Friday night, for the first time since she was born, I didn’t nurse Anna before bed. At 19 months it was time to be done. She probably would have kept going if I had been willing, but I was ready to be done. As I read her a story and rocked her for a bit before putting her in her crib I found myself feeling a bit sad. Even though I was ready to be done it felt like the last piece of her babyhood slipping away.
The process to get to Friday night when we were officially done breast feeding started about a month ago. Slowly Anna had been dropping nursing sessions on her own since she turned 1. We were down to the last 3, the hardest ones in my experience, for them to give up. The first one we worked on was her before nap nursing session. It was by far the toughest, and although she no longer asks to nurse before nap time it is still a struggle to get her to fall asleep. A few days after we ended to before nap nursing she decided to give up the first thing in the morning session on her own. It was nice not to have to battle her on that one.
Once we were down to just the before bed session I took a break for a couple of weeks from the weaning process and let her adjust to the new normal. I knew on Thursday it was the last time I would nurse her. I had picked Friday because I figured if it was a real challenge to get her to go to sleep it would be easier when we didn’t have to get up early for anything the next day. Surprisingly, she was fine with it. We read a story and then snuggled and rocked in the rocking chair for a bit. She was out within minutes of me putting her in her crib. And, she has continued to do well every night since.
I am proud of myself for making it another 19 months. Breastfeeding this time around was a much easier than last time as it didn’t come with any of the early struggles I experienced with Maya. It wasn’t challenge free but the challenges that did come up were easy to get through thanks to the 19 months experience I had nursing Maya. I’ll miss my quiet time with Anna all snuggled into me that nursing guaranteed daily. Although, Anna loves to snuggle so I’m sure there will be no lack of snuggle time with her.
When I was breastfeeding my first daughter I had all the time in the world to give her when it was time to nurse. If she wanted to spend 20 or 30 minutes nursing it was fine because there was nothing else more important or that needed my attention more. We spent a lot of peaceful, uninterrupted time together while she nursed.
Before my second daughter was born I fretted over how breastfeeding would go given that I would now have a 4 year old who also needed my attention. Sitting down to quietly and calmly breastfeed seemed impossible to me when there was a rambunctious little girl running around who would need help going potty or help getting a snack or would want to play, etc. etc.
When Anna was born I was determined for our breastfeeding relationship to be as calm, peaceful and enjoyable as it was with Maya. It was important to me because I felt she deserved it even though she was our second and life was more chaotic now. I set my mind to it and did everything I could to make it so. A few things I did to make this possible were:
- I set the precedent from the beginning that I would sit quietly and nurse her whenever possible.
- I prepared Maya before I sat down to nurse Anna. I would ask her if she had to go potty or needed a snack because I was about to feed her sister and wouldn’t be able to help her for a little bit.
- Whenever possible I nurse Anna in the quiet of her bedroom before naps and bedtime. Of course, that only works when my husband is home to watch Maya.
- I try hard not to be distracted while nursing. I focus as much attention on Anna as I can just as I did with Maya when I had all the time in the world.
- I talked to Maya before Anna was even born about breastfeeding and what it would entail.
- I make sure Maya has something fun to do while I’m nursing Anna either something to play, or a show to watch.
12 months in and I’m happy to say I feel as though I’ve been able to give Anna pretty close to the same attention and quiet during our nursing sessions as I did when I nursed my first child. It wasn’t easy and it took dedication but I made it work.
It is so easy to get distracted in the day to day chaos of raising children. I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting down to cuddle my baby while she nurses and I’m glad I as able to make it happen even with so many other distractions around.
Babies have sensitive, still maturing, digestive systems during their first months of life. Their sensitive digestive systems can pose a bit of a challenge for the breastfeeding mother. The things a mom takes into her body can cause tummy upset, gas and spitting up in their baby. These symptoms can lead to sleeplessness for baby and for mom, extra crying and fussiness and gas pain. We parents hate to see our little ones suffering and we often feel extra guilty if we know that what we ate for dinner caused the gas pain that is keeping our baby up and crying in pain.
Luckily, most of the food we eat doesn’t cause trouble for our little one’s tummies, and some babies are never affected by anything their mamas eat. However, some foods can cause tummy troubles for your little one. Some of the more common foods babies can be sensitive to include:
- Gassy vegetables
- Spicy food
As the mom of a very lazy nurser I’m still amazed by the efficiency with which Anna eats. Maya was such a slow eater, like crazy slow. I had to spend half the time keeping her awake or waking her up so she would keep nursing. In the first months of her life our nursing sessions were definitely of the marathon variety. A quick middle of the night nursing session would be no less than an hour. She did eventually get a little more efficient but she was never what I would call an efficient eater. So, when Anna decided she preferred the fast food variety of breastmilk I was dumbfounded and didn’t really know what to do.
