Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Weaning Post

    It's been about a month and a half since Perrin last nursed. He did ask a few days ago, and I responded with "I didn't think we were doing that anymore; you haven't nursed in a long time." He immediately started talking about something else. I think we are done. While it is a little weird and little sad that I am done breastfeeding, I am really excited. I was so ready to be done. Our nursing relationship was everything I could have hoped it would be, save the trouble in the beginning. I made it to my goal of a minimum of two years and letting Perrin decide when he was done. Perrin was fed completely from my body for his nine months in utero, and 7 months on the outside, and continued to receive nourishment from me until exactly three years old. And I was able to donate somewhere around 2,500 ounces of milk to other babies. So in honor of me being officially done with breastfeeding for the rest of my life, I want to do a quick review of our journey with some major highlights and favorite moments.

In The Beginning

Photo credit: Audria Abney Photography

    Perrin was born; he came to my chest. He wasn't much interested in nursing at that exact moment, and I needed some additional medical attention, so he went straight to Joey for about a half hour after he was born, then came back to me. We snuggled into bed, he latched, and nursed for about a half hour. Thus began our nursing journey. Within two days I was in a lot of pain and by the state of my nipples it was obvious something was wrong. Perrin was gaining extremely well, only losing 4 ounces and being back up over his birth weight by one week. We saw midwives and doctors and lactation consultants. Everyone had a lot of good ideas, but there was no silver bullet. But Perrin was gaining, breastfeeding was "working" in that sense, and I new if we figured it out, we'd be golden. So we kept trying. We used pumps, an SNS, compresses, gel pads, and all number of apparatuses in the beginning trying to get a handle on the problem. We slept in 45 minute increments for a few weeks, staying up 30-60 minutes in between trying to get a good feed. In the mean time, I was diagnosed with PPD. As part of my treatment we started going to parent and baby groups as well as La Leche League meet ups, and it all helped immensely. We struggled with two bouts of mastitis, a raging case of oversupply and an extremely forceful letdown. And at 9 weeks, the pain was gone, the night feeds were done lying in bed, and we found our groove.

First plane trip around 3 months

Adventures Nursing in Public

     One of my earliest vivid nursing memories is the first time I tried to nurse in public. I was averse to the idea of using a cover, as normalizing breastfeeding was very important to me. But Perrin was only about 6 days old, I was engorged and leaking, and it took a lot of work to get him on the breast. So when I sat down on the bench at the mall to nurse, I threw a blanket over my shoulder. He wouldn't latch. I was spraying milk everywhere, I couldn't get him positioned right, random employees from a nail salon were asking questions about his name and age and whatnot. And I couldn't deal. So I cried, and I went to the nursing room. And there I sat, under bright fluorescent lights, in an uncomfortable chair, in a tiny closet sized room all by myself. And I cried. This was supposed to be a village. This knowledge was supposed to be passed down through generations, perfected by women all around me who had done it all before. And I was in a room by myself. That was the one and only time I used a cover or a nursing room.

Upside down yoga snack

#NOL #nurseoutlout
     After that, we got more coordinated and got more practice in and became NIP pros. We nursed while hiking, while shopping, while doing housework. We nursed walking the dog, watching movies, chatting with friends and family. We've nursed at rock concerts (even back stage at Slipknot), Cons, and sporting events. We've nursed while swimming, while relaxing on the beach, and at grad student parties. I loved not having to pack a bag to go somewhere. The food went with us no matter what; we just had to jump in the car and go. Being able to feed Perrin anytime, anywhere with no fuss or preparation was one of my favorite things about nursing.

Beach snack

Watching Godsmack at KFMA Day

Park Snack

Zoo snack

Nursing Goten at Tucson Comicon

Waiting to meet Corey Taylor with all the other metal heads. 

