While I was pregnant with Isa I read so many books. Books about everything-pregnancy, birthing, discipline, children’s health. And even though it sounds like I may be one of those obsessive mothers, I would not consider myself one of “those”. I can easily hand Isa her pacifier back if it drops on the floor. I don’t even always suck it off first. I let her “cry it out” and it wasn’t even difficult for me those first few times. But the older she has gotten and the more of a bond that has developed between us, the harder some of these parenting decisions have become.
Several weeks ago, I noticed that my milk supply seemed lower than normal and I talked with a lactation consultant about this. This was so unusual for me. I always had an over-abundance of milk and literally threw gallons of pumped breast-milk down the drain…something I’m kicking myself over now. But I was noticing that the more I nursed her, the less milk I was producing which goes against everything that they always tell you. She gave me some other ideas and I was content to go home and didn’t think any more of it.
Then I realized I was pregnant! A week after finding out this great news, we travelled as a family to Washington D.C. The whole week I struggled to nurse her. My milk would not let down. Isa would become frustrated and would unlatch. The whole week, I figured our feeding problems were due to a new setting and being out of routine. After returning home though, it didn’t get any better and things progressively got worse. I started calling and talking with any one I could. After another phone call to a lactation consultant I found out that decreased milk supply is normal during pregnancy. This is something I NEVER, EVER read. Not in any of my books, magazines, or blogs that I follow so faithfully. I have read so many wonderful stories of mothers breastfeeding through their entire pregnancies AND then nursing two at the same time. None of these mothers mentioned struggles. It all seemed so easy and I had no reason to believe that it wouldn’t be.
After another week of nursing struggles, it hit its climax one night. Isa woke up several times during the night and was trying to nurse but I had nothing. No matter how long she nursed or how frequently, I had nothing to offer her. I decided at 3 a.m. that this was it. I was going to wean her. This was a huge decision for me. I had always hoped to nurse her until she was at least a year old. I know all of the health benefits of breast-milk for babies and the physiological, psychological, and physical benefits for the mother. I have experienced it all. But at this time, both Isa and I were frustrated, angry, and it was not producing any of those “feel-good” hormones for either of us.
That morning when Isa woke up, I didn’t give her the option to nurse. And when she went down for her nap, I didn’t offer it again. Instead, I was able to give her a small amount of pumped milk in a bottle and then even switched over to a bottle with formula! She didn’t mind at all. Oh, it was glorious! We were both happy and content. Then, reality hit…
Nap #2~ Isa refuses the bottle and I try to hold her down to give it to her believing that “Once she gets a taste of it, she’ll like it”…wrong!
After nap~ Isa sits on the floor and just cries. I feel terrible.
Before bed~ I offer her the bottle and she continues to push it away. I keep it close and sing to her and she eventually places the bottle in her mouth and finishes it off.
2 a.m.~ Isa wakes up, wants to nurse and I offer her the bottle. She screams and violently pushes it away. I end up just holding her until she falls asleep.
4 a.m~ I offer milk to her in a sippy cup. More screaming. She eventually falls asleep.
7:30 a.m.~ “Things will get better, they have to.” Wrong. Isa is not a happy child and will only drink from an open cup where she can see that it is water.
Nap #1~ She cries and cries. I have nothing to offer her. I’m starting to feel terrible. I call my mom. She says everything will be okay.
Wakes up less than an hour later. She cries. I cry. This is not easy. I give her the bottle to play with on the tile floor. She throws it to the side. I pretend to drink some milk that I doctored up with cinnamon and vanilla. She buys it and drinks several sips and seems to enjoy it. “Progress”
Nap #2~ Another bout of crying. I jump in the shower so I don’t break down over her sobbing. When I get out she’s quiet and had fallen asleep. Unfortunately, this lasts for only 20 minutes.
For the rest of the afternoon, I keep her happy and try to fill her up on foods though cannot get her to drink. She is starting to refuse everything, including water.
Before bed~ We decide to have Chris lay her down. She cries some though not for long.
2 a.m.~ When she wakes, I offer her the bottle. She screams. I hold her and she falls back asleep.
5 a.m.~ She wakes again and cries profusely. I offer her the sippy, she screams. I offer her water in an open cup, she screams. I offer her a banana, she screams. And as we’re both sitting on the floor, Isa screaming and me saying “I don’t know what’s wrong.” Isa brings out the big-guns. She signs “MILK”, our sign for nurse. How could I not know what was wrong?! So, I did what needed to be done (for both her and myself). I nursed her. She was content, I was content and she slept for another 4 hours afterwards.
Those two days were some of the hardest two days that I have experienced. Some of you may be thinking that I deserved it, that I was being cruel. From this post, it may have sounded like an easy decision to stop nursing her, but it wasn’t. Nursing was becoming something that I dreaded because I wasn’t able to “perform”. I finally understood what many mothers experience in those first few weeks of a baby’s life. I was one of the fortunate ones that never had any problems. Rather, my decision to wean was out of a desire to do what was best for both of us. AND, then I started nursing her again for the same reason. So after hoping she would easily wean or at least make progress, I feel like we’ve moved backwards. But I’m okay with that for now. Today, I have a new approach. I try to nurse. If I can’t, I move on. She proved to me that she can live without much liquid for 2 days. Going without one feeding will be fine!
Today as I put her down for her nap, I nursed her. She was happy, I was content, and now she is sleeping peacefully. This is what’s working for us TODAY.