Seriously, this girl knows how to get it done. A long nursing session with Anna is 20 minutes. Usually she is done in 5-10 minutes. She just chugs it down until she is full. She never stops sucking until she is full and ready to be done. Even if she starts to fall asleep at the breast she is still efficiently sucking away. Not once has she tried to use me as a pacifier. If she is full she is done and will pull off and display her lovely milk drunk face. She is not about wasting time eating, she apparently has more important things to do with her time
It has taken me a while to get used to this new found breastfeeding efficiency. At first I was constantly worried that she hadn’t eaten enough, especially at night when she was ready to be laid back down in bed just a mere 10 minutes after she woke up to nurse. I’ve tried to offer her my breast again only to be screamed at because, “seriously, mom, I’m done.” But, now that I’ve adjusted my thinking from that of a mom with a lazy nurser to that of a mom with an efficient nurser we are in a groove. I seriously love how easy it is to nurse her and how I can quickly sit down to feed her and be ready to head out the door 15 minutes later, it makes life so much easier. But, secretly I kind of miss the lengthy alone time so I find myself holding her on my shoulder just a few minutes longer so I can get my fill of cuddle time
Of course, having an efficient nurser isn’t without its challenges. I’m sure her chugging down her meals in 5 minutes flat is a big contributing factor to the amount of spitting up she does. I always know when half her meal is going to come back up based on how loud and unsettled her chugging is. I’ve discovered that it is really best to feed her before she gets too hungry and too worked up because she will keep things a little slower and won’t go too crazy with her chugging, thus, less spit up. Even with the extra spit up and less nursing session snuggle time I’d pick the efficient nurser over the lazy nurser any day.
When it comes to breastfeeding there are a lot of challenges a mom can face along the way. We hear a lot about women who cannot produce enough milk for their babies but we don’t often hear about the reverse problem, those who produce too much milk or who have a letdown that is so forceful it causes problems for both mom and baby. You would think having too much milk, or milk that comes out too fast wouldn’t be much a problem, but for those of us who suffer from overactive letdown or oversupply we know just how much of a challenge it can be.
Overactive letdown, also referred to as forceful letdown, is when the milk forcefully sprays out of the breast during letdown. It can occur only with the first letdown per feeding, or multiple times per feeding. Often the mother will have pain, or at the very least discomfort, in her breasts during the letdown. A baby nursing from a mother overactive letdown often has difficulty managing the flow and will choke, gag, and pull away from the breast. As a result these babies often end up with a lot of extra air in their tummies causing them to be gassy and fussy. Since so much milk is coming out so quickly babies often fill up on the lighter, sugary foremilk and doesn’t get enough of the rich hindmilk. This lactose imbalance can result in gassiness, green, runny stools, discomfort and a lot of spitting up.
Moms with overactive letdown often end up being told their babies are lactose intolerant or that the baby is reacting to something in the mother’s diet, or that their babies are just coliky. This often results in the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
Although you can’t control your letdown there are a few things you can do to help make the flow a little more manageable for baby. These include:
- Nurse the baby in a position so that the baby is “uphill”, modified cradle hold so that baby is tummy is lower than her head, football hold, or laying down so the baby’s head of above the breast.
- Remove the baby from the breast during the letdown and let the milk spray into a clean cloth placing the baby back on the breast when the flow has slowed down.
- Pump through the first letdown and then begin breastfeeding when the flow slows down.
- Remove the baby from the breast often during breastfeeding to burp him or her to help prevent too much air build up.
- Nurse the baby on one breast only per feeding. This will allow the baby to get the richer hindmilk.
- If the baby wants to nurse again within 2 hours return to the same breast.
- If you flow is incredibly forceful and you have too much supply nurse the baby on the same breast for a 2-4 hour block, switching only after that time frame is up.
- Some women find it helpful to pump to empty first thing in the morning as it can help keep the flow slower during the day.
- Nurse the baby when he or she is drowsy as their sucking with be less intense and will help keep the flow of milk a little slower.
It may take a while but eventually your baby should see some relief from the discomfort of the overactive letdown. Some babies, when faced with overactive letdown continuously, will begin to refuse the breast, or get angry when nursing. Try to work through it by following some of the helpful tips above, eventually the baby should return to nursing.
I’ve suffered from overactive letdown with both of my daughters. Thanks to the 19 months of breastfeeding experience I had under my belt I recognized what was going on immediately this go around. Anna and I are still trying to work through this challenge. I’ve been nursing her on one breast per feeding for several weeks and have started letting my initial letdown spray into a cloth. Slowly, I am beginning to see some improvement in her tummy troubles.
It can be frustrating dealing with a problem that others don’t necessarily see as a problem. Be sure to seek support from a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League if you are suffering from oversupply or overactive letdown. Having support to work through the challenge and to help come up with ways to manage the related issues will make it so much easier to continue your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.