Breastfeeding, Second Time Around

Breastfeeding, Second Time Around.

I nursed Isaac for 26 months — without really meaning to. I had some vague idea at the start that I would like to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months, maybe six months if possible, but certainly I would stop nursing once he grew teeth.

Of course that didn’t happen. Despite us starting him on the bottle since he was three weeks old, Isaac suddenly rejected bottle feeding at around two and a half months. He steadfastly rejected it ever since, despite us trying every single bottle and teat out there. Even when I returned to work after eight months, he would rather starve for the day, or just take the bare minimum to survive (30 ml? 40 ml?) from SPOON FEEDS rather than take the bottle. So there was no question of feeding him formula milk (though I very optimistically bought a tin when he was six months old) because you can’t feed formula milk from boob.

With Isabel, I was determined that she not reject the bottle. Because I would be returning to work after four months, she would still be too young for solids so she had to be able to take the bottle. So we bottle-fed her quite a bit more, and because she fed well and slept well when bottle fed, we ended up with her taking expressed breastmilk for most of the feeds except for the first morning feed and her one night feed.

But it also meant that it was a lot more stressful for me to keep up my milk supply. I would really like to breastfeed her exclusively for at least a year — but a few times, when I fell ill or when Aunt Flo visited, I found my supply dropping and on the brink of not being able to keep up. Each time, I did all I could — drinking copious amounts of water, eating salmon for every meal, taking all the galactagogues possible, forcing Isabel to latch before every single feed just to stimulate more production…

And it worked. Each time, within a week, the milk supply would return and I could even freeze additional bags of milk for future supply dips.

But this time, I found myself faced thawing my very last bag of frozen milk and knew that it was time. I can eat all the fenugreek and salmon and drink special teas all day but I was returning to work where it would be even tougher to keep up regular pumping, Isabel’s appetite is growing and she needs to be fed.

Still, I felt very sad about it. Ning and I spent ages at the supermarket comparing the tiny print on ingredients, googling whatever term we didn’t know — but I knew in my heart that I wasn’t really that sort of mother. I just wanted to avoid the reality of having to give something other than my own milk to Isabel.

So I was strangely happy that Isabel rejected the formula milk at first! At least she could tell the difference! Still, she finished it eventually. And I try to console myself that there’s nothing bad about formula milk — so many of us grew up on it.

But also, I’m not going to give up! I won’t insist on total breastfeeding just for the sake of it, but I’ll keep pumping and latching for as long as I can, so that she can continue to benefit from breastmilk. Even if it has to be supplemented, some is better than none.

It’s daunting trying to maintain all this pumping while at work, but#nevergiveup YX! Here’s hoping this tin of formula milk would also be wasted in the end!

Breastfeeding at 16 months

Isaac at 16 months, looks like a seal pup when he’s nursing with his baldy head and wide staring eyes. 

In other news, yes! Isaac’s been nursing, for close to 16 months! 

Like most mummies of our time, I was well-schooled in the benefits of breastfeeding as soon as I was expecting Isaac. But right from the start I hadn’t wanted to give myself too much pressure. So instead of aiming for 6 months of total breastfeeding, I told myself let’s try one month for a start — if it didn’t work out, so be it. 

But um, it turned out that my humble boobs far surpassed my expectations! My milk came in very quickly on the second day after birth. And though like most babies and new mothers it took a while to get used to the process of latching, I never found the process of nursing too painful. In fact, I never needed to open the tube of balm I bought. I was also blessed with good supply and hardy boobs and never came down with serious infections or engorgement.

In fact, by the third month, I had the opposite problem of Isaac not wanting to take the bottle. Five months more and twenty different bottles and teats later, I gave up on trying to convince to take the bottle. So when I went back to work when he was eight months old — he still didn’t take a bottle and drank no milk throughout the day! 

I was quite worried initially, but the amazing boobs came to the rescue. I didn’t bother to express any milk in the day since Isaax rejects all milk that are not straight from the source. So I assumed the supply would dip and dry up in a while.

But amazingly, I just stopped feeding in the day with no ill effects — boobs were full at the end of the work day for the first week or so, but nothing painful. And the supply persisted despite only feeding at night! 

