. . . for Lauren and Lauren: My breastfeeding journey

March 29, 2015

My breastfeeding journey

Last week I shared about my breastfeeding journey on Julie's blog, girl in the red shoes.  I've loved reading all of her breastfeeding diaries since Addilyn has been born.  It's amazing to me what a wide range of stories there are and that every mom and baby are so different.  What works for one pair won't work for another.  That is a good reminder to me that we just have to keep doing what is best for us, not just in breastfeeding. Having a community of moms can be so wonderful when you stop comparing yourself to everyone else, and just appreciate everyone's stories. It's also a blessing to find someone who can offer you advice, relate to your story and share in your experience.  

I was a little hesitant to share my story as breastfeeding feels like such a personal and emotional experience to me.  One that I did not expect to be a huge part of motherhood for me this long.  But as I said above, I've loved reading other's stories and I think there are lessons in sharing your own too. Here's what I wrote on her blog. . . . 

Hi there!  I'm Katie and I blog at for Lauren and Lauren, and am mom to 20 month old Addilyn.  I'm excited to share on Julie's blog, as I have loved reading everyone's stories.  It's wonderful when you can find someone who can relate to you, especially when it comes to such a personal and emotional thing as motherhood.  But it's also amazing to see how every mom and baby are so different, yet we're all doing what is best for our babies and families.  

Before Addilyn was born I honestly didn't have a whole lot of set plans on how I would parent. I knew we'd love our baby like crazy and do our best to teach her the important things like to love God and love others, but I honestly didn't know how we'd handle all the other things.  Like how our routines would work, how sleep would (or wouldn't!) happen, or when I'd be ready to leave her for long periods of time.  I did, however plan on breastfeeding, although I knew very little what to expect or how long I would do it.  

My labor was really rough, and I had always imagined the doctor putting Addilyn on my chest right away, then nursing her soon after.  After a crazy long labor, she came out and wasn't breathing, so within minutes the room was filled with extra doctors and I didn't get to see her for the first 30 minutes.  Thankfully after that she was put on my chest and latched on right away.  I still think it is so amazing that babies know exactly what to do.  I felt incredibly out of it after she was born and it all just felt like such a blur.  I think my labor was a little traumatizing to me and I just felt so exhausted and overwhelmed.  I so badly wish I could go back to those first moments with her.  

The next morning Addilyn tested positive for jaundice and she was put under the lights in the NICU.  I was devastated.  Looking back I know there are so many worse things that could happen, but I felt so sad that I couldn't hold her and that we couldn't go home right away.  I was allowed to take her out to nurse, but my milk wasn't coming in and she seemed hungry and frustrated and it was so far from easy and relaxing.  Because of her jaundice they wanted her drinking to flush out her system so they wanted to give her formula.  I was so worried that if they did she wouldn't want to nurse and we wouldn't have that bonding, especially since she was under the lights most of the time.  The lactation consultants at the hospital were amazing.  They put a little tube into the formula bottle then put the other end near my nipple so Addilyn thought she was nursing, but was getting formula.  They only had to do this a few times until the next day when my milk finally came in.  Of course while I was yet again crying to the lactation consultant that I was worried something was wrong.  Pregnancy and post pregnancy hormones are crazy, right?! So many tears. 

Addilyn had to stay two extra nights in the hospital and we had to go home without her, which was so hard,  Again, I know moms have to go through so much worse and I'm grateful our time there was so short.  But it was hard to drive home without her.  I had no idea how painful the first stages of nursing would be.  The first few nights (especially the ones when she was in the NICU) I was incredibly uncomfortable.  I pumped a handful of times and had a ton of milk right away.  Which was great because they were able to give her bottles overnight, and I started with extra milk.  Quickly I learned that if anything I had an oversupply of milk.  I always felt "full" and had no problem pumping 4 ounces in between feedings.  I didn't pump all too often as I was staying home with Addilyn and if I left I did right after nursing her.  She would take a bottle, but never the whole thing and sometimes she wouldn't drink it at all.  We weren't super consistent with giving them to her and it really was hit or miss if she would take it.

