Breastfeeding Evolves

On the real tip, I don’t like breastfeeding Jack anymore. It’s hard to say it. That’s my precious first born. The one who made me a mother. The one who showed me the beauty in breastfeeding. First, breastfeeding was the thing I wanted most in life. Then when I got it I was the happiest I had ever been. And 3 years later it’s now the most frustrating and emotionally overwhelming thing I have ever experienced. Breastfeeding evolves, like everything else.

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It all comes down to this Nursing Aversion. For Jack, breastfeeding is everything. It’s how he eats, drinks, gets comfort, heals from a fall, finds security, falls asleep. I can go on and on. For Jack breatsfeeding has always been the answer to everything. He is 3 years old and for 3 years it’s been almost all he knows. That is what I loved the most about it. It gave Jack everything that he could ever need or want.

Since late in pregnancy I began to experience Nursing Aversion. I am resisting the urge to explain what it is again because I already did that here. But it is an extremely intense emotional, physical and psychological reaction to breastfeeding. It’s annoyance, creepy-crawly, anger, anxiety, toe-curling, shiver-inducing, wall-punching, hair-pulling, want-to-run-through-a-brick-wall all wrapped into one. It is not pain. I crave pain. This is something else. It starts the second he latches on and goes away as soon as he lets go. It’s like nothing I could ever really explain in words. It didn’t happen regularly at first. I was hopeful it was a one-time thing. But it has become regular. And it has not dissipated since the birth of Exley 2 months ago as I hoped. (However, there is a theory that Nursing Aversion is related to hormonal changes during pregnancy and postpartum so maybe it will get better with time. Fingers crossed.)

I love breastfeeding Exley. I don’t feel that with him. Maybe a little of the nipple sensitivity, but none of the crazy emotional stuff. With such a crazy household these days it’s a great way for me to find the time to connect with Exley. Jack has adjusted to the tandem feedings, but Exley doesn’t seem to like it. He tends to get really fussy when Jack is latched on. Maybe he can sense I become uneasy; who knows. But I try not to feed them at the same time much anyway. I only do it when I have no other option.

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I hear from people “maybe it’s time to wean him.” My first reaction to that is this. My second is “seriously? You don’t think I thought of that?!” I don’t get it. For me weaning is not just waking up one day and telling him “hey kid, the tap is dry.” I have to think of it from his perspective and work with him. If breastfeeding is truly everything to Jack then I can’t take that from him without giving him something to replace it with. There has to be a balance between his needs and my own. Shortly after Exley’s birth I decided I would put up limits and boundaries around breastfeeding Jack. I tried to knock it down to 3 times per day (Jack amped up his nursing late in pregnancy and has not changed since-honestly the kid will nurse all day if I let him). But with the recent arrival of a new sibling and his world turning upside down this was too much of a shock. He had an extreme emotional reaction to this. Temper tantrums, hitting me, losing sleep, etc. Now I see that I need to go a bit slower considering everything he has gone through.

I still limit the frequency a bit by using distraction or simply saying “no” and helping him through his reaction to it. What I do more is allow him to nurse and tell him that he can nurse for 1 minute. When the minute is almost up I count to ten and he has to let go. Usually he complies. If he refuses to let go I do it for him. I explain this is my body and I am deciding it is time to let go. (I figure this helps him to learn about protecting his own body as well). Sometimes he lets go before the minute is up. Maybe he is just making sure I won’t say “no” and that is comfort enough. I also have tried to introduce him to new foods, have his favorite foods around and even some treats. I always make sure to have plenty of water for him. I validate his feelings that it is hard to see a new baby having boobie all the time. I also explain that he is a growing boy who needs food that the baby can’t have. I make sure we get out of the house as much as we can. We go to playgrounds and parks every day to meet up with our neighborhood friends. Here is more about making weaning positive.

During the nursing sessions I try to use distraction for myself such as playing on my phone. I put counter-pressure on my boob, pushing it into Jack’s mouth to dull some of the sensation. I have gone so far as to pinch myself. I try to get plenty of rest (LOL), drink tons of water, not nurse them both at the same time, deep breathing and techniques learned when preparing for labor. Here is more about dealing with Nursing Aversion.

