Before I had kids, I knew I would breastfeed. Before I had kids, I had a general idea of how long it was “appropriate” to breastfeed (weren’t we all so judgmental pre-kids?!).
When it was a major struggle (for BOTH kids), breastfeeding became a lot more personal and important to me. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally tied to it. But I was. At first I told myself, “I’ll breastfeed until a year.” When both kids went through nursing strikes that threatened that cold, I persevered. When that year passed, I thought “Well, they can wean anytime, but 2 years old would be nice. They say that’s better for babies and for me too.”
Neither of my kids were ever interested in nursing outside of set times. I don’t have a huge milk supply, so it’s not immediately gratifying. Aiden gradually decreased his feeds to just once a day, and when I became pregnant with Damien, he didn’t like the change in how my milk tasted, so he weaned himself at 23 months.
Damien is now 2.5. That 2 year mark has obviously come and gone. I wonder when I’ll be “not ok” with nursing my growing toddler. So far that hasn’t happened. 1-3 times a day I enjoy that moment of peace and that baby smell that still lingers. There is almost no milk left, but neither of us care. At nap time, this invariably happens. And it is the best moment of my day.
For just that brief moment, I get to hold my baby as he sleeps. It is perfection in every way.
Once Damien was sleeping well, he gradually dropped all of his feeds on his own for the 12 hours of his night, keeping only the dreamfeed. By 4-5 months, Damien had dropped his remaining night feed at 3am all on his own, we only had to re-enforce the habit. Since then, I’ve held on to the dreamfeed and it has been my special time with him.
There have been times, for sure, when it would have been convenient to be able to stay out past 10:30, to go to bed early or to drink an extra glass of wine without having to worry about feeding a baby at a certain time. But, given all that, I couldn’t bear parting with my special time with my little baby – my last little baby.
Damien rarely wakes up early anticipating the feed, I almost always wake him up when I open the door or approach his crib. I hear him wake up and sometimes smack his lips waiting for his milk (he may also use his milk sign as well, as I get ready to feed him). I am always assaulted by the wonderful baby smell of his room and the warm perfection that it all is. It’s like my own little piece of paradise.
I pick up that sleepy baby and feed him for a few minutes – only 5-10 now, which isn’t very long. There’s no kicking, no fussing, no stretching or pulling of hair. No biting, no banging, no distractions, no preschooler to talk to. It’s just me and Damien and it’s perfect.
After I feed him, I put Damien right back in his crib and he’s oh so relaxed. From time to time, the feed actually wakes him up for a while, but he’s such a content little sleeper that he just chills out and eventually falls back to sleep. He never progresses to fussing in the same way that Aiden did! He rolls over asking to go right into his crib when he’s finished his milk – no cuddles necessary.
It’s an amazing experience, nursing a baby, and the dreamfeed has been my little oasis of calm before bed. I’m sure the oxytocin was a nice boost too!
Last night, I didn’t offer Damien milk at his usual time and he slept right through to morning, no problem. I’ve known for a while he probably wasn’t hungry, but he’s my baby and I was selfishly waking him up to spend time with him. I’m going to miss those special times.
At least I know that he’ll probably still have some night wakings when he has a cold or is teething or whatever. Then again, he popped a tooth out during those 12 hours and didn’t make a peep!
Now, if only there was a sniff detector in his room, since he sometimes dirties his diaper while falling asleep and doesn’t cry, so we don’t know. ;)
It’s funny, but this time around I had absolutely no nervousness around labour. It’s such a short span of time that any pain is really easy to forget about. I know I had a lot of incoherent-screaming-pain with Aiden, and yet I still felt completely ok with going through that again. Compared with months of pain during the pregnancy, it seemed like an “easy” end.
My Labour Story with Damien
As many of you know, I was scheduled to be induced on my due date (May 14) because of the pain the pregnancy was causing me (pelvis, back, neck, etc) – I couldn’t take care of Aiden, let alone myself. Our induction was pushed to May 15th initially, which was ok, but it all went messy from there.
Originally, I was told we would go straight to the pitocin to induce my labour, but the midwife on call thought my cervix could use some extra work and gave me cervidil instead. I was sent home, which was very confusing for me. Initially, we tried not to let Aiden know we were home, since he thought we were having the baby. However, we had to drop that plan eventually when the induction didn’t trigger my labour. I had about 30 hours of early labour contractions, but nothing after that.
With cervidil, the best plan is to return for a second dose the next day, often triggering labour with the back-to-back action. However, the hospital maternity ward was full and I was bumped off the schedule (as an “optional” induction, higher risk patients took priority). For the next 3 days, this continued to happen – at one point the entire hospital was on overflow and diverting patients. Meanwhile, I kept having on-and-off early labour and felt on edge all the time. I tried everything to trigger labour on my own, all to no avail (though it was nice to walk in our week of Spring sun!). It was the hardest week of waiting ever!
Finally, on Saturday night, I was invited back for a second cervidil. Early labour began instantly again and I was sent home. At 2am, my water broke; by 2:20am, I wanted to go to the hospital. Apparently, my labour is back-to-back contractions (the cervidil had been out for a couple of hours already) and that’s just not fun. Thankfully, they weren’t as intense as they were with Aiden, but I still wanted drugs.
