Thursday, August 2, 2012

adventures in motherhood: 62 weeks.

[Fair warning: this is a post about breastfeeding. If you are a male relative, a former student of mine, and/or somewhat squeamish, abort mission now. Otherwise, don't blame me if this is too TMI for your liking.]

I never really knew if I wanted to have children at all -- but I have always had strong convictions about what I would do if I ended up becoming a mom. One was staying home full time with them through their earliest years. The second was breastfeeding. Both of those decisions ended up rocking my world in ways I could not predict -- and 62 weeks later, as my breastfeeding relationship with Lorelei comes to a close, I'm feeling pretty proud, relieved, sad, and sentimental.

The first six to eight weeks of breastfeeding were excruciatingly difficult for me and for Lorelei -- I cringe to think about sitting alone in my rocking chair, trying for half an hour to latch her on while she cried, flailed her hands in front of her face, got such severe hiccups that nursing caused her to choke, or kept her mouth so tight that it was too painful to bear. Once I figured out the problem (OALD) and took steps to repair it, the blood and tears subsided -- and then of course came new problems: refusal to take pumped milk in a bottle, distracted nursing, biting, nursing strikes. But through it all I had my goal in mind: a full year of nursing.

Once Lorelei was 9 months old and eating three solid meals a day, I started planning for the inevitable. When she was 11 months old and still nursing 8 times every 24 hours (and sometimes more, because she was waking up so many times at night), I decided to follow the advice in my trusty copy of The Nursing Mother's Companion and start cutting out one feeding at a time, very slowly. [The part where I was supposed to replace each nursing session with a cup of milk didn't happen, but not for lack of trying.] Every two weeks, I cut out one more, until it was the beginning of July and she was down to first thing in the morning, right before bed, and once during the night. When my mom came to visit just after my brother's wedding, I figured that was as good a time as any to start eliminating the morning nursing session; I knew Lorelei would have a hard time with it, but "Gramma B" was a great distraction.

Within a week, Lorelei eliminated the nighttime feeding on her own and started taking milk from a cup. And then on Monday night, after her daddy kissed her good night and we settled in for her bedtime nursing session, Lorelei pulled away from me, crying, and I realized I wasn't letting down anymore. I gave her a cup of milk and snuggled with her for a while, then put her in her crib and she went right to sleep. And that was that.

I definitely thought I had more time -- I planned to have one last, memorable time nursing her before stopping, and I did a lot of crying on Monday night when I realized that we were done for good. But 62 weeks of being housebound out of devotion to my darling daughter was a pretty good run, I'd say. And despite giving up caffeine and alcohol, and the plugged duct, and the two bouts of mastitis, and the boxes and boxes of nursing pads and inability to wear most dresses or anything strapless, and the crazy hormonal roller coaster (especially, intensely, at first), I'm really happy that we stuck it out together.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week -- hats off to moms everywhere who breastfeed their babies for one day, one week, 3 years, and anywhere in between.


  1. Aww, I know that I will be right there with you when our nursing days are done. I'm ready to be done, but I also know that it's going to be emotional to say goodbye to that part of babyhood.

    Way to stick with it for 62 weeks! That's a major accomplishment!

  2. We ended about a month ago. I was surprisingly OK with it. Though I do often reminisce about those baby days. And although it did happen gradually, when it was over I felt like I missed that final moment too. Our babies are growing up. Happy world breastfeeding week to you as well. What a wonderful gift you were able to give to little L :)

  3. this is a very beautiful post about many aspects of breastfeeding.

    the weaning blues come and go for me as i think we're getting close to ending breastfeeding. it's not very often that ramona nurses (morning, once during the day [if that], and before bed) and we'll see how those taper off naturally. i'm looking forward to her reaching her next stage in growth and independence but i'm anticipating it will be sad for me to let go of that special bond.

    it's very nice to have this community of moms to read what everyone else goes through as well (wether it is the same or different!).

  4. I'm not sure how I'm going to react when Levi decides he's done with breastfeeding, which I think may be soon. He's losing focus and our sessions are getting shorter. I love what you wrote about the sacrifices we make to nurse--no caffeine, cute clothing, etc. All very true!

  5. I didn't realize you had such a rough start. W did, too, and I think sticking it out had a way of making the nursing relationship that much more special to you. That was the case with me anyway. Even though the end hasn't come for us just yet, I remember the first time A went to bed without nursing. I was shocked by how emotional I was!

    62 weeks is a fabulous run. I'm sure you will treasure the memories, and the benefits will be with Lorelei for the rest of her life.

  6. I *almost* cried reading your post, Courtney. I'm so thankful that I've never had any struggles with breastfeeding Charlie, and that at 57 weeks, we're still going strong with several day/night feedings. Kudos to you for sticking it out through so many tough times. What a wonderful, healthy start to life you gave your daughter. Congratulations!

    ~ Also - do you mind if I link to your post in my WBW post that I'm going to run on Saturday?

  7. Thanks so much -- Emily, I totally agree with you that this virtual community of moms has been such a lifesaver for me time and again. And despite what the media might tell you, I've only found it to be supportive! Melissa, you're totally right about how getting through the tough times made the relationship sweeter -- I'm really, really glad that I stuck with it, though I certainly understand why women don't.

  8. So proud of you for sticking with it, I remember long e-mails back and forth about it. Now you can call Ross or your mom up and go out to a fancy dinner with few glasses of wine at a reasonable hour and still get back at a reasonable time! xoxo

  9. I'm kinda sad reading this, only because I know this is coming soon for us and it's going to be hard! I hope you're having some nice glasses of wine at night and some good cups of coffee in the morning, because that is a LONG time to go without. So proud of you, and glad to know that it will all be OK when the time comes. I need to read that section of the NMC, because we are trying to cut out some nightly feedings and it is not going well!