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Having said all of this it remains the most stressful time ever in this house. Putting up boundaries for me only leads to dealing with the emotional backlash from Jack. I get it. It’s the most stressful time in his life too. He still has the occasional temper tantrum when I say “no.” He still hits me on occasion. Becoming so frustrated and confused at how to deal with his feelings. I try not to take it personally. I try to stay calm. I try to help him express his feelings. I try.

We have also been working with Jack to learn new ways to cope with emotions. We have been working on identifying feelings. Encouraging crying, talking and yelling. Encouraging him to get more involved with things like puzzles, dancing, rough-housing, play-doh, truck parties, drawing, reading, painting, playing with oats, learning jokes, etc. All the things that we normally do, but making a point to initiate these things everyday so that there is less time to get bored and turn to nursing. It’s all developmentally normal stuff. These changes in our home have just made us look at them with more thoughtfulness.

I remember all of the comments from you ladies like “my babe self-weaned at 2 ½!” Ugh! I envy you! I honestly think Jack will nurse until he is 7 years old. I mean right now I hope not, but if it gets better I am happy to do it. Or maybe he will follow my current lead and go down the path of weaning now. I try to just take it day by day because thinking of the long-term is too stressful. Plus, I have gone through so many changes during my breastfeeding relationship with Jack there is no reason to believe it might not change again. I would love to love it again.

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I truly believe that weaning will take months if not longer to do gently. Jack has turned to nursing to deal with the recent changes in his world, he is an extremely sensitive guy and I feel I must be thoughtful and gentle with this at the same time as putting up boundaries for myself. We don’t plan to have more kids, but if we do I won’t choose tandem nursing again. It’s funny to me now to look back at how much I wanted this. I wanted it so bad.

I try to keep it in perspective. This is a small snippet of our life. Most of the time we have a great time. And this too shall pass. I am also learning that everything changes. Everything.

Abby Theuring, MSW

If you are experiencing Nursing Aversion consider joining this Facebook support group.

Breastfeeding My Preemie

By Badass Courtney

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The day William was born. 

When I got pregnant with my rainbow baby (baby after my miscarriage) I was so excited and scared. I knew I wanted to breast fed. I assumed I would have a normal pregnancy and breast feeding would just be simple and easy. I mean it’s natural right? Well, on April 3rd my little boy made his entrance 9 weeks early (31weeks 4days). I was devastated. He was sick, needing oxygen to breath and IV’s nonstop. I knew this would change my whole breastfeeding experience. I had him all natural (even though he was small this still makes me proud of myself) at 8:08pm. He was beautiful, came out whining to my surprise. They kept him in the room for about 7 or 8 minutes. He was kept on his cord a little longer than typical. They told me that was good for him. I never got to hold him in the delivery room. They let me touch him before taking him away to NICU. I touched his little foot. They told me I had to wait at least an hour before I could be wheeled down to go see my little boy. When I saw him for the first time I cried. I’m not one to cry in front of others, it was so hard seeing this little boy hooked up. I never saw a preemie or inside of a NICU before him.

aetyuFirst day attempting to breastfeed William.

Around 10:30 the lactation consultant came and talked to me. I was told he was way too little and sick to breastfed or bottle fed any time soon. I pumped for an hour and 45 minutes that night. I got an ounce of colostrum. I walked it to the NICU that night. I didn’t care I was sore; I wanted my son to have it. I wanted to see my baby again. His nurse told me how great that was. They cheered every time I brought my milk in. When I would pump I would look at the first picture I have of him. The only picture I had at the time. This would stimulate me to make milk. I held my cell phone in one hand and propped the pump up. It was awkward for me but it worked. The second day I got to hold him. I help him skin to skin for four hours. I remember going back to my room and pumping 3ounces. After three days I had to go home, my baby had to stay. The NICU was 40 minutes away. My whole life literally became about pumping every two hours for him. It was something only I could give him. After 4weeks the doctor decided he was finally ready to attempt to latch. At first he would latch fine, fall asleep on my breast but then would experience Bradycardia, where his little heart rate would drop and he would turn pale. This scared me so bad.

