My daughter was born on her due date, into water during an assisted home birth, and weighed nine and half pounds! After my beautiful daughter was born, we immediately brought her to the breast. She latched on in a supine position, which amazed my midwives. I was in sheer bliss.
I read tons of natural pregnancy books, but I had neglected to really read about breastfeeding. I was more worried about labor then breastfeeding, as I thought nursing would just occur naturally, and it did (although this was not the case with my second child). I did read the Nursing Mother’s Companion, which I highly recommend. The most important thing I learned in this book was to NEVER wear an underwire bra while lactating. The wire can cut off your milk ducts and lead to nasty mastitis. It happened to a friend of mine, and I still wonder why doctors don’t tell their patients the dangers of the wrong bra.
My daughter quickly gained weight, and her cheeks grew to the size of melons. I began to fear I was overfeeding her and that she might become obese. My midwives tried to squelch my fears and called her “healthy”, but since I couldn’t measure how much milk she was getting, my anxiety got the better of me. I kept breastfeeding, despite these fears, despite cracked nipples and an occasional blocked milk duct, through the uncontrolled let down of milk pouring out.
Breastfeeding my first child quickly became more than providing her with nourishment; it became a method of consolation. It’s hard to cry with a boob in your mouth! If she fell down as a toddler, we nursed. If she got scared, we nursed. If she was tired, we nursed. Although this felt natural and better than a pacifier, when it came time to wean, replacing this nurturing was challenging.
I had always pledged to nurse for two years. When two years had passed, I didn’t know how to go about weaning. My daughter still nursed a lot and throughout the night. We began by cutting out daytime feedings, as I really didn’t want to mess with my sleep. As we slowly cut down these feedings, nighttime became a chore. I began to resent being woken to feed her, even though we coslept, and I decided it was time after two years three months. I remembered my aunt had told her son that his pacifier was broken to break his habit, so I tried the same with my breasts. Having experience broken toys, my daughter understood and accepted my lie.
I had a hard time with engorgement during weaning, as I had not slowed down my milk production enough before declaring my breasts broken. I did not own a pump, and I became sick and canceled music festival plans. After two days, I resorted to telling my daughter my breasts were fixed, and she nursed to relieve my pain, but then they broke again, and that was that.
I can’t say that telling my child a lie was the best way to wean her, but as a new mom with a very demanding toddler, I didn’t know how else to make her understand developmentally. I didn’t want her to feel that her mom was consciously rejecting her or her needs, and as much as I wanted her to self-wean, it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. I did not repeat this lie with my son.
Image: Maternity by Pablo Picasso