Weaned… Just like that!

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Thanks for hopping over from Sunshine Scribbles and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 7 The End of the Journey; sponsors today include Close Parent who are providing an organic Close Caboo Organic Carrier, a £20 voucher from Burble Baby and a breastfeeding necklace of your choice from Baby Beads for our Grand Prize winner. Over £700 worth of goodies are up for grabs – get your entries via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

This is a post I wrote at the end of my breastfeeding journey. Beginning the weaning process was a sad time for me as you can read in my previous post.

It has been 11 days since we started weaning, a surprisingly easy process.

Small one has been down to one feed a day for months now, but has been very attached to that single bedtime feed. She has gone without it a couple of times, when she’s fallen asleep on a journey or I’ve been in the bath when she wanted sleep, but it has been a pretty fixed part of her bedtime routine. Often she has appeared to wait for it, not because she is thirsty or not yet tired, but because a 5 second feed before she drops off is enough to complete her day and let her fall asleep content and happy.

For me, one feed at bedtime was a lovely compromise. I got all the benefits and closeness of still breastfeeding, but I no longer had to completely arrange my wardrobe around breastfeeding. Practically speaking, my boobs are so large that I can’t fit most of my clothes and I can’t afford to buy new ones right now so the actual wardrobe stays the same, but not having to consciously think about it or layer up if I’m somewhere where I don’t want to expose my breasts is nice after such a long time.

When, 11 days ago, I first told small one that there was nothing left tonight, we both had a few tears. But that was all. She listened to me, questioned gently, then accepted my suggestion of a cuddle and cup milk while we read a story. I guess this is what happens for Daddy when I’m not there at bedtime.

The same happened the next night – a question, a little sadness on both sides, a snuggle and sleep.

She hasn’t asked for days now, and while the process has been harder from my point of view – we were so close to her weaning naturally – I am coming to terms with it.

If she had resisted more, I would have found it impossible to not continue breastfeeding. As it was, a week away from her 2nd birthday, she understood what I was telling her, listened to me and accepted the alternative I was offering. I’ve had no physical effects – no engorgement and no leaking.

That’s a pretty good second best.

I am so glad I continued as long as I did. I am so glad that I breastfed a toddler. I am so glad that while I didn’t finish breastfeeding exactly as I would have wished, we were able to stop gently and with a mutual understanding rather than with confusion and tears. This must be how weaning is meant to be, so we must have done it right.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding have given me a new relationship with my body. Not only that, but if I hadn’t breastfed I would not have had the inspiration to start MilkChic, which I hope will help make breastfeeding feel easier for other mums.

For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over Fit for Parenting where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

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My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Toddler

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Thanks for hopping over from Sunshine Scribbles and welcome to my post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 5 Extended Breastfeeding we have over £700 worth of breastfeeding and baby goodies up for grabs including prizes from More4Mums providing a set of ‘Hot Milk’ Lingerie, a signed hardback limited edition copy of Milky Moments and a £30 voucher from MilkChic  Full details of the Grand Prize can be found here and all entries to be completed via the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

Past knowing that I wanted to, I didn’t have a roadmap for breastfeeding. I had no clue about timescales and I have had to learn as my daughter has grown.

I decided very early on that I wanted to make it to a year. After the initial months, I was lucky to find breastfeeding easy, so I really didn’t want to have to use formula as it seemed to me a second-best option both nutritionally and financially.

In fact, when small one was tiny, I was sure that I would breastfeed until she was a year and then wean. I understood that there were still benefits to breastmilk, but couldn’t see why you wouldn’t express and give a child breastmilk in a cup.

Live and learn… I’ve never managed to express more than a few ounces and the idea of carrying around bottles and pumps seems incredibly impractical compared to the convenience of breastfeeding. Let’s face it, most mums who continue to breastfeed find their peace with breastfeeding in public, but you won’t find many pumping in front of their partners, let alone in a crowded cafe!

I was very proud to make it to a year, although sometimes it felt like I was the only mum in the world still breastfeeding. At our NCT group’s 1st birthday meet-up there were 2 out of 8 of us left breastfeeding. Actually, that’s pretty good going – in the UK, you are in the minority if you breastfeed past 6 months and I certainly felt that way at times.

The 12 month target had become a huge focus for me and I didn’t really question the idea that we would start weaning at that point. It was logical – small one enjoyed drinking cow’s milk from a cup like a big girl and it seemed the obvious transition to make.

I hadn’t a clue how difficult weaning could be. Small one liked her mummy milk and she certainly wasn’t going to give it up without a fight. Cup milk was all very well for novelty and convenience, but it didn’t compete with the real thing.