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After four days they decide to use the weight scale to see how much he was getting. I was so excited to see myself what my baby was taking in. He was order .50 every three hours. I was thinking to myself if he only takes .25 I will be so happy; that means he’s getting there. When they weighed him I was devastated. The scale showed .08. I went to the bathroom and cried. I felt like a failure. I rocked my son after that and told him how sorry I was. The next day I decided I wanted them to bottle feed him my expressed milk. This was the only way they would take out his feeding tube. He went home after 6 weeks, 45 days exactly, in the NICU. He went home on bottles of expressed milk. After about a week home I noticed a big decrease in my milk. I was so busy being a new mom I couldn’t find time to pump every three hours and take care of him. I decided to put him to my breast in hope that he would stimulant more milk. The nipple shield became my very best friend. We have gone from feeding tube, bottles, nipple shield to bare breast. My son is almost 4months and he has been getting my bare breast for about 2 months. He’s gaining weight like crazy. I was extremely lucky with my supply. My son has NEVER needed any type of formula. He has only ever received my milk. I’m so proud of my son today. I’m so in love with my little boy. We baby wear, bed share and breastfed.

sdthWilliam today.  

 

The Badass Exclusive Pumper

By Jaymie Roberts

When I was a little girl, I would “breastfeed” my Cabbage Patch Preemie. I would lift my shirt and put the hard plastic face to my flat chest. To me, this was how you fed a baby. Twenty years later, I was pregnant and instead of playing house I was growing a baby—a real one, not the plastic kind.

I read the books. I bought nursing tops and a huge stack of organic cotton nursing pads. I bought an expensive nursing brassiere that very closely resembled Mrs. Doubtfire’s. I stocked the kitchen with fennel tea, Guinness stout, frozen cabbage leaves, and coconut water to ensure my milk arrived. I did everything I could think of to prepare for breastfeeding. I just forgot to prepare for the possibility that I couldn’t.

I would soon find that the make-believe breastfeeding of my youth more closely resembled reality than I ever could have imagined. A flat chest was traded in for milk-filled breasts, but a plastic doll was replaced by plastic flanges. You see, I couldn’t breastfeed my baby.

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Camille was born after a twenty-five hour planned homebirth. It was exhilarating to know that my body had grown her and that I had the intervention-free birth that I wanted. As a result, I had the most amazing baby lying wide-eyed on my now empty belly. I could not wait to put her to my breast and feel her nurse, but that moment would never come. Camille would never latch.

To feed her, we made a makeshift supplementary nursing system (SNS) out of a nipple shield, catheter, and syringe. Every two hours, I would use the hand pump to draw my nipple out, put on the nipple shield and put the tip of the catheter in, attach the other end to the syringe, and put her on the breast. My fiancé would stand over us, slowly pushing expressed breast milk through the SNS. By the time one feeding was done and I pumped, it was time to do it all over again.

We received a tidal wave of bad news in her first two weeks of life, proving that her life outside of the womb would be anything but intervention-free. Camille was diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence (PRS), characterized by a cleft in her soft palate, micrognathia (a small lower jaw), and glossoptosis (a tongue that falls back into the cleft, causing an airway obstruction). At ten days old, she had her first echocardiogram, which showed two congenital heart defects—an atrial septal defect (ASD) and a ventricular septal defect (VSD). The holes were quite large and would require open-heart surgery. At eleven days old, her craniofacial team informed us that she would need surgery to repair the cleft and received special needs bottles to use for her feedings. We were devastated.

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My baby’s birth defects made weight gain a struggle and I felt like I was constantly defending my baby and her size. I became obsessed with her weight gain, weighing her daily—sometimes twice a day. I recorded all of her feedings so that I knew exactly how many milliliters she was getting. Our cardiologist wanted her to be as big and strong as possible for surgery, without doing permanent damage to her heart. So much blood, sweat, and tears went into every gram gained. In my mind, if I could get her to gain weight, I could keep the surgery at bay, like it wasn’t reality.

