Beware this post contains lots of talk about boobies and pictures of breastfeeding!
So it's officially been one week since I stopped nursing Theo. It's going well, and even though I've been tempted to secretly feed him once or twice to soothe him, I've resisted and he's forgotten about it pretty quickly.
I last fed him on Friday before I left for Greenman in the morning. I was really worried I would get really upset about it being THE LAST EVER FEED, but I just told myself it doesn't necessarily have the be the last feed ever, I would just see how it went. Then I didn't feel to emotionally attached to that feed, that so far, has been his last ever feed. But anyway I will start from the beginning of the story.
Theo was born in hospital, and when he was born I was pretty exhausted and out of it on an epidural and an anti sickness injection to stop me projectile vomiting everywhere again. But I managed to be aware enough to hold him and to nurse him after they had cleaned him up. I remember he seemed to latch on straight away with little help, and even when he came off I managed to get him on by myself again. I was surprised at how easy it was! But alas, it was not to stay this way. I can't really remember the feeling of feeding for the first time, as it was all a massive mix of emotions, tiredness and hormones, but I remember feeling proud that I was doing it.
The next day the feeding didn't go well at all though, he wouldn't open his mouth wide enough (lazy boy!) and I just couldn't get him to latch on. Luckily there was an excellent nurse who (with a bit of manhandling of my boob) managed to get him to latch on. It was such a relief! But everytime she walked away, he would come off again and we'd start the struggle again. I tried to stay calm but I can just remember getting so hot and bothered, and I felt like a bit of a failure. He would get hungry and wound up which would make the whole process go on and on. I was desperate to get him to feed on my own, as to be able to leave the hospital they needed to see you independently feed him twice. The episodes of trying to get him latched on seemed to go on forever, and once I had to express some colostrum into a syringe, just so he could have something to eat. My heart definitely dropped at that point, and it made me really determined not to give up!
We got moved to a private room and I felt a lot more comfortable, and the feeding started to get a little easier. Perhaps as I was relaxing a little bit and we were both getting a bit more rest. I still needed help occasionally, but by the time my milk came in I was feeling confident with it. I guess it's because I knew all I had to do was press a button to get help, and people constantly checking that it was going ok, and I'm glad of that. I know had I been at home in the first few days, I would have struggled, not having help there 24/7 with the feeding. When my milk came in I definitely got the blues with it though, and being alone in the middle of the night when that happens is not fun!
We eventually got to go home a full 7 days after we had arrived at hospital, when I was in labour. That was a long week! But when I arrived home I felt we were fully established with feeding, and I was confident. I attended a breastfeeding support group near by, but mainly just to go and be around other new mums. But had I had problems with feeding it is great to know that there are these groups out there to help, and they really were supportive.
So I had survived! and with pretty much no cracked nipples or intense pain either...how did that happen?
I wasn't ever sure how long I intended to breastfeed, but Theo did so well on it and would never take a bottle (of expressed milk) that it just seemed right to carry on as long as we both felt happy. We also started co-sleeping permanently, so breastfeeding was the easiest way to feed him. Even when we started weaning, I didn't stop feeding, or even drop any, especially as we were practicing BLW and he didn't start to really eat food properly until he was a year.
When it came to feeding in public I don't ever remember being terrified of it. I think I had a new wave of confidence and I knew that I had to feed my baby, I was more embarrassed about him screaming the place down. Plus I was having to get my boob out in front of my family and friends, so I was less embarrassed about a stranger seeing something. I think my reasoning behind it was that I exposed my self to much during labour, that the occasional flash of a nipple wouldn't be half as bad as that! And I was so prepared to stick up for my rights if anyone did dare to say anything to me, in a way I'm kind of annoyed that no-one did, because I wasn't able to unleash hell on them! (But actually saying that, had that happened when we were still in the early days I think it would have definitely knocked my confidence, so it's a very good job no-one did)
Since Theo still slept in our bed, and then the same room as us until he was about 15 months it made sense to still breastfeed. We both were still enjoying it, and even though most of my friends had stopped, and people kept on asking when I was going to, I was determined to carry on as long as it felt right for us. But then Theo's sleeping took a turn for the worse, and he was waking up every two hours to feed. It was killing me, so we decided to see whether a move to his own room would help, and I think it did. We weren't disturbing him as much so he wouldn't wake up wanting feeding. I then made the decision to stop feeding him at night. I would still feed him to sleep in the evening, and when he woke up and throughout the day, but in the night we would have to try and settle him down in other ways. This is when Rob really stepped in and helped to get him back to sleep, which was a huge weight off of me. And it worked, he started sleeping for longer stretches of time, and could be settled by other people other than me! We enjoyed this arrangement for the last few months of feeding, and it worked for a while. But as I mentioned recently he started to get really funny with feeding if we were at home. He would demand it, and try his hardest to get underneath my top and have a feed. I didn't like the way this happened, but most of time I would just give in to keep him quiet, when really I knew he didn't actually need the milk. If we were out for most of the day, and he napped in his pram, he wouldn't ask for it.
And then Greenman came up. It was definitely a push I needed to make me decide that actually it does feel like the right time to give up. I'd reached 18 months, and I'd always said in my head that if I got to that point I would be really proud of myself, and that it would be a good time to stop after reviewing whether it was best for all of us. I was ready to have someone else be able to put him to sleep, and not only to be seen as a milk machine. I'm so glad that I made it this far, and I do miss it, my boobs definitely do (any tips anyone?!)
Theo has been good though, there have been days when he hasn't asked for it at all, and if he does I just tell him it's all gone, but make sure I give him a cuddle too. I want to still be able to give him comfort when he needs it, but make sure he knows he can get the comfort without having to feed. His sleeping has dramatically improved, and Rob has put him to bed every night. Tonight in fact, he went to sleep without making any fuss, and last night he slept from 7pm right through until just before 6am. The hardest part about it is the earlier wake up times, as he used to have a feed at six in our bed, and sleep for at least another hour or two in the bed with me. I can't really handle the 6am wake up just yet! But I'm hoping that he'll realise he's not going to get fed, and sleep a little longer (pleeeeeease?) But so far so good. I feel happy, he doesn't seem to be unhappy, and in fact he seems to be eating a little better too, we've definitely had a few more empty bowls at the end of meals than before!
So there you have it, from birth to 19 months, breastfed. I feel really proud of that.
And you know what, he still loves me and is still the same happy engergetic boy he always was.