Unlike night weaning, which had benefits for both of us, daytime weaning just felt like a pointless fight. I spent hours feeling miserable trying to persuade her she might prefer milk in a cup, or fighting sleep as I tried to persuade her to sleep without a feed. It always ended with us both feeling drained and emotional and me guiltily feeding her. Breastfeeding, as always, healed the rift and left us both feeling snuggled and secure.

I was still off work with a back problem so there was no pressing reason to wean, but I continued to half-heartedly encourage her because I felt it was expected.

We had slowly cut down to 3 feeds a day when she developed a chest infection. I was horrified as she had never really been ill before and I felt awful, blaming myself for reducing her immunity. She wasn’t eating and I spent 2 days sitting on the sofa feeding her whenever she asked.

Suddenly, at 15 months, she was feeding as regularly as she ever had, and I had lost the will to wean. I started reading up on longer term breastfeeding and it struck a chord. While I never offered milk, I stopped trying to distract her or worrying about what I “should” be doing.

cuddle

As the small one has become more communicative, our breastfeeding relationship has changed. She tells me when she wants mummy milk and when cup milk is OK and, over the last few months, she has self-weaned from all but her night-time feed. Breastfeeding has become more special because it’s no longer a necessity – it’s something we make time for because it’s important to both of us. When the small one pulls me away from something and insists she needs milk in daylight hours, what she means is that she needs my attention. Breastfeeding gives her my undivided attention and an opportunity to reconnect even in the busiest day.

These days, she both frustrates and amuses me in equal parts, loudly informing our neighbour, “MUMMY NIGHT MILK” as she pokes my boobs or telling me that “this one is done” when she wants to swap sides.

I do occasionally get a funny look from friends when they realise I am still breastfeeding, but the small one is so self confident and independent that they struggle to argue against it.

Small one will be 2 soon. If I’m honest, I do hope she weans in the next year, if only because I would prefer her to have different coping methods by the time she starts school and I want her to have time to adjust. Having said that, I am only too aware that I might change my mind, and I won’t be pushing her to wean before she’s ready. This time, I will be able to explain to her why it is time to stop and it will be a decision we make together.
For more extended breastfeeding experiences please hop on over Fit for Parenting where you can gain further entries into the grand prize draw. Full terms and conditions can be found on the Keeping Britain Breastfeeding website. UK residents only.

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Crimes of Breastfeeding

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I intended to write a post a day about my breastfeeding journey. I’m a few days behind, but I’ll get there in the end. Like breastfeeding, I am taking it a day at a time…

The more time I spend on baby and parenting forums, the more often I see the phrase “a rod for your own back”. It seems that everything you do as a parent is setting yourself up for future issues.

This is my guide to the heinous crimes committed by breastfeeding mums:

1. Feeding to sleep
caring mother by limaoscarjuliet - http://www.flickr.com/photos/limaoscarjuliet/154567026/Don’t do this. Not under any circumstances. If you feed a child to sleep, they will NEVER learn to go to sleep alone.

Bad mum tip: Breastfeeding makes babies sleepy. Fast. You get little enough sleep. Why spend hours rocking or try to wake a baby up again when you could have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Make the most of it. They won’t always be so easily manipulated!

2. Feeding for comfort
Congo: A Mother's Comfort by babasteve - http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/4557682552/Don’t let your child use your breast as a dummy. You are just spoiling the child… Mothers are for nourishment, not for comfort!

Bad mum tip: It is OK to comfort your child. Babies need to suck. Don’t tell anyone, but breasts are surprisingly effective for this purpose. They are a similar shape to dummies, cheaper and don’t need sterilising. They are also very comforting… Breastmilk cleverly adjusts in line with your child’s needs so your “atrocious” parenting will have few ill effects. The only time you need to change it, is if it is making your breastfeeding relationship difficult. If it works for you and your child, it’s right.

The facts: Kellymom on comfort nursing and feeding to sleep.
3. Not having a “routine”

Copyright © 2010 Umbrella ShotYou are making a rod for your own back if you don’t get your child into a routine as quickly as possible. Babies don’t need feeding more than 4 hourly, they are just snacking…

Bad mum tip:Feeding on demand” is the most successful way to establish, and maintain breastfeeding. When you follow their cues, babies are less grumpy and give you an easier life, so why fight it? Besides, everyone knows that the ideal place for breastfeeding when out and about is a coffee shop. Treat yourself to cake while you’re there! Baby will settle into their own routine before long anyway. It will change if they’re teething, ill, they’re having a growth spurt, or even in hot weather to make sure your milk always meets their needs.