I couldn’t feed her at the breast, but I was determined to feed her from the breast. My life revolved around the pump. Feed her, pump, feed her, pump, and then feed her again. I exclusively pumped for three months before I found out it was a thing and that other moms did it. I exclusively pumped for two weeks without a pumping bra (I didn’t know they existed), holding the flanges to my breasts for the entire length of the pump. During those first three months, I pumped an extra 1,000 ounces that I had to dump down the drain because of too much lipase. I pumped for months with raw, chaffed nipples before I figured out I should lubricate them with coconut oil. I had no idea what I was doing.

Throughout this terrifying journey, I would constantly hear things like, “You’re so strong” and “I don’t know how you do it.” The truth is, I’m not that strong. You get through it because you have no other choice. I took it day by day, busying my mind with what I could control. How much did I pump today? How much did she weigh this morning? This afternoon? How much did she eat? How much did I eat?

I hate that pump. So much of my family’s life is wrapped up in pumping, like the tubing is tangled around us and we’ll never break free. But I also love that pump. That pump is what made feeding my daughter possible. That pump saved me from the darkest moments of my life. That pump is what got me through handing my baby over to a nurse and saying goodbye for seven hours while she had open-heart surgery. That pump is what got me through seeing her whimper in physical pain for hours, and then emotional pain for weeks. That pump is what got me through having to perform a delicate and intricate dance with wires and tubes every time I wanted to hold my baby or she wanted me to hold her. That pump is what got me through the seven days I lived in the pediatric ICU—the worst seven days of my life—where I continued to pump around the clock for her. And that pump is what will get me through her next surgery.

Breastfeeding may look different than I had planned, but I am giving my daughter Mommy’s milk the only way I can. Each time I finish a pumping session, remove the tubing, take the bottles off the flanges, unzip my pumping bra, and remove the flanges from my sore nipples, Camille giggles with excitement. She knows exactly where her milk comes from and that makes it all worth it.

When They Need You to Fall Asleep:  Self-Soothing and Other Myths

By Wendy Wisner

Does your baby or child need you to fall asleep?  Is nursing the only thing that does the trick?  Rocking?  Back patting?  Cuddling?   Holding hands?   Just lying there silently in the dark?  Have you been told you just need to leave the room at some point and let your child learn to self-soothe?  Have you been told you are doing your child a disservice by not teaching him or her this very important life skill?

I remember when my first child was a newborn.  Like most sleep deprived parents, I googled stuff about infant sleep.  Was he getting enough sleep?  When would he sleep longer stretches?  Was there anything I needed to do to make things better?  Basically, would I ever sleep again, and if so, when and how?

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Every single website that came up said I was doing it all wrong.  By nursing him to sleep (even at just a few weeks old) I was creating a bad habit.  They said he would never learn how to “self-soothe,” fall asleep on his own, or sleep through the night (because I was — gasp — nursing him every time he stirred, to comfort him, not just to “feed” him).  I was supposed to put him down “drowsy but awake” and then he was supposed to figure out how to fall asleep himself.  This might involve some crying or fussing, but I was supposed to “tough it out” for the sake of fostering “good sleep habits” in my baby.

I spent about an hour freaking out about this.  I knew I would never do any of it.  I was brought up with a family bed, and parents who taught me that children need comfort at night as well as during the day.  I had fond memories of falling asleep in the big bed with my mom and sister.  But as a sleep deprived new mom, I was pretty concerned about this being the only solution out there for me to get some much needed sleep.

I somehow slogged through the first few months, listening to my instincts and continuing to nurse him on demand, both day and night.  By six months or so, we had a good routine going.  I would rock and nurse him in the rocking chair, and then bring him to bed.  It often took him awhile, but usually he was asleep in thirty minutes.

Of course, some nights were really hard, hours of incessant rocking and nursing to get him to sleep.  I would get that itchy, restless feeling in my body.  I’d want to jump out of my skin.  But my instincts told me that this was what he needed, so I did it.

