Weaning is Bittersweet

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.

A Car Seat Milestone

Though it is really just a convenience, I’m going to mark it as a milestone. Since our car went out for service today, when it came back we decided to flip Aiden’s car seat to forward facing. Though our model of car seat can be rear facing until 40lbs, 20lbs past the legal requirement (if baby is past 12 months), Aiden’s long legs have been seeming cramped. So, we flipped him around:

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He’s taking one nap. Down to breastfeeding just 2-3 times a day (morning, before nap, 1 time at night if he wakes). Where did my baby go??

*sniff*

Food Obsessions

Mr. OctoberWhen 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.

Not Quite Weaning

Happy babyAs 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.

Time to Wean

Water babyI 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.