The last time I posed about nursing, Leland was only 9 weeks old. I can't even believe that he is 46 weeks old now. It doesn't even seem possible. In my last breastfeeding post Leland had just began nursing without the nipple shield and I closed the post with, "maybe one day I will be able to nurse in the ERGO!" To update, we definitely nurse in the ERGO, meal times, pumpkin patches, walks, shopping, blueberry picking. I guess I can check that off of my wish list of things I hope to be able to do with Leland! We are still a great nursing team. We have our ups and downs with nursing and I still ask my LLL leader friend about 10 questions a week about breastfeeding; I still think that maybe "my supply is getting low"; I still worry about how much milk I have frozen; I still feel like I can't be away from him for longer than three hours without having my pump so I don't miss a feeding, and I still pray that he is gaining weight and getting enough milk each time he nurses.
We are going on 10 and a half months of being exclusively breastfed (except for the wonderful formula that he had in the hospital when his blood sugar dropped scary low). I figured when I had Leland that I would nurse for a year, if I could make it that long. Well, after a 3 day nursing strike and my mother being diagnosed with breast cancer when Leland was 4 weeks old (she has gone through radiation and as far as they can see, she is cancer free and healthy! Thank the LORD!), I can't imagine stopping anytime soon. I have read countless articles that state how "women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as
much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to
the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more
months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast
cancer." After receiving some of the scariest news a daughter could ever hear, i am going to nurse as long as possible to lower my risk as much as possible. As for the nursing strike, he decided one Thursday afternoon when he was just 7 months old that he was NOT going to nurse.
This nursing strike was so painful both emotionally and physically. He was teething at the time and had a double ear infection and was on antibiotics. He had bitten me for the 1st time and I took the advice that I had heard from countless people, "yell NO in a stern voice and put him on the floor so he knows he can't do that to you. He needs to learn that he can't bite. Flick him in the cheek or bite him back so he knows what it feels like." When he bit me the first time, it hurt! I yelled "No!" and placed him on the floor in his nursery. I can only imagine how much hurt he felt from having his Mama yell at him like I did and turn him away from the one constant thing that comforts him most. He began sobbing and never took his eyes off of me. I scooped him up and cuddled him and tried to nurse him again. He wouldn't nurse for me. This went on until Monday morning. It was devastating. Everyone kept telling me that it wasn't my fault and yelling like that wouldn't cause a nursing strike. Well, in my heart I know it did. When I called the LLL leader she gave me the best advise for a biting infant. She told to me talk to him. Explain to him that biting hurts Mommy and that Mommy can't nurse if he is biting. Speak in a calm voice and use my words. Funny how I remind my students that every single day and now I was the one who needed the reminder. Each time we tried nursing I would try to use a positive voice and act like it was ok if he wasn't ready to nurse. Nate would help me talk to Leland when he didn't want to nurse. I was feeling so sad and like such a failure that often times I would just cry. I know many people are thinking, it was only three days get over yourself but when you nurse your baby 10-12 times a day, that is 30-36 times of trying and failing. The emotional aspect of this strike was horrible but I was in so much physical pain as well. People kept saying, can't you just pump, pumping isn't that bad. I know pumping isn't bad, I do it 2-3 times a day, everyday, in addition to nursing 6-8 times a day. I usually respond really well to a pump but that is when I have a little nursling helping things along in between pumping sessions. I was engorged during the nursing strike and NOTHING would come out when I would pump. Wearing a shirt would be painful as well as lying down. I would try to pump after each nursing try, I did warm compresses, cold compresses, massages, power pumping (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for an hour), I even got really great at hand expression but the milk just wouldn't flow out. Thankfully, I had a neighbor who was renting a hospital grade pump that she was willing to loan me. It is a closed system and I had my own tubing and parts that I had kept from the hospital. I used that pump about 4 times and on the fourth time, the clogs came out and the milk was flowing. It felt so good. I finally was able to take a deep breath. I used the pump for another 12 hours and then on Monday morning, Leland woke up, Nate brought him downstairs for me and laid him on my lap. He rolled towards me and began to nurse. He looked up and smiled while nursing and acted like the last three days had never happened. I was about to start crying tears of joy, but Nate was in the kitchen mouthing to me, don't cry, don't cry! We didn't want to scare him away again! And that is how the nursing strike began and ended.
We are still nursing on demand these days. He is still eating a lot of solid foods. I bet it is about 60% breast milk, 40% solids. I nurse him before each snack and meal to make sure that my supply stays up. If I was home with him each day, I wouldn't be as worried about my supply. But being away from him for 7 hours a day, Monday-Friday, I try to nurse as much as possible when we are together. It is still hard for me to be away from him for more than a couple of hours on the weekends. We nurse about 6 times a day on the weekdays and about 8-10 times on the weekends.
I have a lot of frozen milk in the freezer and I freeze the fresh milk each day and use the oldest frozen milk to send to school with him. Our plan is for me to continue pumping until the end of school, May 16th, and then just nurse until he is ready to wean and continue to feed him the breast milk at meal times in sippy cups. That's the plan. However, Nathan and I have learned these last 10 and a half months that babies do not always stick to the parent's plan!