Long before I was ready to have children, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. My mom was a huge inspiration since she nursed me until I was 9 months old. I also knew about all the health benefits for the baby and the extra calories it burns for the mother postpartum. So when Maija was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her immediately after birth.
A pregnant woman’s body goes through so many changes from the point of conception, through the pregnancy, during labor, postpartum, and during breastfeeding. I think that every single inch of me changed in some way. One of these many stages of change in preparing for baby is the production of colostrum. Colostrum is truly a wonderful thing! When I first noticed a little bit around week 26 of my pregnancy, I sent a text to my mom informing her a bit too much of my excitement for how my body was preparing to give birth. Of course I had no idea at the time whether the colostrum would continue and turn into true breastmilk after Maija was born, but I had high hopes. I was already so proud of my body and natures way of providing nutrition for a baby.
Fast forward another 14 weeks and I was thrilled when my milk came in a few days after birth. And oh boy did it come! This was the most painful part for me. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were most painful. Usually when I had gone more than 2 hours between nursing or pumping. I was so thankful Maija had a great latch from the beginning, but what made it difficult for both of us was that I had a bit of an over-supply. I became a bit of a squirrel, as her father called me, because of the stash of breast milk in the freezer. I was obsessed with adding to it every day.
Yes it is time consuming, yes it can be painful, yes it may restrict what you can eat, but I knew all that before I found out I was pregnant. Now it was time to face any difficulties thrown at me so I could provide the best I could for my daughter. I took such pride in nursing her, doing so on demand. Thankful that I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home-mom and continue with this haphazard schedule for M.
At 10 weeks I did hit a slump in my supply and I was devastated. I was pumping around the clock again, getting up every two hours throughout the night. I took a couple fenugreek capsules every day with breakfast and dinner, drank mothers milk tea throughout the day, and consumed more oatmeal than anyone should. All these things definitely helped. In no time, although it felt like forever, I had an over supply again. As much as that over supply hurt like hell, I wanted that more than the loss of breastfeeding because I wasn’t willing to work on it as hard as I did. It truly involves a lot of work. As long as you are committed to breastfeeding, no matter what your reasons are, I believe you can get through many of those difficulties and breastfeed for as long as you choose to.
When Maija was 6 months old we started her on purees, she loved them. I knew that feeding her solids could possibly decrease my supply, but I continued nursing her on demand and pumping as needed. If I ever felt a decrease, I would restart the fenugreek, tea, & oatmeal in mass consumption. Again, I was so thankful to have reached the 6 month point. It was my main goal before Maija was born. Now on to 9 months, then to 12.
I nursed Maija for an entire year, with only a slight hiccup over Easter weekend when I ended up in the ER twice. I had a severe case of hives and not sure if my medications were safe during breastfeeding. I knew reaching one year was a huge accomplishment and I was proud of myself for sticking with it no matter what was thrown at me. It was now time to decide how to introduce cows milk into Maija’s diet and how much I desired to continue nursing. Most importantly were what her needs were in relation to breastfeeding.
Neither of us were ready to wean from breastfeeding. I continued nursing her 3-5 times a day once she turned 1, and while we slowly introduced cows milk. Through that month I dropped our afternoon nursing session. At this time I contemplated fully weaning her. I set a schedule for it and an end date, but I could not follow through. I knew she wasn’t ready, and when I acknowledge my innermost feelings about it, neither was I. The only change I made at this point was to nurse her before both nap time and bed time. At 13 months old I was still nursing her to sleep. I saw no problem with it and ignored any articles or comments against such things. Every situation is different and nursing her to sleep was right for us.
By 15 months I dropped nursing her to sleep at nap time and made sure to drink a lot of water so that I could keep my supply up just enough to nurse her at bedtime. I knew it may not work, but I wanted to try. Neither of us were quite ready to be done. While on vacation visiting my parents, I made the decision to end our single breastfeeding session. I knew that Maija was only nursing at this time for comfort and that she was no longer getting much breastmilk at all. My thought was that if I was to have our last nursing session away from home and from our beloved nursing rocking chair that it would be easier for both of us.
After a week I felt good about my experience and the manner in which I ended it. I began cuddling and rocking her for a few minutes before putting her to bed and I did not feel as though we had lost that special bond. My memories of breastfeeding are happy ones and I greatly look forward to nursing future children.