Baby, weaned

Thursday night marked the culmination of over twenty-two months of breastfeeding.  We started our weaning journey sixteen months ago, when we offered Sir his first tastes of solid food.

While Sir was enthusiastic about solid food from the get-go, the majority of his calories continued to come from breast milk until about the 10-month mark, and the balance has continued to shift to more food, less milk ever since.

When my job ended last summer, I continued with the regularly-timed nursing sessions that made it possible for me to breast feed instead of pumping at work (i.e., he wasn’t nursing on demand, and really hadn’t (other than overnight) since I went back to work when he was 14 weeks old).  The routine feedings worked well for us, and I didn’t see any need to switch things up at that point.

Our process of eliminating milk feedings felt pretty natural.  We went from five times a day to four times a day somewhere around the 12-month mark, then dropped another feeding around 15-months when he went from two naps a day to a single nap.

We stuck with the 3-a-day routine for quite awhile.  I wanted to continue nursing through the winter sickness/germ season, and winter weather certainly encouraged snuggling up.

In March, when the time change pushed his nap wake-up time very close to the time of his afternoon [solid food] snack, I dropped the post-nap feeding.

I wasn’t really sure where we would go from there, other than knowing that breast feeding would culminate sometime before our current nine day separation.

Six or seven weeks ago, I dropped the first-thing-in-the-morning feeding.  He seemed happy enough to get out of bed, have a big drink of water, and reunite with all of his toys while I made breakfast, so we went with it.

That left us with the before-bed feeding.  I didn’t plan to continue that feeding for more than a few weeks, partly because I didn’t expect my milk supply to last with such infrequent nursing sessions.  Somehow he kept finding a bit of milk every night, and I had no compelling reason to stop nursing him, so we continued right up to the eve of his departure for Florida.

I held him a little extra long that night, gazing at his sweet face and heavy eyelids, savoring the end of this stage of our relationship.


Related post: Breastmilkin’ it

Ice, ice baby

Duh, duh-duh duh dunna duh duh.  Now that I’ve got that stuck in your head . . .

The plan for Gabriel’s milk feeds during our three-day separation last week involved frozen breast milk (fortunately, I had plenty stockpiled) and dry ice to keep the milk frozen during the eight-plus hour car ride.

Given the early Sunday morning departure time, my only option was to purchase the dry ice on Saturday night.  A bit of research suggested that somewhere between 10-20 pounds of dry ice would do the trick, and, with the heat wave in full force, I called Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (our dry ice source) four days ahead of time to make sure that picking up 20 pounds of dry ice on Saturday night wouldn’t be a problem.  The person on the phone said I couldn’t reserve it, but it would be no problem.

Worried that I would get there and find them out of dry ice, I called again on Saturday morning, hoping they would set some aside with my name on it, but again, no dice, with the same line that they would be able to fill my order when I arrived.

After we put Gabriel to bed on Saturday night, I drove over, expecting to wait in an insane line.Continue reading “Ice, ice baby”

Breastmilkin’ it

So, breastfeeding.  I may have mentioned it here in passing, but that doesn’t accurately reflect something that’s been a pretty major part of my life for the past eleven months.  Here we are, and I’ve almost made my goal of breastfeeding for the first twelve months.

In the beginning
Since the Cesarean birth was completely unplanned, I didn’t have much time to worry about the negative effect that it could have on initial breastfeeding.  Gabriel and I has a few minutes of skin-to-skin time in the OR, while I was being sewed, cauterized, and stapled back together, but he did not have the chance to latch on immediately.

When we were reunited in the recovery room an hour later (I’m not really sure how much time passed — I know Matthew was really fighting to get us together immediately), Gabriel snuggled up and latched right on.  With a bit of help from the lactation consultants in the hospital, we were off to a good start, despite our separation while he was in the NICU.

While there was some initial discomfort, I made the transition to breastfeeding fairly easily.  As for Gabriel, well, we never got around to it, but we wanted to make a custom t-shirt with “Born to Suck” printed on it.  Sir liked his mama’s milk.

Back to Work
I headed back to work when Sir was fourteen weeks old.  We intentionally chose a daycare that is literally located right across the street from my office.  With the exception of Monday when he stayed with grandma, I walked across the street and fed him during the day instead of pumping.