I honestly can't remember the first few weeks in terms of nursing, except that you do it all the time.   I'd sit on the couch for hours and I look back and feel so thankful for all those hours.  I had an awful recovery and I don't know how I would have managed taking care of other kids or other responsibilities.  It wasn't until three months that I started thinking more about a schedule in terms of feeding.  Before that I'd nurse when she'd cry, nurse her to sleep,and hold her for all of her naps. After the first month and a half of very little sleep, Addilyn would usually only wake up once around two or three, eat and sleep till early morning, nurse again and sleep another hour or so.  I felt so lucky.  She seemed like a great eater, was gaining weight great and nursing was pretty easy.  Still time consuming, but I was home with her all the time and it felt easy.  Again, I wish I could go back to that time for even just a day.  I miss her tiny newborn self and those hours of laying together.  

Around three months I started working on a more eat, play, sleep schedule to help with her napping on her own.  Especially after we hit the dreaded four month sleep regression.  She went from waking up once to waking up every hour to hour and a half.  I felt so tired and didn't want to let her cry so I would just nurse her every time.  It was exhausting.  Looking back I don't even know how hard I tried to do something other than nurse her when she woke up.  It felt like the easiest and quickest solution for us both to get back to sleep! Finally around six months I felt like I was barely sleeping and we dealt with some tears from both of us, and went down to two feedings a night which sadly felt heavenly! 

Around nine months Addilyn, who had been in the 90th percentile for height and weight until this point, dropped to the 40th and then to the 20th at her next appointment.  She wasn't too interested in baby food and I felt like I was constantly pushing her to nurse or eat so that she'd gain weight.  She was always an active baby and got easily distracted.  She was still waking up twice at night and although still anxiously awaiting full nights of sleep, I felt like at least she was getting in extra calories.  Our pediatrician had us go through a ton of scary tests, that looking back seem so unnecessary, but she had us worried something was wrong as to why she wasn't gaining weight.  She suggested once or twice trying formula, but I was so sure that I had an oversupply of milk and felt like that wasn't the issue.  

Long story short, we determined Addilyn most likely has had acid reflux her whole life. We ended up switching pediatricians as I felt like this is something she should have caught early on, and could have spared us from a lot of stress and a whole lot of money for the tests we went through.  Again, looking back I feel like there were plenty of signs, but I had no idea as a first time mom.  She spit up all the time, slept way better prompt up, was a pretty awful sleeper most of her life and wasn't gaining weight.  I know so many of those are common newborn and baby symptoms so I had no idea.  But within a month of being put on medicine she gained over a pound and a half and we were so relieved. 

Before Addilyn was born I assumed I would nurse her until a year and then quit sometime around there.  I did not expect it to be a battle or to have mixed feelings about it.  It's ironic to me because when Addilyn was a baby she was never a comfort nurser.  I tried to nurse her when she would get her shots or would be crying for something else and it would make her more upset.  But as she passed 14 months, nursing became a huge source of comfort.  She went from never initiating nursing to asking and saying "nurse" all the time.  We were nursing when she woke up, before bedtime, twice during the night and then a few times during the day.  

Around 17 months I felt exhausted from nursing her twice a night and was ready to be done and ready to get a full night's sleep!  I started to feel frustrated with nursing as it felt like her only source to sleep during the night and I thought in order to cut that out, we'd have to be done altogether.  I was dreading cutting out those feedings and was sure it would be hours of tears, as we've already had our share of bedtime and sleep battles with plenty of tears.  I was relieved that after a few weeks she finally started sleeping through the night. With not too many tears and a whole lot of singing and rocking, she stopped asking to nurse when she woke up at night. A few weeks later she stopped waking up during the night, and now most nights now she sleeps all night and I can't tell you how happy it makes me.  

I thought night weaning would be the hardest and the others would eventually fade out, but here I am, still nursing my 20 month old morning, night and usually one or two times during the day.  And if it were up to her I'd probably be nursing many more times a day.  I feel ready to be done, yet the thought of being done makes me sad too.  We struggled with infertility for a few years before we were given Addilyn and I don't know if I'll ever get to breastfeed a baby again.  I think the idea of her being done makes me sad that this stage is over.  Yet I am so ready to completely have my body back and the freedom that comes with that.  It's crazy to me how many emotions have come with breastfeeding.  