The frustration was just as quickly replaced with joy: feeling his body give in and fall asleep in my arms, his deep sleep sighs, kissing his dreamy head.  I realized (and I continue to realize every day of being a parent) that it was ok for me not to like every minute of it, that it was ok for frustration to exist with joy.  Just because you sometimes experience negative feelings about parenting, doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong or need to change anything.

And as for my kid, was I doing harm by never teaching him to “self-soothe” or sleep without nursing?  Would he be dependent on me for longer than he was supposed to?  Well, it depends on what your definition of “supposed to” is.

asfghOur awesome famiy bed (and our little guy napping).  My older son has a bed in our bedroom and in his own room. 

I nursed him to sleep till he was about four years old, at which point, he would nurse, and then pop off to cuddle and talk.  He weaned from breastfeeding completely at five years old.  But even after he weaned, he still wanted me to cuddle with him as he fell asleep.  And at seven years old, there’s much less cuddling, but he likes me to stay in the room with him until he’s all the way asleep.

I recently wrote a piece on my blog about lying with him until he falls asleep.  I was surprised that this was a bit controversial to some people!  Commenters and on and offline were concerned that perhaps he was a little too old for such “hand holding” and that the fact that I was expressing any mixed feelings about it meant that I should just cut myself a break and teach him to go to sleep on his own.

Well, it probably goes without saying that what I do with my kids is what works for me and my family and may not work for yours.  Really, as long as you are giving love to your kids, whatever that looks like, you are awesome.  I admire all kinds of parents, many of whom make different choices than I do.

But a seven year old who still wants mommy to put him to sleep?  Crazy?  Weird?  Not quite right?

How about normal?  Do you know that he’s not the only one out there?  I know many, many two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, six-year-olds, and quite a few seven-year-olds who need their parents to put them to sleep sometimes or always.  Like extended breastfeeding, it’s just not something readily discussed but it happens all over.

And you know what else?  I used to be one!  My husband used to be one!  We both “weaned” from needing parent help at bedtime in our own time.  We both eventually did sleepovers with our friends, went to sleep-away camp, went to college.  We’re champion sleepers but we still both prefer to have another warm body to snuggle with as we drift off.

It’s interesting that writing about lying with my seven-year-old until he falls asleep is such a “confession,” because, when you think about it, is there anything more normal and natural sounding than that?  We just lie there and talk.  He falls asleep.  I leave the room and eat a sandwich.  It’s a funny world we live in.

Do you still parent your toddler or older child to sleep?  What works for you and your family?

 

***Wendy Wisner is the author of two books of poems, Morph and Bloom (2013) and Epicenter (2004), as well as a chapbook, Another Place of Rocking (2010).  Wendy is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and blogs about breastfeeding, motherhood, and writing at www.nursememama.com.  She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.

You can find Wendy and her work at the following links:

http://www.wendywisner.com/books.html

https://www.facebook.com/morphandbloom

http://www.amazon.com/Morph-Bloom-Wendy-Wisner/dp/1625490410/

http://nursememama.com/

I Need Your Help

I have thought long and hard about what The Badass Breastfeeder has become. I have come to accept that with the addition of Exley to my family I will need to prioritize my time more than ever. I want to pull out the few aspects of The Badass Breastfeeder that are most unique and helpful and focus on those. But what are those? I can say what they are for me: my blog sharing what I learn about myself and parenting along the way and the Facebook page where I share pics, articles, blogs, etc. that support my parenting values. But I’m not just doing this for me anymore. I need you. And I figure who better to ask than the very people I need on my mission to normalize gentle parenting and breastfeeding. Would you mind answering a few questions?

  1. What do you feel is the most useful part of The Badass Breastfeeder?
  2. What would you like to see more of?
  3. What would you like to see less of?
  4. Is there something that The Badass Breastfeeder can provide that you can’t get anywhere else?
  5. Is there anything that The Badass Breastfeeder is doing that you already get somewhere else?
  6. How do you propose we accelerate the movement to normalize gentle parenting and breastfeeding?

***Please answer these questions on the website or on Facebook. Please do not message me or e-mail me on this subject. Thank you!

Abby, The Badass Breastfeeder