall.  That would be just about perfect, in my opinion.

While I’m looking forward to moving on from this stage of our relationship, I know it also signifies that Jack is truly starting to grow up.  That, of course, sends a little pang to my heart.  Nursing or not, Jack will always be my sweet son, my special little guy, my babyman.

The Naysayers

At one of my baby showers there was a large group of older women (mostly co-workers) who told me I was crazy for considering a natural birth.  There was a mix of those who wondered why I would ever do that to myself, those who tried natural and asked for an epidural as soon as they got to 4cm, and those who regaled me with horror stories (“my kid broke my tailbone!”).  Altogether I think there were about 30 people at my shower, and only two came forward to tell me that they also had natural labors and YES I could do it.  I was very appreciative of their support.  The others drove me crazy and to this day I’m annoyed by their attitude toward my wishes.  With that said, I remembered their comments during the most painful part of my labor and that memory stiffened my resolve to forego pain medication so that I could have the birth I had planned.  I never spoke about my labor with any of those women afterward; it was just enough to know that they were wrong and I could do it.

In discussing my plans to use cloth diapers prior to having Jack, I received some flack from a few friends.  Some were simply ignorant on the subject and doubted that I would be able to get the diapers clean.  Some had given up cloth diapering themselves, mostly because their wash routines were overly complicated, and they assumed I would also give up.  20 months later and I still love cloth diapers.  I found my own way to make it work in our life and I have been very happy with my decision.  No one ever mentioned it after Jack was born, except for those people who saw what we were doing and wanted to try it themselves.  It wasn’t my intention to inspire others to cloth diaper, but it’s certainly nice that more people are considering it.

While no one said it outright, I do believe there were some folks in my life who were dubious about my plans to breastfeed Jack.  I got the impression from one person in particular who, when Jack was about 5 months old conceded, “He’s obviously thriving, so what you’re doing must be working!”  In the early days breastfeeding was certainly difficult, and it definitely still has its moments, but I am just thankful to have made it this far despite the fact that I had no one around to help.

Overall I think I’ve had a pretty easy go as a new parent.  I haven’t received any criticism since Jack has been born.  I think it helps that Jack is such a happy, easy-going fellow.  I doubt that his awesomeness has much to do with how Joe and I parent, in all honesty.  I’d like to think that Jack is teaching us how to parent, and that things have gone well because we are responsive to his needs.  It sure is a nice thought but there is probably a bit of luck involved, as well.  In any case, I am kind of giving myself a pat on the back for all my hard work over the last couple of years (we’ve all gotta take a moment to do that sometimes, right?) but I also wanted to acknowledge that I have been helped by the naysayers.  If it wasn’t for their comments and my drive to prove them wrong, things might have turned out differently.  You certainly never know…

I'm sure this is some kind of milestone

Last night, for the first time ever, Jack favored solid food over nursing!  He had only been nursing for about 5 minutes after I got home from work when Joe pulled out the Pirate’s Booty…Jack yanked my shirt down, said bye-bye, and ran to beg for some snacks.  I was shocked!  Cheese puffs favored over breastmilk?  He got a few while I prepared a more wholesome dinner.

Then, this morning, I was running late to catch my bus and Jack woke up before I got out the door.  He decided he wanted to take his sweet time at my breast (even taking the second side!).  “Joe, get the yogurt raisins,” I requested.  As soon as Jack saw the package, he flew off my lap, nursing forgotten.

Not only that, but he drank a significant amount of cow’s milk at daycare yesterday.  This is the first time he has taken milk of any type while away from me in months.  Could an end to breastfeeding be in sight?

No More Pumping!

It’s been a week and a half since I pumped last.  I had been trying to pump less and less but got impatient.  On January 31 I just decided to cut out that last pumping session.  So far I haven’t had any plugged ducts and no cases of mastitis (knock on wood) but I am certainly engorged by the end of the work day.  Twice now I’ve arrived home to find Joe and Jack gone off on some adventure and my mind screamed, “Nooooooooo, they have to come home so I can get some relief!”

So, nearly 18 months of expressing under my belt and I’m no longer running off every few hours to read while listening to the rhythmic hum of the pump motor and the drip drip drip of milk filtering into collection bottles.  I won’t miss that pump one bit, although there was a time I welcomed a pumping schedule over a nursing one.  After 6 weeks of being home with Jack establishing our breastfeeding relationship while dealing with thrush, latch issues, and oversupply, pumping for a couple of 15-minute sessions per day was a piece of cake.  If Jack would actually drink any milk at all these days, I would probably keep at it for a while longer because it’s easier to continue pumping than it is to stop.  I only have so much freezer space, though, and (obviously) no reason to keep pumping!

I have my fingers crossed that my my milk supply will adjust soon but past experience tells me I might have to make use of cabbage and peppermint tea.  At the moment I am feeling lazy and celebratory.  I am happy to be out of the pumping stage.
Here’s to 18 months (give or take, via Kellymom)!platinum-breastpump1.jpg