When it comes to feeding Zayden, I have had a few obsessions in the past year.
My first obsession was breastfeeding. I was fortunate to have a baby with a good latch and a good milk supply—sometimes too good. Sometimes my letdowns would come so fast and furious that Zayden practically drowned every time he ate. I would experiment with different positions to try to minimize the milk flow and make things less overwhelming for him. Between feedings I would analyze how the latest position had worked and try to decide if I should use it again at the next feeding or try something new. On top of that I had the same internal dialogue that all moms new to nursing have: Am I nursing him too often? Not enough? How much milk is he actually getting? Do I have enough milk to pump some and save it for later?
By the time we introduced solid foods, I had learned to take the ups and downs of breastfeeding in stride. But when we introduced solids, I developed a new obsession: Zayden’s iron intake. I read labels and learned the iron content of many foods. Any day that he rejected meat I would worry that he was going to be anemic. But soon these worries past and I began to trust that as long as I offered him a variety of foods and he ate well most days of the week, we were probably covered in the iron department.
Now that I have completely weaned him, I am obsessed with his milk intake once again, but this time I am counting the ounces of whole milk he drinks each day. According to my sources, he is supposed to drink about 16oz. a day, but I’m lucky, most days, if he’ll drink 10. But I am trying to resist the urge to begin obsessing and fretting again. My new mantra is, “Whatever he won’t drink, he can eat” and we give him yogurt and cheese a lot for snacks to make up for what he lacks in milk.
Yesterday, during Aiden’s 12-month check-up, I had confirmation that my Doctor is, indeed, anti-breastfeeding. I had suspicions before, after she quickly put Aiden on formula at 3 days old and when, at 6 months old, she urged me to add a bottle of formula back into his day just for the “added benefit.” We didn’t, of course, since he was breastfeeding just fine. But, yesterday trumped all.
The doctor began innocently enough, asking if I had yet started Aiden on whole milk. I said I had not, but was considering adding some into his day either with meals or after naps. I said I planned to continue breastfeeding. To that statement, she said things such as…
“It’s unfortunate that Canada has adopted the WHO standard to breastfeed past 1 year.”
“If you don’t wean at one-year, you may have a boy who is still breastfeeding in pre-school.”
“He needs 20oz of milk per day to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Cheese and yogurt are not enough. How do you know how much breastmilk he’s getting? Do you measure it? He is probably only getting 2oz per feed, and that’s definitely not enough.”
“In Africa, mothers breastfeed because they have to. In an industrial society, we have the opportunity to do better by our children.”
“Past 4 months, babies have all the antibodies they need from breastmilk and that’s enough.”
And what does she justify her opinions on? Her 18 years of experience. She doesn’t acknowledge the bodies of research that indicate that breastfeeding is highly beneficial for both mom & baby.
Sure, I’m open to adding in whole milk. I know Aiden doesn’t always nurse well during parts of the day. But I think it’s highly irresponsible for a Doctor to imply that it is unnecessary to continue breastfeeding my baby.
We’ve had a lot of ups and downs with this breastfeeding thing. You were very good at nursing, right from day 1, even though it took Mommy some time to make all the milk you wanted. You kept at it and, really, it was your favourite thing to do. You even did it while sleeping.
Now you’re almost one year old, a toddler!, and I plan to keep right on breastfeeding you – even though 12 months was my initial goal. However, I’d like to ask that you refrain from the following:
- Biting me. I know you don’t do this often, but I’m not a toy or a teether.
- Pinching me. I know that roll of fat that gets created when I hunch over is quite appealing, but mommy doesn’t love being pinched.
- Giving me a dental exam. My teeth are just fine, I just saw a dentist. No need to go poking around.
- Cleaning my nose. I prefer a Kleenex.
- Pulling my hair. I know you think it’s pretty, but you need to be gentle with Mommy like you’re gentle with the cats.
- Making me do gymnastics to nurse you. I already go to the gym, so I’d prefer if you nurse in the position you’re put in rather than squirming and kicking and rolling, making me shift and move to nurse you.
- Nursing only on the left side. The right side is perfectly acceptable too and it really misses you.
I know our days are probably past when I can just nurse you anywhere and anytime. Nursing can be a very special time together, so please just enjoy it! I hope we can continue to enjoy these moments together for some time. Just… please remember I’m not a toy.
As I posted yesterday, I was struggling with the possibility that I might need to wean Zayden before I really wanted to. When I was at the JBCC drop-in today, I decided to talk to Kit, my favourite public health nurse, about the situation. She gave me some information that really helped me put things in perspective. Just because my milk supply is decreasing doesn’t mean I’m stuck in an either/or situation where I either fight my body to build up a supply or switch entirely to formula. I can do both.
