Milk, Milk, Milk
Whoever came up with the saying "don't cry over spilled milk" certainly wasn't a mother who breastfed. Because that sh*t's liquid gold.
My breastfeeding journey started right at the hospital when the nurses helped Beau latch shortly after he was born. My milk came in around day four postpartum, and I distinctly remember being very aware it had happened. I called my girlfriend in a panic drilling her with a million and one questions, convinced I already had clogged ducts and was on the road to mastitis, my boobs would explode and I'd just die...right then and there. Haha.. I could have possibly.. perhaps.. maybe..been a taaaad sleep deprived?? Nonetheless, thanks Sarah for calming me down. Some woman don't notice when their milk comes in, or wake in the morning and notice their breasts feel full and firm, mine came in hot some time in the late afternoon/evening and BAM I had milk. I used the app Huckleberry religiously for the first month or so as a way to keep track of the side, length and frequencies of nursing sessions. Somewhere between month two and three postpartum I stopped using the app. I found that (at that point in my breastfeeding journey) I had the hang of things and the app was actually causing me more harm than good. I found myself feeling like I had to use the app or else.. ( or else what? I'm not sure) and it got me into an anxiety-pone space that encouraged an over tracking of little things. I think it was a great app in the beginning but as a FTM, my anxieties around nursing for the right time, on the right side for the same amount of time as the other side and documenting each feeding was not good for my mental health.. and to be honest, if your little one seems satisfied post-nursing and is gaining weight well, then you know they're full and content.
There is an incredible learning curve to becoming a mother and breastfeeding is no different. I distinctly remember knowing I should nurse but didn't want to interrupt Beau in what he was doing (ie. visiting with family/friends). He seemed content and would show a sign here or there that he was getting hungry but I never wanted to be the fun-sucker who had to take Beau away for 30 minutes (nursing sessions eventually got shorter as he aged). It wasn't until there were tears of hunger and frustration that "MOM" was called over and given a raddled crying baby. Oh the things we learn as we go. Nursing a newborn who is frantic and desperate to nurse (as if they haven't eaten in days!) is TERRIBLE. Establishing a good latch while your baby is crying is nearly impossible. Whether it was an advocation thing, a comfort thing or a lack of understanding the consequences I really should have stepped up sooner and said "It's getting that time again to have some milk, I'l be back with Beau in a bit". The assertiveness of becoming a mother grows as your little one does, and I slowly started feeling more comfortable in taking ownership over my responsibilities and role as mama bear. I think often about how gracious Beau has been to me as I figure this mom thing out. How he loves me the same after the first, fifth and fiftieth mistake I've made. That kind of grace and pureness I don't deserve, and accept it with a thankful heart.
I nursed exclusively until six months, introduced solids and continued nursing along side his meals until this past week. My last nursing session was this past Saturday morning and Beau is now officially weaned two weeks before his first birthday. We rarely used a bottle (not for a lack of taking, but rather the convenience and practicality of nursing on demand), so the weaning process certainly was a mix of emotions for me and Beau... (...mostly me). I followed a very long weaning schedule of two weeks per session drop. I wanted to be kind to both myself and Beau as we adapted to the change. With each nursing session I dropped I subbed it with frozen breastmilk I had been pumping and storing in anticipation for weaning. Surprisingly the first two sessions I dropped went very well (mid-morning and then mid-afternoon). I noticed my milk supply dropped quite a bit after I cut out the two sessions and I was comfortable throughout the day and night with only two feeds (wake-up and before bed). The before bed session I dropped next, and Beau took a little longer falling asleep for about a week. He certainly was looking for a little more cuddles which I was more than willing to give. The final session I dropped was the morning, and the last few mornings have been accompanied by some tears and confusing moments but I am trying my best to comfort Beau and be close as he drinks his milk from a cup. I'm playing with the balance of being close enough for comfort while maintaining some distance as not to tease/trigger the desire to nurse. Monday morning there were tears from us both. A huge sense of guilt fell on me as I explained why I wouldn't allow him to nurse as he cried and kept reaching for my shirt. It really made me question some things because I know my "why I'm weaning" isn't very strong... because we had to wean eventually? Because I'm ready (I think) to stop? Because traditionally it's done at one and that's what you're "supposed" to do? Because I'm ready to step down from having my body on demand? Because I noticed his nursing sessions became more suckling and less eating?
This past weekend was emotional to think of officially ending breastfeeding. It's likely that fact it's birthday month and that brings on a whole other mix of emotions for mama bear. I will say these past few days my breasts have been sensitive and sore as my milk is "drying up" (I guess?). I'm feeling full but not engorged and I'm sure by the end of the week the sensitivity will disappear and I'll feel more comfortable.
I'm incredibly grateful and proud that we were able to breastfeed right up until a year. I'm thankful my experience was overall good and I continued to put in the work to maintain a great breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is a ton of work, and I used to get annoyed when mama's spoke about the unseen labor of nursing. I'd think.. yea yea we get it, but now that I'm here, pretty near a year into this gig, I fully see and appreciate those who advocate for the unseen work of breastfeeding. Not only is it physically demanding to have your body available around the clock, it's emotionally demanding as well. The woman's body is sooo incredible in how it produces milk. It literally takes your own fat and creates milk with it, which is one of the reasons it's so important to keep yourself hydrated and fed well. You're actually a milk machine... And I mean that in the highest of compliments. IT'S SO FREAKING COOL! As a mom with only one little at home I can see how as you have more children the demand of breastfeeding may feel impractical... and I hope if we expanding our family one day I will find a balance to be able to breastfeed for as long as I was able to with Beau. I will say that breastfeeding seems to be a controversial topic in the mom community. Strong opinions around measuring the quality of the mother by whether or not their children were breastfed. That's just pish posh. I think breastfed or not, mothers often take the role of nourishing their babies. I'd even go out on a limb and say those who didn't breastfeed still held the dominate role of supplying, buying, preparing, organizing, scheduling and directing all things milk. Give grace to each other and yourself, for you have no idea what is going on in someone else's world. We're all trying our best to be our best.... breast or not... ( I had to get a boob pun in here somehow).
But in all seriousness, your the mama. So you do you, boo-boo.
I've decided to link a bunch of things I've used along the way if any of you were curious or about to embark on this journey yourself.
All my love,
Medela Pump, Bra & Milk Storage Bags
Nursing Bras & Nursing Tanks ( Peak COVID time & couldn't try on - Switched to more bralette/sports bra type things that I could pull up instead of unhook and let down)
Nursing Pillow (Although often didn't use one)
Burps Clothes (Family homemade) & Muslin Blankets
Transition Cups: Munchkin, Mushie, EzPz, Minika : This & This
Nursing Info (Hunger Cues/Latching/Nursing Positions)
La Leche League (Everything Breastfeeding)
Weaning Schedule (Began at 10 months): Week 1: Mid-Morning Drop, Week 3: Mid-Afternoon Drop, Week 5: Before Bed Drop, Week 7: Wake-Up Drop