The facts: Is snacking that bad? Great article by Diane Wiessinger.
4. “Still” breastfeeding (at any age)
At some point in your breastfeeding relationship, you will hear the dreaded, “are you still feeding?”. Depending on your particular circle, it may start earlier or later… but it will start. It usually comes just at the point when you feel you are finally getting the hang of it. It’s sometimes curiosity, often well-meaning, and occasionally downright rude, but the effect is always to undermine your confidence when you’ve worked so hard to get to this point.

Bad mum tip: There isn’t one really. They are wrong. The WHO recommends exclusive feeding to 6 months, and breastfeeding alongside solid food to 2 years at least. The proportion of mothers in the Western world that manage that is tiny so to criticise a mum who is trying to do the best for their child at any age seems incredibly harsh. If you are “still” breastfeeding, whether at 4 weeks or 4 years, you probably know why you are doing it. This is my favourite list of responses for those times when the criticism gets too much.

I have made lots of rods for my own back. I chose them myself and, so far, they are wonderfully supportive rods and I don’t regret the hard work at all. Of course my daughter will probably grow up to be clingy, spoilt and dependent. You are welcome to tell her that… if you can catch her…

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style

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My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I am sharing my breastfeeding journey so far. I would love to hear your stories too. Please share your breastfeeding related posts in the comments feed.
Once you got past the first couple of months people talk about things falling into place and this was certainly the case for me. I was very lucky and the small one slept a good 7 hours a night from about 7 weeks old, so I was less sleep-deprived than a lot of my friends.
I was finding the daily routine of nappies, naps and nursing more manageable, and I was loving watching my daughter develop day by day.
Breastfeeding was well-established and by this time, I had recovered from a bout of mastitis with antibiotics and heavy application of warming/cooling packs. I even got through the cracked nipples thanks to Lansinoh and the much-maligned nipple shields (I do understand why nipple shields aren’t recommended, but if they give you a short term solution to stopping feeding entirely, they can’t be all bad!). What’s more, I had finally stopped waking up in puddles of milk…
But for me, this partial return to normality sparked complete panic. I had morphed into a mumsy, stained nursing t-shirt wearing frump. All of the time I had been staying at home, completely focused on my baby it didn’t seem to matter, but suddenly I was talking about going to baby groups and meeting new people or worse, seeing people who knew the pre-baby me, and I had a real crisis of confidence.
Everyone seemed to be coping better than me. I knew from people I spoke to at the baby weigh-ins that it wasn’t really the case, but I felt useless, unable even to lift my daughter properly because of SPD.
Breastfeeding was my saviour. It was the one thing that I had planned that I was actually managing to do. And I was doing it well. As the weeks went on, most of the mums I had met stopped breastfeeding, but we continued, and it gave me a huge sense of achievement, not least when I realised that some of them actually envied me.
It did have it’s downsides. As more of my mummy friends converted to formula, many started extreme diet and exercise programmes to lose the baby weight. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable dieting, but as a marathon runner, I felt very jealous of those who were starting to tone up and fit into their old clothes again.
I was the antithesis of yummy-mummy – my boobs had ballooned and I no longer fitted my maternity clothes, let alone anything else. I lived in boring nursing t-shirts.
Nothing I liked seemed to work for breastfeeding, but I had to wear something so I just bought whatever fitted. Shopping was difficult and joyless and I ended up focusing on practicality rather than style. I felt like I had a stranger’s body dressed in someone else’s clothes. For someone who uses clothes as body armour, it was a massive issue and affected every aspect of my life.
For me, mastitis was minor compared to my fashion and body issues. Feeling comfortable in my own skin again gave me the confidence to continue breastfeeding and I am convinced that discovering that I could feed through the sleeves of a certain H&M batwing jumper dress was the turning point in my breastfeeding journey!
It took me a long time to find my breastfeeding style, but it has given me real confidence to feed wherever and whenever I need to. As a result of my frustrations, I set up MilkChic, a directory of breastfeeding-friendly high street clothes and was overwhelmed by the number of people who told me they felt exactly the same way.
Lots of fuss is made over the physical hurdles to breastfeeding, but the practical and emotional issues are ignored. Once you are past the first couple of months, the mechanics of breastfeeding get easier but social pressures and other issues can get harder to deal with. Only a mum can know what works for her and her lifestyle and it is vitally important that all mums are supported to find their comfort zone if longer term breastfeeding rates are going to improve.

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn ; Crimes of Breastfeeding

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My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I am sharing my breastfeeding journey so far. I would love to hear your stories too. Please share your breastfeeding related posts in the comments feed.

Samuel

Photo: Raphael Goetter

I first fed my daughter in the recovery room after a c-section. I was still pretty dazed after my planned natural birth fell apart and utterly in awe of the tiny baby in my arms.

