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Breastfeeding

I haven’t nursed Nora in over a week. She is officially fully weaned. She still asks for it on occasion but she doesn’t get upset when I say no or distract her with something else. Although I was completely ready to be done with breastfeeding I still feel a little sad, or maybe nostalgic is a better word, now that it is over. It feels a bit like the end of an era. Babyhood in our family is officially coming to an end. Our kids are getting older and more independent by the day. Even the baby of the family isn’t a baby anymore.

Being done with breastfeeding feels like such a huge deal to me. Donating my nursing bras and tank tops felt surreal. For close to 5 of the last 7 and a half years I have had a nursing baby or toddler. It was just so much a part of my parenting routine that to have it be done feels weird, and I must admit a bit freeing. I don’t feel so tied down or required anymore. We all like to feel needed, and all my girls still need me and prefer for me to put them to bed at night, but I’m not required. Being gone in the evening around bedtime is now something I can do if I want to!

Nora was by far the hardest to wean. Perhaps it is because I waited a bit longer to start the process with her, perhaps it was just such a comfort to her she didn’t want to willingly give it up. Maya and Anna were fairly easy to wean, with only one or two nursing sessions being a little more challenging. By the time I started weaning them at 18 months they were down to just a few times a day anyway and we fully weaned within a month or so. Nora was still going strong at 18 months so getting her give it up was a lot harder. We took it slow and I tried to let her set the pace as much as I could, although I was ready to be done so I tended to nudge her a bit when I could. It took about 4-5 months to finally get to the point where she was just nursing once or twice a day. Getting rid of those last couple of sessions was a lot easier than I anticipated. I figured she would put up a huge fight, but with a little distraction and the introduction of some new elements to our morning and nighttime routines she quickly decided it was okay to give it up.

I really enjoy our new nighttime routine. We read a book (the same airplane book every night!) and snuggle for a few minutes. We still get that quiet, uninterrupted time together and she still gets her much loved snuggles before getting into bed. It works well and both of us are happy.

 

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In the wee hours of the morning when I hear her  cries I bolt out of bed in a half awake, half still very much asleep stupor and stumble down the hall into her room. I am so, so tired and wish I was still sleeping soundly in my warm,comfortable bed instead of dealing with a crying toddler who refuses to sleep through the night. I pick her up and she presses her head firmly into that perfect spot on my shoulder made just for a baby’s heads and sighs as if there is no where else she would rather be. She asks to nurse but since we are working on weaning from night time feedings and it is before the arbitrary time of 3am that I came up with I quietly whisper no and shush her as she cries a little. I rock her gently and she quickly gives in to the fact that she isn’t going to get to nurse, and settles into my shoulder. Her hand wraps around my arm and her breath becomes steady as she returns to the land of sleep.

In these quiet moments I can’t help but think about the fact that she is my last baby. That one day she’ll figure out this whole sleeping through the night thing and moments like these will just be a memory. One night I’ll stumble into her room in the middle of the night to answer her cries and requests for the boob and it will be the last night it happens. I won’t know at the time but it will be the end of an era. Sure there will be times she calls out for me in the middle night but not like this, not to be rocked or nursed. I know I’ll miss these moments when they are gone. I won’t miss feeling completely exhausted but I will miss the feeling of a baby’s body getting heavy against my chest as she gives into sleep. I will miss the sweet smell of shampoo and sweat as I lay my cheek against the top of her head and breathe in her scent. I will miss the hypnotic sound of rhythmic breathing and soft snores. I will miss the feeling of being completely needed and trusted.

In the middle of the night when others are sleeping, when I should be sleeping but instead am on mom duty, rocking my sweet toddler back to sleep, I think of these things and feel lucky to still be needed at 3am. I feel nostalgic for all the moments just like this one that I have briefly spent with all of my girls. These moments can feel endless when you are living them, but when you look back they are so fleeting. Truth be told, I hope there are at least a few more of these quiet moments with my last baby girl in the wee hours of the morning because I’m not quite ready to be done with this phase yet.

