13 months and 5 days of Breastfeeding! I would have gone on much longer but due to this exciting news, I just could not cope with the drain anymore. I think he sensed it coming too as we were down to one feed a day and on a few occasions he’d gone to bed without his feed or turned away from them initially before guzzling furiously a few minutes later.
The Great yet Uncomfortable Beginning
It’s not been an easy journey. As a first time mum, I always assumed I’d breastfeed no matter what (naive I know). The first few days came as a shock to the system: the engorgement from milk coming in, nipples getting used to this new function and having to feed through the pain. I didn’t know how long this phase would last but thankfully things settled down within a week. Daddy was sent out to get nipple shields and the like. They didn’t really help but I felt better for trying!
The Challenges (poo gate, weight loss, tongue-tie etc)
He gained weight like champ (75th percentile) for the first few weeks. Then several things happened in succession that knocked me back.
He stopped pooing frequently. He could go 8 days!
Ironically, the first time I went to a baby group to get help about this, he did a poo. Not just any poo, a volcano poo. Poocano if you like. One that flowed out from the nappy onto the blanket that was wrapping him and kept going slowly after the initial eruption. Ugh!
He seemed to prefer feeding from one breast
He could only get fast-flowing milk from one side so for almost the entire duration of our journey, he’s fed from one boob. It’s led to some crazy lopsided-ness when it’s engorged but I’ll spare you the pictures
His weight dropped dramatically after the first couple of months
I panicked about this but no one else seemed bothered as he still had his wet nappies. Health visitors suggested all sorts of things like changing my diet, increasing his feed frequency etc. In the end, got his tongue-tie checked and he had 50% posterior if that means anything to anyone. He’s stayed on his lowest centile so he’s a slim baby which my arms are grateful for. Small mercies right!
Latch wasn’t completely comfortable
A few weeks in, I knew something was wrong with the latch but wasn’t sure how to fix it. I vaguely remembered the NCT lady saying that you should not feel much when he’s feeding. This got sorted after his tongue-tie was cut.
He wouldn’t take a bottle
He’s had milk from a bottle a grand total of 3 times from my mum and mother-in-law. This made feeding him expressed milk quite difficult so I didn’t bother. He’s a sippy cup guy now.
My expressed milk tasted soapy
This took me by surprise when I tasted the first ever cereal I made using breastmilk. I thought I hadn’t washed the utensils properly then I tasted the milk and it was awful. Maybe that’s why he never took to milk in a bottle. To get round it, I had to blanch it (heat it close to boiling) before refrigerating or freezing.
Just before he turned 6 months, we casually started solids but still fed on demand. However, I became irrationally sad that soon I would no longer be his main source of nutrition. Not to mention the additional task of making healthy food available for him even when all I want is a piece of toast! He still fed loads though when I was still in maternity leave so the sadness didn’t last long.
When he graduated to 3 meals a day and 2 snacks, I’m sure he would have still loved the boob but alas, he could only have them after nursery and boy did he want them!
Returning to Work as a Breastfeeding Mum
At 10 months, he started nursery but as I was still breastfeeding, I toyed with the idea of going in to feed him at lunch times. However, the settle sessions were quite traumatic so I decided to pump at work rather than disrupt his day. Thankfully, there was a breastfeeding room available with the added bonus of a massage bed. I may have taken a few naps there! At the beginning I fed him first thing, after work, bedtime then during the night. When he turned 1, I stopped pumping as he could have cow’s milk during the day so the feeds dropped to morning, bedtime and during the night. The first few days of stopping, I was a bit engorged and he desperately clawed at my chest after work but I successfully distracted him as I knew he’d been well fed during the day.
Dropping Night Feeds and Weaning
He is a terrible sleeper and everyone kept saying he was waking up for food. Are there no breastfeeding mothers with babies that sleep longer than 3 hours at a time? We decided to cut down one feed at a time. On the odd night, he’d only feed once but when he was awake at 4am, I gave in and fed him rather than go through 2 hours of a crying. On this fateful night, I felt more drained and uncomfortable than usual during the feed. It turns out it was to be his last ever boob feed and he didn’t even know it. The next day, he nozzled against my chest for his feed and I had to say no. I gave him his sippy and he would take a sip then hand it back until it was almost finished. The next night he drank it without handing it back to me. For those 2 days, my boob (yes, just the one as that’s how we roll) was slightly engorged but nothing as bad as I’m used to. On the 3rd day, it just felt full but not lumpy or painful.
How Are We Coping?
I’m sad but excited about my boy growing up. We made it through comments like “When are you going to give him proper milk?”, “He might sleep better with heavier milk.”*, “Isn’t he getting too old for breastmilk?”. Ultimately, every mother/baby combination is different and ultimately you will find your rhythm but I would suggest doing a bit of reading before you run after the latest solution. Kellymom is a good place to start but find some other resource to back it up as I don’t agree with some of the views on there.
*We tried formula at night (hungry baby version for the extra oomph) for a few days in a row and it did not make an ounce of difference (pun intended).
I won’t lie, I am currently enjoying the freedom of normal bras, no breastpads, clothes that don’t require easy access and having my chest back. He doesn’t appear to miss it too much and he has warm milk at bedtime which he is guzzling down and has started asking for it before his bedtime story. He still tugs at my heart when he tilts his head towards my chest and begins the sucking motion but the boat has well and truly sailed, until next time!