So at 16 months, I am very grateful for how amazing human bodies are. That the supply really just adjusts to Isaac’s need and I’m able to provide him with milk, even now. That even for a sleepyhead like me, waking up 2-3 times a night isn’t too tough and I can still be effective at work in the day. 

And mostly that it’s such a bonding experience for us — Isaac gives this incredible, bottom of his heart smile when he gets to nurse. 

Um. I’m not sure how long more I’ll nurse Isaac but I suspect we will stop only when he’s ready. Who knows! I might end up a tandem nursing mummy despite my humble ambitions 🙂 

Night Weaning at 15 Months

IMG_7406Despite the angelic picture above, Isaac is generally a terrible, terrible sleeper. It went well until he was about three months old — he was sleeping for longer and longer stretches, up to eight hours one fine night, and then! With no warning, it all went downhill. The only saving grace is that motherhood makes true mothers of us all — I would never imagine that I can survive waking up every three hours, multiple times a night, for more than a year.

But it happened. I did. At 15 months, Isaac still wakes up every three hours to nurse on most nights slightly longer when he deigned to eat a larger dinner or to be considerate for once.

Of course, there were a whole multitude of factors at play. I think he is naturally a bit of a terrible sleeper because he’s such an active child, always wanting to engage with the world. And then, he never took to a bottle, or drinking milk from anywhere other than nursing — so when I started work, I did not want to stop night nursing if it meant he would have no milk intake at all. We are also co-sleeping, which some baby books suggest would result in more frequent night wakings because um, the enticing scent of milk would wake them up to feed. But basically it’s probably just because I’m a marshmallow mummy to a stubborn baby. And I just really really like snuggling with Isaac even if it means I’m hanging off the edge of the bed most nights.

But last night, something most interesting happened! Without very little hullabaloo, Isaac went for eight hours without feeding!

It started randomly, a few nights ago, when after nursing in the middle of the night, Isaac refused to sleep and kept tossing and turning and asking for more milk. Nothing would soothe him — patting, shushing, singing… At some point, I was completely knackered and ill-tempered and went into a stern, nagging tirade along the lines of “What kind of baby are you? Babies are supposed to be able to fast for at least seven hours at night. You are just waking up for fun! Do you know how inconsiderate that is? Adults need to sleep too!” Then at some point, I realised that Isaac actually fell asleep!

Over the next few nights, I started using the stern voice in the middle of the night whenever he’s already nursed and nothing else worked to send him to sleep. And! Isaac actually fell asleep to the nagging. (Which in retrospect, is completely unsurprising =P)

Anyway, last night, he had his last nursing session of the night, and then spent half an hour flipping around and refusing to sleep. So it struck me that perhaps I should do the stern voice nagging — and lo and behold, he actually fell asleep after less than one minute of nagging.

That was at around 9 p.m. Then he woke at 1 a.m. and started to fuss a little — but stopped when I said “Isaac go to bed! It’s time for sleep? What kind of baby are you…” Without nursing!

The last phrase in particular, appeared to be a magic phrase because when he woke at around 4 a.m., I basically said “What kind of baby are you?” which led him to sigh, snuggle into me, then fall asleep!

I suspect of course, that it’s too good to be true and I’m very sure it will stop working this very night and Isaac will continue to torment me with multiple wakings until he is 15 years old.

But it is also very amusing — because nothing I read ever said to nag at your child sternly to send him to sleep.

Which is, the point of this entire rambling, that books are references but every child is different and the strangest of things may end up working for your child. For Isaac, jokes about the stern voices and motherly nagging aside, I think what helped him sleep was simply the fact that he was ready for night weaning, on his own terms.

When he woke up again at around 6 a.m., I realise that my breasts weren’t all that full, which signalled to me that he’s probably been comfort latching for a while, with very little milk intake. But now he’s ready to give up the latching, and I’m satisfied that it wouldn’t affect his nutrition so perhaps it’s time to start the weaning proper.

But of course, this morning at 6 a.m., I could see his face in the dim light, and he had such a happy smile looking at my chest (what a little pervert right!) that I gave in and let him nurse, after which we both fell asleep with him snuggled in my arms before we woke again to a lovely Sunday morning =)