The midwife was old school and comfortingly practical, helping me to get my nipple into the small one’s mouth so she could feed. There was no checking of latches or anything else I had been told about at that stage, and I suspect the latch was horrendous, but it felt natural and amazing and didn’t hurt. I think the fact that my first experience of breastfeeding was positive made a massive impact over the next few days

I was in hospital for 3 days after the birth. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have coped if I had been fit to go straight home. The birth left me exhausted and at one stage, I was so tired that I nearly fell off the bed trying to feed. I was very lucky to have the support of midwives and nurses as I got to know my baby and learned how to feed her successfully.

My start to breastfeeding was overwhelmingly positive, but that’s not to say I found it easy. I needed help getting a good latch – newborns’ mouths are very tiny so it is much harder with a small baby. My daughter used to fall asleep within minutes of being on the breast and I had to stroke her cheek and undress her to keep her awake. Without the advice of the medical staff, I would have assumed she had finished feeding instead of encouraging her to feed for longer. None of these were big issues, but they seemed huge at the time and without access to immediate support, I would definitely have struggled.

I first breastfed publicly in hospital. It wasn’t a conscious choice – I had visitors, I couldn’t move from the bed, and the small one needed feeding, so I did it. I was too sleep deprived to worry about anyone else’s misplaced sensitivities. It was only at this point that it occurred to me that I was going to need different clothes if I wanted to be able to breastfeed without getting completely undressed each time. While I didn’t feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding I did feel uncomfortable with my body, which had lost the confidence of pregnancy and felt flabby and bloated. My mum had found me some lovely pyjamas with a wrap top which gave me good access and hid my tummy, but I still felt a little exposed. Having said that, if I’d worn the large t-shirt I would have probably chosen otherwise, I would have had to flash my knickers to feed, so it could have been worse!

Going home was a big step and I felt very nervous. Having only ever fed in bed or a high armchair in hospital, I encountered new issues. Our sofa made it difficult for me to stand up after a feed and I needed cushions at my back, under the small one and under my elbows just to make breastfeeding possible. Often, by the time I had found the energy to stand up, she needed feeding again, so I spent days glued to the sofa. I was constantly starving but had no time to make myself meals, supplementing leftovers from the night before’s dinner with terrifying amounts of chocolate and cake.

With hindsight, being physically unable to do much was a good thing. For many of my friends, the pressure to get out of the house to visit people or “do things” was immense and they did not get the opportunity to recuperate or to spend time getting to know their babies’ cues. By the time I was out and about, I was confident in my ability to recognise hungry from tired or uncomfortable which meant that usually when I offered milk, she was content to feed.

Most of the information you receive about breastfeeding is about benefits. There is very little about the reality. It is hard to know what is normal. Nearly every mum I know had a hiccup at some stage – mastitis, cracked nipples, pain while feeding, slow letdown, fast letdown, uncomfortable letdown, engorgement… When you hear about all these problems it sounds daunting, but no one has all of these issues. If you have access to support, they are just blips. Without it, they can be insurmountable. The best support is immediate, practical, non-judgmental and ideally face-to-face. It doesn’t necessarily come from “experts” – other mums are a great resource.

As a first time mum, it is hard to imagine how much life changes. Just being a new mum is overwhelming and you don’t have time to read all those books that you thought would be so helpful during pregnancy. For reliable information in bite-sized, readable chunks at any time of day or night, I find Kellymom brilliant.

My tips:

  • Your first feed doesn’t need to be perfect. I am grateful that my midwife prioritised the psychological benefits of success over technique. Knowing that I had already done it once made the next few feeds less overwhelming and I was more receptive to support.

  • Don’t believe people who tell you that “you’ll know what to do when the baby arrives”. It’s a lie that can leave you feeling inadequate. You don’t magically know how to drive a car just because there’s one parked outside. Breastfeeding is no different.

  • Supportive friends can make all the difference to your first feeds in public. If no-one makes a big deal of it the first time you do it, you have more confidence the second time. If you don’t feel sure of your close friends, go to a breastfeeding group where you know you’ll get a 100% positive response.

  • Be selfish. Your needs and your baby’s needs are more important than anything else in the first few weeks. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Establishing breastfeeding takes time and energy and it may be the only task you can manage at first.

  • If it doesn’t feel right, ask for help. There is no one size fits all breastfeeding technique and you may have to try a lot of things before you find your comfort zone.

  • Remember that even if you knew everything in the world about how to breastfeed, your baby would still be a novice. Give yourselves a break and take a day at a time.

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style ; Crimes of Breastfeeding

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