Reaping the Rewards
     My other favorite thing about nursing was the health and comfort benefits it afforded us.  For me, nursing lowers my risks of different types of cancers and some later chronic illness. It also delayed my cycle for 17 months, which I consider a hella win! For Perrin, it gave him an awesome immune boost, provided tons of excellent nutrients that he needed, got him through illness and oral surgery and numerous bumps and scrapes. It was an instant comfort for him in times of fear and stress. He has a lower risk of obesity, asthma, gastro-intestinal illness, some childhood cancers, and food allergies because he was breastfeed. He's only been sick twice in his three years- one upper respiratory infection and one stomach bug. And of course, it was amazing to see that I could feed all 9lb 14 oz of him and watch him gain so well. He was in the 90th percentiles for his entire first year.

A Word About Support
     It's damn near crucial. I'm sure some people can make it work on their own, but I know I couldn't have. Joey is the sole reason I was able to successfully nurse. He was on the phone calling doctors and lactation counselors, he was on the computer reading articles and watching videos. He stayed up with me for every feeding. He went to the baby groups and La Leche Leagues. He shooed people off when they mentioned giving up, and he never for one second seemed to doubt that we were going to do this. I joke that he would make a wonderful IBCLC because he has so much knowledge and can troubleshoot a latch with the best of them!

   If it wasn't for him and all the mom groups we went to where I was able to see other women nursing and ask for tips and advice and experiences, I wouldn't have been able to do it. I cannot stress enough how important having support is, and that begins in pregnancy! This is coming from someone who swore they would never breastfeed, until of course I actually did my research preparing for having a baby. I read books and blogs and watched documentaries and spent way too much time on the internet. But having that knowledge and semi-realistic expectations was what allowed me to prepare for and deal with the problems we did end up having.

The End
    It was my goal to make until at least 2 years old (the recommended age by the AAP) and then allow Perrin to decide when he was done. I ended up being a little more hands on with the weaning process than I intended to be, but overall we met our goals. After a one year, he was still nursing much more than I had expected, but I knew that it was still within the realm of normal and I really didn't want to make any adjustments. While some kids handle limits on nursing fine, for others it initiates weaning and I didn't want to compromise our two year goal. But after two years, I developed a nursing aversion- where you have a negative physiological and/or psychological reaction to nursing. I'm not sure if it was because I had reached my goal and felt "done" or if it was just coincidence, but around 26 months we began toying around with some adjustments to our nursing.
     I was hoping to reduce frequency and night wean (no longer nurse him during the night), but he wasn't very receptive to either. However, I found reducing the length of our nursing sessions went over well, so we went with that. I'd allow him to nurse whenever he wanted, but we generally nursed for less than a minute, except at nap and before bed. Then around 28 months, he slept though the night for the first time. He didn't do it consistently, but I used that as a cue to move on with the weaning process.
    By 30 months, he was more receptive to me reducing the number of nursing sessions. We began nursing only before and after nap and before and after night sleep, making exceptions for boo-boos or other stressful situations. He still asked to nurse during the night, but less often and it was about 50/50 whether or not I could get him to go to back to sleep without. From then on, he completely took over the weaning process.
18 months
   He started dropping our nursing sessions- first the morning, then before and after nap so by the end he was only nursing before bed. He also began sleeping through the night more consistently and not asking to nurse even when he did wake. By about 34 months, he would sometimes go several days in between nursing. We took family pictures before his birthday and I realized half way through it was the first time we wouldn't be taking nursing pictures. I thought about asking him if he wanted to try only to realize it would have been impossible for me to nurse in my dress. We were already at the point where it wasn't part of our everyday. He asked to nurse about two days before his third birthday and I managed to get a quick picture. At this point he was averaging about a week in between, so I was surprised when asked again just two days later. But it was his birthday, so I didn't mind. That was the last time he nursed.

The last nursing picture ever taken, his second to last nursing session. 
    So while it is a little sad to realize that that part of my life is over, it makes it so much easier knowing how much all of our hard work and dedication paid off and what a huge part it was in Perrin's infancy and toddlerhood. Nursing is by far the hardest thing I have ever done and I am damn proud to have done it.

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