By the time you get to your third child, after successfully breastfeeding two other babies for 20 months each, breastfeeding seems like a breeze. I’ve been incredibly lucky with my breastfeeding success and I know not everyone has such easy experiences so I’m very grateful.

Breastfeeding came naturally to me, and other than a few minor hiccups in the road, each of my babies have been champion nursers and Nora is no exception. All my babies had good latches and nursed well and often as newborns helping insure I got and maintained a good supply. As the months wore on with Maya I got comfortable nursing around others and even nursed in public a few times. By the time it was Anna’s turn I was pretty comfortable with the whole nursing in public thing and thanks to her super efficient nursing abilities I was usually able to get her fed before anyone even noticed what I was doing.

This third go around with breastfeeding has been a breeze. Nora was a champion nurser right out of the gate and things have been going really well ever since. With 2 other kiddos to chase after breastfeeding on the go is a must. I’ve nursed her while giving them a bath. I’ve nursed her while sitting in their room helping them get ready for the day. I’ve even nursed her while chasing a two year old around the house. The one thing I hadn’t mastered was true nursing on the go; nursing her while walking around with her in the Ergo. That is until our trip to Disney.

Taking two kiddos ready for adventure to Disneyland I knew I was going to have to step up my game. I didn’t want my need to nurse Nora to get in the way of their fun. I didn’t want to have to constantly say “Sorry guys I need to feed Nora first.” I knew that would result in a few meltdowns and a lot of kid wrangling while I tried to feed the baby. At first I stopped to feed her when I needed to but I knew it wasn’t going to work every time. Then, as we were in line for a ride, Nora got super fussy. She was tired, hungry and over stimulated. I didn’t have a choice, I had to nurse her then and there. So, I carefully loosened the shoulder straps on the Ergo, positioned her as best I could, covered her head with a blanket and did my best to get her latched on. It worked. She latched on, nursed contentedly until she fell asleep. I had done it. I had truly nursed her on the go.

The rest of the trip saw me nursing her as we walked around the park almost every time she needed to eat. If you had passed me you would have had no idea. It simply looked like I had a baby sleeping soundly in an Ergo. I had done it. I had achieved the master level of breastfeeding!!

I’m still waiting on my certificate to come in the mail 😉

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.

These days I spend a lot of time doing laundry, like seriously A LOT. Some days I’m doing at least a load every day, it is a bit ridiculous. Why, exactly, am I doing so much laundry, you ask? Well, you see, I’m the proud parent of a “Happy Spitter”. I know I’m so lucky, right 😉

So, what is a “Happy Spitter”, or as our pediatrician likes to refer to it “The Laundry Maker”? A “happy spitter” is a baby who spits up frequently but is still eating well, gaining weight and otherwise happy. Basically, it is when spitting up isn’t necessarily the sign of a problem or causing the baby any distress, but is just more of a nuisance. And, boy is it ever a nuisance!

Anna is a “happy spitter”. She has been spitting up on a regular basis, and by regular basis I mean almost every feeding, since she was born. We go through a lot of burp cloths, receiving blankets, and clothing (both hers and mine) every day. I have purchased an insane number of burp cloths (I have at least a dozen) and receiving blankets to help avoid having to do laundry every day. It has helped a bit, most of the time I only find myself needing to do baby laundry every other day. Kind of sad when you consider every other day laundry an improvement.

There isn’t anything I can do to stop this annoying habit of my wee one, it’s just something she does. It is probably caused by a combination of a few different things like my overactive letdown, her immature digestive system and the very rapid way in which she consumes her food. There isn’t really anything I can do to stop the constant vomiting. I burp her a lot, and keep her upright for a while after she eats, but really other than that I’m just kind of stuck with it until she out grows it.

Any other parents out there dealing with happy spitters? What tricks have you discovered? Have you found any ways to keep the spitting up to a minimum?

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go fold another load of baby laundry.