Weaning Is Hard

Yesterday I read a smart and compelling story about a woman struggling to end her nursing relationship with her 5-year-old daughter.  Although I weaned my daughter long before her second birthday, I related to the emotions and conflict Lisa described in every sentence.  When I was done my immediate reaction was, “that totally would have been me.”

My daughter took to breastfeeding like a champ.  We had an amazing nursing relationship for every single day that it lasted.  But at some point after a year it started to feel a little out of control.  Maybe because she was still waking multiple times a night to feed or maybe because I was working full-time and it felt like all we were doing in our time together was nursing.  I wanted to watch her wobbly steps as an early walker.  I wanted to see her scream with delight at her brother’s antics.  I cherished that bond in my soul, but my gut told me it was time for her to move on.  Even when she showed absolutely no interest.  Even when it hurt my feelings to let her go.  I had to cut her off.

Read my whole piece about the confusion of weaning and why I decided for her here:

I Had To Cut My Daughter Off Breastfeeding But It Didn’t Come Easily — For Either Of Us

Latch-On To Reality In NYC

Yesterday 27 of New York City’s 40 hospitals officially adopted Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial “Latch On NYC” and I’m behind them 100%.

For those of you not familiar with the program, the basic controversy centers around these guidelines for hospitals:

  • Enforce the NYS hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart;
  • Restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the Health Department;
  • Discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula; and
  • Prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location.

When the Health Department issued its press release back in May, women everywhere cried out in rage.  “How dare you?” “It’s my child, my body!”  Some of my favorite snipes revolved around the request that Bloomberg grow breasts before he tell us how to feed our children.

Some people just love to argue.

It won’t make one damn bit of difference if you ask me.  I gave birth in 2009 and 2011 in one of these fine hospitals.  I can account first hand that the policies described to “encourage breastfeeding” have been in effect long before Bloomberg and the NYC Health Department thought up their clever title.

A nurse was in my room to instruct breastfeeding, swaddling, co-sleeping and every method of attachment parenting known to Dr. Sears’s disciples as soon as the baby left the womb.  There were countless programs and support groups for breastfeeding.   The nurses admonished their patients’ pleas to “supplement” with formula far more than Bloomberg’s initiative.  Right or wrong it was the reality I saw first hand in 2009 and 2011.

Besides the reality of the situation, what are these outraged moms really complaining about?  The fact that it might be slightly more difficult to procure formula if you had already committed to breastfeeding?  Let’s point out that the Latch On initiative has NO bearing on women who came into the hospital choosing to feed their baby formula for whatever reason.  If you came to this decision prior to the bleary-eyed, vagina-exploding, breast-throbbing act of delivery it would be honored without qualification.  The guidelines are aimed at mothers who intend to nurse but are having a tough go in the first days of motherhood.  The message is this: changing your mind is a last resort position.

Further, formula isn’t being banned from hospitals.  It’s being held within the control of the staff doctors and nurses, out of plain sight.  Aspirin is kept under the same “lock and key” protection but no one expresses outrage that you might have to ask someone to get a little headache relief.  If you are having issues with nursing that surpass typical early day struggles, your baby will be given formula if that is what you and your doctor deem necessary.

The Latch On NYC initiative aims to educate and support mothers who feel that formula is necessary for their children to thrive when there is no medical reason to draw that conclusion (healthy breasts/mom, baby sustaining weight).  That instruction and reinforcement begins in the hospital as soon as the baby is delivered.

According to Department of Health statistics, 90% of NYC mothers start breastfeeding their babies.  However, by two months, only 31% of NYC mothers are exclusively breastfeeding.  Two months post-partum marked the point when things finally started to make sense to me and by that time nearly 60% of nursing mothers have surrendered.  The top two reasons given for stopping?  “I thought I was not producing enough milk” (47%) and the similar “Breast milk alone did not satisfy my baby” (44%).

I chose to nurse my children and had relative success with both of them.  I feel blessed to have had those experiences and worked hard to achieve them.   I understand not everyone can breastfeed their child and firmly believe those moms should not feel badly about giving their babies formula.  However, there is a wide spectrum from one nursing extreme (breastfeeding is easy peasy!) to the other (breastfeeding is not an option for me) and most mothers in the middle could benefit from more education and more support.  The Latch-On NYC initiative intends to do just that; it’s not an attack on mothers and our choices.  Let’s stop using it as ammunition.

Whining about weaning

Chloe turns one next month and I assume I will wean.  Only because I know how quickly it goes from ‘sweet’ while you provide the sustenance your child needs to survive to ‘awkward’ as you become a walk up buffet.

But I’m not happy about it.  Not that I am one of those irrational breastfeeding advocates.  I advocate doing what works – and that’s different for every mother.  I have found it’s also different for every child.

Is that a Hershey kiss and an 8-year-old? Not particularly helpful.

When Gavin was born I had high hopes of sailing right up to his first birthday nursing exclusively.  Oh boy did we get off to a rocky start!  I was about to throw in the towel one week in.  It was so much harder than anyone let on.

Proper latching? positioning? engorgement WHAT?  Other moms made it seem like you just stick the kids on and go.

Then there were the undesirables not mentioned in baby books — the constant leaking, special bras, certain “accessible” clothes (pull down to expose boob or pull up to expose postpartum belly?  Oh the choices!) – it was a lot for me to handle at once.

I was certain that if it was this hard, I must be doing it all wrong.

The logistics settled in a few weeks later, we got a routine and things got much easier…until they got much worse.  Yes, I suffered with the entire Nursing Mother’s Encyclopedia of breastfeeding problems.  You name it, I had it.  Clogged ducts, mastitis, thrush, more clogged ducts and the worst of the worst – Raynards of the breast.  Imagine someone stabbing you with a penknife 1000 times in the breast.  Not awesome.

With troubleshooting and a lot of Tylenol I managed to hang in there a little over 10 months.  When I was done nursing it was more of a relief than anything since the Raynards continued.

So when Chloe was born I wasn’t sure what to expect.  People say breastfeeding is easier the second time around.  My doctor had a homeopathic plan to fend off the Raynards.  I was optimistic.

Turns out, she was a dream.  Every moment nursing her was easy and natural.  Nursing her went beyond simply providing the best source of nutrition (which is all it ever was with Gavin).  It was the beautiful bonding experience that those 1970s hippie dippy books promised it would be.

And now, I am thinking of ending it.  The thought barely registers in my brain, like I can’t get my head around it.

What will it be like when it’s over?

Will she continue to plead mmmmmh, mmmmmh, mmmmmmh as she waives her wrists excitedly every time she is hungry?

When she is tired, will she dive for comfort in the crook of my arm?

Will she miss me rubbing her back and singing as much as I will miss her num-num-num-num noshing, watching her eyes get heavy?

Will I know how to soothe her any other way?

With Gavin I was so proud of him as he crossed off every milestone in the book.  With Chloe I am sad.  I just want it all to slow down.  First it’s weaning, then it’s walking, talking, toddler beds and toilet training.  This time where she relies on me for every one of life’s necessities (a time that is both precious and maddening) – it will all be over in the blink of her pretty blue eye.

Please share your thoughts/advice on weaning – I need it!