First she told me, that weaning him off breast milk completely probably wasn’t the best option as long as I was still producing a fair amount of milk because he can still benefit from the milk that I have until he is well over a year. She gave me a couple of options if I felt he needed more than the milk I was able to produce. The first was to increase the amount of solids I was feeding him, so that he would no longer seem frustrated and unsatisfied when my milk ran out. But given that he already eats quite a large volume of solid food, that is probably not the problem. She then advised me to supplement his breastfeeding with formula when I felt it was warranted. She also said that I didn’t necessarily need to bottle feed him. Instead I can offer him formula in a cup along with his meals or after a breastfeeding session.
It’s not quite the breastfeeding scenario I imagined, but it feels like a better option than giving up completely…at least for now. I know that in a few months time, I will be going back to work and will have to reduce his feedings then. But I can live with delaying the inevitable a little bit longer.
I decided to breastfeed my son for the health benefits, but what began as an intellectual decision quickly became an emotional journey as I bonded with my child through the simple act of feeding him. Breastfeeding was the solace of those hectic first weeks of his life; when I needed a reprieve from the frequent visitors, I would take him into another room where it was quiet and we could be alone for a few moments while he nursed. Those same quiet moments in the middle of the night made all the fractured sleep worthwhile. Overwhelmed and exhausted, breastfeeding forced me to stop, sit down, hold my child in my arms and just enjoy him.
But as his first birthday approaches, I find myself wrestling with the issue of weaning. When to do it? How to do it? How will I know when and how to do it?
I’ve read a little bit about the process. As a baby’s solid food intake increases, a natural weaning process begins because the baby no longer needs as many calories from breast milk. That being said, babies still get some of their nutrition from breast milk or formula until one year of age, when they can be weaned onto whole milk–though there are sources out there that encourage mothers to breastfeed at least a few times a day for as long as possible (up to 5 years).
I knew I would never be the kind of mother to fall into the latter category. I always said I wanted to stop breastfeeding before Z was old enough to unhook the nursing bra himself, but I planned to nurse him until he was at least a year old. Once I returned to work I still planned to nurse in the morning and evening until it felt like the “right time” to eliminate breastfeeding altogether. Because of that belief, it has been very difficult and emotional for me to admit that the time to wean my son may have arrived sooner than I expected.
Probably the first sign that weaning time was approaching was Zayden’s decreased interest in nursing. It has been months since I’ve thought of breastfeeding my son as a special time that we share together. The cuddly infant who used to relax and nuzzle at my breast is long gone. Even in a quiet room without distractions, he no longer settles at the breast. He pulls off repeatedly, often trying to sit up or crawl away throughout the feeding, but if I mistake one of these escape attempts for a signal that he is all done before he is actually finished, he’ll cry. It makes for a very confusing and frustrating process.
I have also had several signs that my milk supply is not what it used to be. I have not felt engorged in months–even when I miss a feed. I can no longer pump sufficient milk to leave him a bottle when we go out for the evening. At one time, I could pump 4-6 oz. of milk in a 20 minute pumping session. Now I get less than an ounce in the same amount of time. We’ve resorted to using formula when we leave Zayden with a sitter. But the clearest sign came when I had to start supplementing some of my breastfeeding sessions with formula. It doesn’t happen every day, but sometimes I feel like I don’t have any milk left, and I can no longer hear him swallowing, but he will keep pulling off the breast and crying in frustration before trying to nurse some more. The first time this happened, I decided to offer him some of the formula we had on hand for babysitters, and he gulped down 6 ounces! So far I’ve only had to supplement a handful of feedings, but the need to supplement has become a more frequent occurence.
The final push to start weaning came when I got sick recently. I’m guessing it was a case of the flu (fever, muscle aches, sore throat, total lack of energy, etc.). Whatever it was, I spent most of the Thanksgiving long weekend in bed feeling miserable. To help me get extra sleep, my husband got up in the wee morning hours with our teething son and gave him a bottle of formula instead of waking me for his 5am feeding. 5 days in to this morning bottle routine, I feel like I should just accept that this is the first breastfeeding session that he’s dropped and that instead of trying to go back and rebuild my already dwindling milk supply, I should just continue down this path that I’ve been trying to avoid.
Admitting that my baby no longer needs my milk the way he once did is hard. Weaning my son means leaving that special bond from his baby days behind and watching him take one more step towards independence.