I don't know how we'll approach weaning.  She does completely fine when I'm not around or when my husband puts her to bed, but will cry and say "mama, nurse please?" (which just about breaks my heart at the thought of saying no) if I try to not nurse her before we read our stories and she goes to bed.  I would love it if it would just happen on it's own, but right now she doesn't show any signs of weaning.  I don't want it to be too hard on either of us, so right now I'm just waiting it out until I have a better plan, and enjoying the extra months of bonding time I have with her.  If you've been through the weaning process with a 20 month old or close to it please share!

If I've learned one thing about motherhood it's that you have no idea what it's going to be like until you experience.  You can't imagine how much love you'll have for your baby, and you have no idea how you'll navigate each stage, breastfeeding being one of them.  And that every mom and every baby is different and you just do what is best for you and your baby.  I get nervous thinking about how hard weaning will be on Addilyn, but I know I need to do what is best for me too, and that we'll work through it together whenever that time comes.  And with getting through hard things, better things come.  And with letting go and moving past wonderful stages, there are more wonderful stages to look forward too.  

Thanks for sticking with me and reading my lengthy post!  Check out a ton of other sweet mamas and their stories here!


JJ said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

This is a beautiful story Katie! Thank you for sharing. My daughter is almost 22 months. At about 20 months, she was still nursing morning and before bed, and maybe once during the night. I had been ready to wean for several months, but like you, struggled with infertility and didn't know if I would ever have this chance again, so didn't push it. Over about a week, she just starting nursing for less and less time...5 minutes, then 4, then 3, then 2 and then very short times, which she did for about a month and then stopped completely -- all on her own. She does occasionally still ask for "milk" and if I put her to my breast, she will latch on and then immediately say "no". It does kinda break my heart, but I'm glad I let her make the decision on her own, vs. me forcing it. Good luck -- you will know what is right for the two of you!

Christina said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

I'm still nursing my 20 month old. I'm hoping to make it until 2 years old before I think about weaning. My daughter is a really wiggly, busy toddler and I love the snuggles and quiet that nursing gives us these days. I'm sure everything will work out for you and your daughter. You are awesome for nursing this long! There are still benefits to breastfeeding for both of you, so there's no harm in taking your time with the weaning process.

maria said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

I love this! I breastfed Micha until he was about 16 months, that's when I got pregnant with Adam, and it wasn't the easiest journey. He was so impatient I think I might not have had enough for his appetite. I love that you're so instinctive with breastfeeding (ie not trying to force on some kind of schedule, but nursing when it feels right) I'm the same way! I'd rather just nurse adam at night when he's crying, it's easier and we both get more sleep that way.
However I totally understand the mixed feelings, loving nursing Addilyn but also wanting your body back, I'm in the same boat! (and Adam's only 9 months) Just keep following your instincts and try not to compare your journey to others (so hard!) xo Maria

Kayla MKOY said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

While I'm not a mother yet, this is so beautiful to me! You are so right that every mother/child's journey is different. I hate that you had such a scary labor, but look how sweet and wonderful your little gal is!!!

J and A said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

You are amazing Katie. You are just doing what is best for you and that sweet girl of yours. You will look back and love the journey. Just take it one day and a time and it will all fall into place.

Jessica Thibaudeau said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

I love this and can relate to so much. I'm still nursing Aubree who is 22 months old. She is still waking up at night and wants to nurse often throughout the day. I have mixed emotions about stopping, one day I'm ready and the next I can't imagine being done. I would love to hear if you have any advise on night weaning. I know it would be better for both of us to stop waking up during the night but I'm too chicken to actually try. Thanks for sharing!

Liesel said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

I'm nursing my fourth (3 months old...) and my others who have weaned (at 6 months, 27 months and 22 months, respectively) have all weaned on their own. I loved nursing them, and knew it was beneficial for as long as they wanted to, but I would get tired, and be ready to be done :) I wasn't willing to make it stressful for either of us, so I just let them wean when they were ready. I got to the point where I would never offer, but I wouldn't say no if they asked. Even if we'd been nursing routinely at certain times, I just would wait for them to ask. One more thing...with each one, it seems like they're going to be nursing FOREVER, and then, all of a sudden it's over. Time really does fly.

the girl in the red shoes said... Best Blogger TipsBest Blogger Templates

Thanks for sharing your story with my readers! You are an amazing mom and I know the two of you will figure out together when it's best to stop nursing!