I honestly can’t say that I would have continued breastfeeding this long if I was pumping all the time, and my hat is off to those work-outside-the-home mothers who do so (and to those moms who stay home full time, because I don’t think I could do that, either!).

Six months and beyond
We introduced solids, using BabyLed Weaning methods, just after the six month mark.  It was a slow start, but Sir gradually became as enthusiastic about grown-up food as he was about milk.

By the time he was nine months old, we went from five to four milk feeds a day, plus three solid meals, which is where we currently stand.

Bumps in the road
My breastfeeding experience overall has been smooth and positive.  I credit the initial early help from the hospital lactation consultants and the support I received at La Leche League meetings for that.

I have had a few bouts of mastitis.  The first, and probably the worst, prompted a visit to the doctor, where I accepted, and even filled, an antibiotic prescription.  I gave myself twenty-four hours to start feeling better without the antibiotics, and, sure enough, my body cleared the infection on its own.

We’ve also gone through some rough patches with frustrating nursing strikes, mostly due to teething, I suspect.  I was tempted to call it quits during some of these periods, but I’m glad I stuck it out.

Then there was the wondering if my dairy consumption was giving him problems.  My dairy-elimination trials were inconclusive — at this point I would say that either dairy wasn’t the issue, or he outgrew it.

While breastfeeding has been a good thing overall for my mental health, I struggled at times feeling tied down, frustrated with the inability to do anything that took me away from my baby (or my breast pump) for more than three or four hours.

Size Doesn’t Matter
Though I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about my lack of cleavage (“nearly” A-cup, to be specific), I always thought I would have babies and breast feed and never really worried that my small breasts would be a problem.

Turns out, my “too small” breasts produce more than enough milk to adequately nourish a big, healthy baby.

The Future
I remember going through rough patches in the early days, telling myself that I could make it to the six month mark and then reevaluate.

Now that I’ve almost made it the full twelve months (my original, long-term goal), I’m pondering next steps.  While I won’t go cold-turkey at the twelve-month mark, neither do I see myself nursing a five-year-old.

A story from a friend inspired the title of this post.  She found her nephew (who sees her breastfeeding her baby) with a stuffed animal held to his chest.  When asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m breastmilkin’ it.”

On again, off again

Dairy has been a food group of much contention in our house over the past year.  First, Matthew tested positive for a dairy allergy (at least according to one type of test) and subsequently went on an elimination diet.  He was part way through the “challenge phase” of the diet, where you add various forms of dairy back into your diet in a specific order (ghee, butter, yogurt, hard cheese, soft cheese, milk), when The Dude came along.

We had agreed ahead of time that it didn’t make sense for him to continue with the elimination diet once the little one arrived (by that time he was up to “hard cheese” anyway), what with the influx of donated meals.  We were already specifying vegetarian meals, and adding “no dairy” on top of that seemed too complicated.

However, after a few weeks of a very fussy baby, MY dairy consumption became the focus of attention.  Certain proteins in the mother’s diet can pass undigested into breast milk and cause problems for the baby, and dairy proteins are a major culprit, although it is relatively rare (estimates from various sources range from 1 in 100 to 5 in 100).  We consumed most of the dairy-containing food in the house, and then I went cold turkey.

Eight weeks of scrupulously avoiding any dairy, including most foods prepared for us by others, restaurant meals, etc.  Eight frustrating weeks where I really wasn’t sure if it was making a difference for Gabriel, or if I was going to a lot of trouble for nothing.  And then a few weeks ago, I started adding dairy back into my diet.  Not in any particular order — just trying to avoid eating “too much” on any given day.

Since then, The Dude’s poops have taken on a strange consistency — very mucous-y, with a few little streaks of blood on occasion — and, in retrospect, he’s had more issues with gas.  At first, I chalked it up to a bit of a stomach bug, but when it continued, I looked it up, and, you guessed it, the stool changes were consistent with a dairy sensitivity.

So it’s out with the dairy once again.  I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it actually helps him, and at least this time, I have something concrete (or not) to monitor for improvement.