I feel like when you have a child there are SO MANY “firsts.” The first time they smile, the first time they laugh, the first time they roll over, sit up on their own, crawl, walk, first words, first day of school, first date and so on. We tend to remember and document these “firsts” with pride. I’ve looked forward to and celebrated a lot of Hunter’s first but I have also come to realize that there are a lot of “lasts” that we don’t even realize happen until long after they’ve come and gone. I remember one time I was making our bed and I saw the blanket and burp cloth that I always kept on my bedside table for the mornings I would nurse Hunter in bed. I realized that I hadn’t used these items in a long time and I couldn’t even remember the “last time” we had spent a quiet morning nursing in bed.
Tonight I am writing about one of those “lasts” that ended a very special part of Hunter and my relationship. A week ago today I nursed Hunter for the last time. I didn’t know that it would be the last time but I did have a sense that it would be coming sooner rather than later.
When I was pregnant with Hunter I knew that I wanted to at least try breastfeeding. I had no expectations and didn’t put any pressure on myself to do it or not but I at least wanted to try. After getting through those first few challenging weeks of breast feeding I knew I wanted to sick with it for at least the recommended 6 months.
(Hunter’s favorite nursing position with his hand behind his head)
I was really fortunate that I got to take Hunter to work with me for three months so I didn’t have to worry about pumping until he was 6 months old. Once Hunter started daycare I told myself if I couldn’t pump “enough” then I would not feel bad supplementing with formula. Luckily I was able to keep up. I think starting solids around this time also helped.
I seem to recall that when Hunter was very small he nursed 8-9 times in a 24 hour period. I think once he went to daycare I started nursing him 4 times a day (morning, night, after daycare, and a dream feed), pumping 3 times a day, and he drank 2 bottles of expressed milk. When I was home with him I nursed him 6 times a day. Eventually we got down to 4 times a day (I dropped the dream feed). At one year of age, when Hunter dropped the morning nap we also dropped the “after morning” nursing session. I also stopped pumping at work without affecting my supply. Gradually we dropped the nursing session after his one nap. Hunter’s daycare provider gave him whole milk and a snack after his nap and so I started doing that too. We were going pretty strong with two nursing sessions a day when I found out I was pregnant with Baby Sneaker 2.0. Actually that should have been one of the clues that I was pregnant. Nursing suddenly became very uncomfortable. I knew that now I had a decision to make. After we made it to the one year mark I told myself that I would let Hunter lead the way as far as our nursing relationship would go. I never encouraged him NOT to nurse but I also didn’t offer. I left it up to him and I planned to do so until he wanted to quit. But I began to worry that he would want to continue even after the new baby came. I just didn’t know how I felt about nursing two babies at once. I had read that it was done all the time and it even helped the older sibling to adjust to the new baby. I wanted to do what was best for Hunter but I also remembered how demanding a newborn’s nursing needs were. My doctor told me that sometimes the first baby weans themselves because the taste of the milk changes and the supply drops. I just decided to keep doing what we were doing. Our regular routine would be to wake up, change Hunter’s diaper and immediately nurse him. He would often tap on my chest and whimper even before I changed him. Then one morning he didn’t. He pointed towards his books so we sat down to read. So, the next morning I asked him if he wanted to read and we did. Maybe once or twice while we were reading in the morning he would tap on my chest at which point I would say, “Let’s go make breakfast” since I knew he was hungry. So, then we were just down to the before bedtime nursing session. This session was getting shorter and shorter and I could tell Hunter wasn’t really drinking much, just using me for comfort. But, I just kept at it. Until last week that is. Tuesday we did our bedtime routine nursing just before I laid him down. Wednesday Brian had to put Hunter to bed since I had to work. He’s been doing this for most of the year so no big deal. I believe he offered him whole milk in a cup. Then the next night instead of asking to nurse Hunter pointed towards his pacifier so I gave it to him and snuggled before laying him down. And that was it! Since then he has sort of “asked” to nurse but I think what he really likes is the skin to skin contact. So we try to snuggle a lot and it all seems to work out.
Sometimes I can’t believe we nursed as long as we did. I had no expectations when I started our breastfeeding journey and I certainly didn’t know what “extended breastfeeding” (nursing past one year) or “tandem nursing” (nursing while pregnant or nursing two children at the same time) was but I guess I did both! I think nursing was a very special bond Hunter and I shared. Sure it was hard and maybe it was one of the reasons Hunter didn’t sleep as well but I think it was worth it.
With baby number 2 I’m going in with the same attitude. I want to try and breastfeed and we’ll see where it goes from there. I know that every baby is different and we might have a totally different experience. This is definitely something I never thought much about until becoming a mother and I am grateful for the experience.
*Please note this post is not meant to discriminate against mothers who chose not to nurse. I believe it is a very personal decision that every mother needs to make. I know it is not possible for all mothers to nurse. I just wanted to share and document my own journey.*