Monday, December 28, 2009

Winning with weaning

Every woman's breastfeeding relationship with their baby is different, but there are certainly themes, gripes and beauty that can be shared amongst most breastfeeding women. For everyone it is a journey, no matter how sort or long.
I remember walking in the halls of the hospital a day or two after delivering Abby, and meeting up with a teenaged mother from my birth preparation classes who had just delivered a daughter, Jade.
"Ugh, I hate breastfeeding. I gave it a good 12 hours and I am not doing that anymore."
I remember being almost envious. "Yes!" I agreed "It is much harder than they tell you." I wished it was that easy, that I could just say, "It's too hard, I give up!" In theory I could have but I knew I had to stick it out. For Abby and for me. I had heard that it got better, and given the convenience and cost-effectiveness of the option, I voted to continue.
Abby was a difficult baby to nurse that first week. She kept falling asleep and we resulted to finger-feeding her and shoving a tube in her mouth, syringing pumped breast milk into her little mouth. Every two hours. Ugh.
She learned to nurse from me, and admittedly the first two months were hard. I felt like a cow machine first, woman second. She ate constantly, never satiated, it seemed. My wits were brought to a near-end with the constant night-feeding and the sometime hour-long feeding sessions during her growth spurts. By that point I was committed, if for no other reason than to validate my suffering. It would not be in vain!
It got easier and less awkward, but it still did not feel beautiful or special for about four months. It was just the way she ate and that was it. I relegated myself to wearing tops that were easily maneuverable for nursing. Fashion came second. Pleasure was a distant and almost laughable third. I wore bras or shelf tank tops to bed for about seven months, because I needed something to keep the nursing pads in place as Abby learned to sleep longer, thus causing me to leak more. It was nothing like the angelic visions of classic and renaissance paintings that depicted a nursing mother gazing lovingly at her nursing baby. It was necessary, it was routine and it was done.
Somewhere around the time Abby was five months though, I realized that she was quickly growing up. At that age, she was changing her behaviour and skills almost weekly. Blink and I missed something. I began to enjoy nursing her, growing conscious that I would one day stop. I clung to the intimate cuddles and loving gazes from Abby as she latched on and drank. I never counted how many times a day she nursed, nor for how long or when. I just did it, whenever it suited us as a team. It was our special bond and I recognized it.
About two weeks ago when we returned home from Ottawa, I began the weaning process. It will be done by the time she is a year old. I wasn't anxious, but I anticipated it being difficult. I dreaded having to put her down for naps without nursing, sure she would revolt, cry and throw tantrums.
Abby accepted a sippy cup of formula, and now milk, without hesitation or protest. She has been happy to continue lying in my arms in our rocking chair in the dark, drinking her milk and giving little sighs just for me. She has slept and napped without fuss. She has been a little more clingy to me, and wanted to be in my arms more often, but I am as eager to cuddle as she. We're both replacing one type of bond and closeness with another.
We have another week and a half until I project she'll be weaned. It may take longer and that's OK. We're taking it slow so it's easier on me physically. But my little girl continues to impress me with her independence. Why did I ever worry at all? This has surely been harder on me than her.
That said, I am ready to regain ownership of my body. My arms will still be hers for cuddles, for lifting her up and for patty-cake, but the freedom of weaning is something I look forward to. After a year, I will be able to leave overnight and she won't starve! (She never did take a bottle) Or Dad could put her to sleep. Or I could have a really good size glass of wine (or three!) and not worry that I would intoxicate her with my milk!
I know Abby won't be the last baby I nurse, so this journey is not completely over for me. In the meantime, I look forward to letting Abby amaze me with her daily growth and development, and to wearing pretty bras that don't unsnap at the shoulder!

2 comments:

  1. Sarah- I can relate to this on so many levels. Only until recently (4 months) has breast feeding become something special to me. Up until then it's been a chore and just something has to be done. But now Noah can look up at me while feeding and he reaches out for my hand or face when feeding....it's just such a sweet and tender moment.
    I'm happy that you were able to stick it out. Hard as it may have been, in the end I'm sure that you are happy that you did it.

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  2. I can't wait for pretty bra's ;) I have been wearing a couple of normal underwire la sensa bras lately and just shimmy it. But oh god the fashion, everytime I buy a new shirt I thoroughly inspect it to make sure it's easy access to a boob, I have so many pieces of clothing that have no matching bottoms. I feel like i wear the same ol outfits every 2-3 days. But it's all worth it :)

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