Let me preface this by acknowledging that my parenting methods and experiences are mine alone, and I recognize that decisions surrounding breastfeeding are deeply personal. No matter what science or an outspoken friend/family member says, only you can choose whether or not to breastfeed, for how long, etc., based on what works for your health and lifestyle.
Some of you might think I’m crazy for nursing for a year, while others will think I’ve stopped too early. I’m sure you’re all lovely people, but your opinions on my choices really don’t matter. All that matters is that my family is happy and healthy as a direct result of the choices we’ve made, and I’m really proud of us.
My breastfeeding journey in a very large nutshell:
Week 1-6: I know why people choose not to do this.
Through month 3: Breastfeeding feels like a leash tying me to my child. I can’t take most medicine or have a glass of wine without considering if it’s sharable with a tiny baby.
3-6 months: Breastfeeding is easy and convenient – no dealing with bottles, etc., but I’m glad to say I’m almost halfway though my goal of nursing for a year.
Months 6-11: I love this! I know I said I was only going to do it for a year, but we’re both really enjoying it, and it’s so much easier now. We’re just not ready to stop. Besides, it’s only 4-5x a day, and I can always choose to give him food instead if need be.
What a difference a week makes…
Month 11 I took a 1-week trip to Colorado sans hubby. My son was on my boob like crazy, and his teeth tended to linger as he got lazy. By the time I returned, I was ready to reclaim my tatas.
I needed to make a plan and stick with it because we have another trip coming up at the end of this month. I don’t think it’s wise to ask a baby to tackle multiple adjustments at once.
At the time I started weaning my son was nursing 5x a day; roughly – 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm, and once during the night. During weaning, we’ve alternated bottles between whole milk and formula in order to gradually introduce cow’s milk to his digestive system. He’s done great, showing no preference, and with no negative reactions. We weaned gradually over 3 weeks.
The first nursing session that became a bottle was 3pm. We started with my husband giving him a bottle on day one. He fought it, but was happy to drink it once he took it. The same thing happened when I gave it to him the next day. Day 3, he took the bottle with ease.
After taking the bottle so easily on day 3, we decided to drop the 11am the next day. He took it, no issue, opening his mouth as soon as he saw it.
After 2 days with an 11am and 3pm bottle, middle of the night feedings became bottles, too. I left a diluted bottle in the fridge for my husband so I wouldn’t give in while in a sleepy state, and my son went along with it. Not having mommy or getting to nurse in the middle of the night made waking up in the middle of the night less enticing, which was also good, and a long time coming.
After a week (we were now a total of 2 weeks into weaning), I dropped the 7pm session. Honestly, I thought I might cry. This was always my favorite session; however, in case my milk started to dry up once going to only one nursing session in a 24-hr period, I didn’t want to worry he wasn’t getting enough right before bed. If he had fought the bottle, I probably would have given in, but he didn’t, so I felt good about the decision. That was three nights ago.
The first night he didn’t nurse, he also didn’t sleep well, which has been pretty typical. Although, since we’d been diluting bottles more and more each night, we were able to see that he didn’t need the calories, so we stuck to our guns and didn’t feed him.
The second night, he slept 12 hours straight, which had never happened.
The third night, he woke up after 9 hours, but was fine to go back to sleep with only a little water.
I’m currently still nursing in the morning, and I’m not sure when I’ll stop. I could go on for a while, for a couple more days, or it could be determined by when my ducts decide to stop making milk. Time will tell, and I know my son will do great when that day comes.
Because I weaned my son gradually, and I wasn’t an over-producer (which bothered me at times when I wanted to pump), I never needed to pump/express when I transitioned him to a bottle. Not pumping ended up keeping me honest to my plan so I couldn’t easily fall back into it. For once I was happy to make “just enough.”
I’m happy I chose to do this when I felt it worked for us, not when someone else told me I should. I’m proud I did it this long, but I also feel surprisingly good about the transition. All around, it has been a really positive experience for me, one I look forward to sharing with our next child. Even weaning has gone better than I anticipated.
If there’s anything I hope other’s gain from this, it’s to keep going during those first few months when it feels like a chore. If I stopped when it wasn’t any fun, I would’ve missed out.
Tomorrow is my son’s 1st birthday. I’ll raise a glass, without worrying about what’s in my bloodstream – thus in my milk, and toast to all the learning, growth and joy we’ve experienced. What a year it has been!