When we got to the hospital, we had to wait for the midwife to arrive. My labour progressed very quickly and I was very ready for drugs by the time she got there. My waters gushed again and I was already 5cm dilated – soon after, I was started on the gas, which helped tremendously with the pain. The midwife was also amazing, really talking me through the pain (wow, midwives shine during labour!).
If my pelvis hadn’t been misaligned, I would have considered labour with just the gas. As it was, I was too worried about tearing and could barely lie down from the pain associated with my pelvis and back, so I got the epidural. I love the epidural, but I had an adverse reaction this time. I got sick, my blood pressure dropped and baby’s heart rate was fluctuating. They were concerned from time to time, making me change positions often, but thankfully when the midwife went to check me again an hour after her initial exam, she was pleased (and surprised) to see that I was ready to push. I could feel baby descending and rotating with each contraction (pretty neat).
After 20 minutes of pushing, Damien Grayson was born! The whole process, from when my water broke / active labour began to the birth, was 6 hours – not bad!
The only hiccup so far in our parenting journey has been the unfortunate resurgence of my milk supply issues. I was hoping, as is often the case, that it wouldn’t be a problem with Damien, as second babies often see more milk. On some days, I’m able to supplement with just 3oz of formula (total), though his demand increased and yesterday (and likely today) will be more like 9oz – that was a bit of a shock last night. However, looking back at what I had with Aiden, it’s about the same quantity (maybe a little bit more).
With Aiden, I dropped most bottles by 8 weeks and all bottles by 4 months. I’m hoping the journey is shorter this time, particularly as it’s more inconvenient to both breastfeed and bottle feed when taking care of a toddler. Not to mention trying to stick in cluster feeding and/or pumping. But, more than anything else, I find bottle feeding to be an emotionally discouraging process and look forward to one day stopping it altogether.
I actually credit my milk supply increasing to Aiden being colicky – although it was super stressful, it meant he essentially cluster fed all the time. Since Damien is a more placid baby, that hasn’t been the case. While I have the help at home, I’ve been delaying bottles and extending feeding to include at least one long cluster feeding session during the day. This won’t be possible when I am on my own.
Our nights are hit and miss, so I may end up breastfeeding more during some nights. When Damien sleeps, he sleeps really well; however, if he misses his bedtime window, his whole night goes off and he ends up waking up very frequently, which means more breastfeeding and more formula. I’m trying to be careful on the timing of his last nap to ensure his bedtime is easier, but you never can account for things like explosive diapers. Those just happen. Ah, newborns.
I hate each and every bottle I have to give Damien, though I know in the end I’m doing what’s right. Sometimes self doubt crops up, particularly as people (online and off) can be so incredibly polarized on the breastfeeding issue, particularly stigmatizing those of us who need to supplement or criticizing how we choose to supplement. There are many opinions about what will affect your breast milk production and it’s all a very confusing situation – even with the help of the lactation consultant. I doubt myself often.
So, wish me luck! I will need all the support I can get to soldier through the next few weeks.
We waited a long time to meet him, but on May 20 at 8:20am, we welcomed little Damien Grayson Schweber to this world. He was born at 8lb 14oz and 53cm long (yes, bigger than Aiden).
So far, Damien is a really laid back little fellow. He sleeps better than Aiden did (provided his tummy is full) and is very low-key. He can put himself to sleep when he is put down at his preferred bedtime and is in his bassinet for most of the night (all but the last stretch, which he’s very restless for). He prefers to nap at home rather than on the go, but can nap on the go if he’s fed right before. He is rarely awake except to eat.
The majority of my baby blues have dissipated, though sometimes I get sad or frustrated when breastfeeding isn’t going as well as I had hoped. I’ve had great support thus far, though, and am settling into being a mom of 2.
Aiden is adapting to being a big brother, though it’s been slow. We’ve had many temper tantrums, but he is warming up to the idea of being a big brother. Though he hasn’t wanted to hold Damien, he has allowed me to take some photos of the two of them close together, so it’s a start!
Some day those photos will be downloaded off the camera – until then, thank goodness for iPhone photos!
Aiden has almost entirely given up breastfeeding, and I’m kind of sad about it. Since he started sleeping well, he became more of a ‘scheduled’ breastfeeder, only wanting to breastfeed at home, in his room, in his rocking chair in the morning, before his nap and before bed. Nowhere else. From time to time, he’d drop a feed or go on a nursing strike, but we’ve made it to nearly 2 years in our breastfeeding relationship.
On his own, Aiden decided he no longer wanted his pre-bed nursing session. That was probably about a year ago. He was far more interested in books! During crazy sleep times, he would still ask to nurse at night, but now he’s content just to cuddle if he’s having a really bad night and won’t settle.
A few months ago, I purposefully stopped offering to nurse Aiden before his nap. He wasn’t really drinking, just sucking, and so I couldn’t be bothered. He didn’t care. From then on, it was just a morning feed, and it’s been growing shorter for a long time now.
In the morning, it has been our routine for 2-3 months to bring Aiden to our room for a snuggle. He’ll nurse then look at some YouTube clips. Sure, it’s not as good as the morning book routine, but we read books all day, so we’re ok with it. Knowing the fun that’s coming, Aiden doesn’t nurse for long. These days, he’s effectively not nursing – just a few swallows of probably very little milk before he’s ‘all done’, but he still wants to be offered the chance to nurse.
I know he’s not really nursing anymore, but in a way he still is. And when he stops asking or I stop offering and he doesn’t notice… well, that part of our life is over. It’s kind of sad.