When Breastfeeding Failed, I Wanted Something to Blame

All things pregnancy, birth, and mothering related rarely turn out as planned. Connecting the dots to figure out why is an exercise in futility.

It’s lunch time. Mary gets restless with spoon-feeding and pushes my hand away. “No, I want spoon.”

She is a year and a half old. I stuff my anxiety about the mess and let her practice scooping her own yogurt. While she needs to practice gaining control of her little muscles, I need to practice letting go of controlling every little thing. This exchange of power, exchange of energy, has been ongoing since her birth.

When my daughter was five months old, she weaned herself. We were both relieved to end the battle to extract more than a few drops of milk from my body. I gave up hours of pumping and nursing that yielded only a few ounces a day; she gave up unsatisfying feedings and freed herself to experiment with new skills and foods.

I’m glad we experienced breastfeeding in the best way we were able, and I know every drop helped to grow her into the sweet little pixie she is today. Still, I struggle to understand where my body went wrong, why it failed to operate in the easy, natural way I had imagined when I was pregnant. In fact, my body has a long history of not functioning “normally,” thanks to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

In fact, thanks to PCOS, it took me seven years (and at least a dozen doctors) to finally conceive. Thanks to PCOS, my pregnancy was complicated by obesity and diabetes. But did it also – even tangentially – factor into my daughter being born five weeks early? And were each of these factors like little obstacles that combined to diminish my ability to produce breastmilk?

My daughter was born via C-section after 30 hours at the hospital, waiting for nature to respond to pharmaceutical coaxing. At 35 weeks gestation, we had found ourselves in the labor and delivery unit for the second time due to unexplained bleeding.

Wake up in the third trimester of pregnancy gushing blood, and the ground gives way. Your husband’s office is too far away, the hospital is too far away, and the hot, dark breath of fear is too close. When it happens a second time, you know the pregnancy phase is ending and the mothering phase is beginning.

Throughout pregnancy, I suffered idealism about how much control I’d have over my daughter’s birth. In my inexperienced imagination, natural childbirth was best, medicated vaginal delivery was an acceptable alternative, and C-Section was a path of last resort, only to be weighed with pressing medical complications. For months I’d dreaded the possibility of a C-Section, but when it was go-time, I felt so relieved. I was exhausted, uncomfortable, terrified, and relieved to have the process out of my hands.

As the doctor opened me up, I felt the most disconcerting tugging and pressure in my belly. I may never know what vaginal delivery feels like, but I do know the sensation of being turned inside out. The doctors announced my daughter’s delivery at 12:46p.m. When I heard her first bleating cry, I told my husband it couldn’t be real. With everyone’s attention focused on the tiny baby, I turned my head and vomited all over the operating room floor. It was only the beginning of my body not responding to motherhood in the beautiful, hazy sunrise-lit way I’d imagined.

When my husband and I brought Mary home from the hospital, we felt invincible. That feeling lasted about 24 hours before I was sobbing in hysterics, certain we were all going to die. Mary would die of starvation, I would die from failure, and Nick would die of a broken heart.

We were just getting the first clues that I was not lactating normally. Mary was not getting enough milk, and she was too sleepy to nurse, but too hungry to rest. At her 5-day check-up, she’d lost too much weight and was re-admitted to the hospital for jaundice. I sobbed on the hospital shuttle bus while other (probably confused) passengers cooed over my tiny one. I wondered how they could smile when I was devastated, and my baby was sick.

Where in the timeline of my daughter’s birth had lactation slipped away from us? Was it before her conception, in my inherently irregular chemistry? Was it when we left the operating room, abruptly separated for more than an hour? Was it in the days that followed when anxiety and stress overwhelmed me? My frenzied mind insisted I would be able to breastfeed, if I just did everything perfectly.

I pumped, squeezed, and nursed for hours. I took all the herbs, drank the tea, and followed the diet. When I’d done it all for months, and still couldn’t come close to sustaining my child on breastmilk alone, I wanted biology to take the blame.

There is no one study that connects PCOS with lactation failure. Instead, I found comfort in a cluster of dotted lines. This study says obesity is to blame, that study blames androgens. One says PCOS is associated with increased rate of C-section, while another correlates late pre-term C-section with lactation difficulty.

The more I dug into medical journals, the more certain I felt there must be a connection between PCOS and my inability to breastfeed. Still, as researchers wrote in a 2008 study, “PCOS is not currently recognized by lactation professionals as a risk factor for breastfeeding problems, little research has been done on the topic, and evidence is largely anecdotal.”

It’s very hard to get help for a problem that is not officially recognized as a problem.

A friend with elementary school-aged children tells me you reach a point where the manner of your child’s birth and how she was fed as an infant makes absolutely no difference in a practical or social way. Moms eventually stop discussing, evaluating, and judging their relative experiences in the delivery room (or operating room or birthing tub). When your third grader excels at soccer, no one wonders if it’s because she was exclusively breastfed.

Now that my toddler is robust and thriving, I can let our rocky start recede. But with the prospect of a second pregnancy on the horizon, there are some things I plan to do differently. I feel like I’ve learned something and can translate our old struggles into new achievements, making room for the fresh struggles we’ll face next time around.

Breastfeeding is an Olympic Sport and My Toddler is Winning

These tiny nursing Olympians. Always going to extremes in the name of perfecting their sport.

Here we are in Rio, getting ready for one of the most highly esteemed sports here at the 2016 Games.

Taking her place in the toddler heat of the Breastfeeding Olympics we have Juno of Waihi, New Zealand. Surely she’ll prove to be a legend in her time.

Juno marks out her target, nipples undetected by her peers, hidden under layers of clothing. She starts off with a leap, speeding towards the goal, signaling her intent with a greedy smacking of lips, clenching and unclenching of outstretched fists.

Juno crushes the distance between herself and her mother’s breasts. She’s but a blur across the playground, ascending small mountains of sand, elbowing human obstacles out of the way, landing into her mother’s lap with a vigor that gives her a clear advantage.

This is what winners are made of!

In just moments, we’ve witnessed the critical difference between an Olympian and a mere human – TOTAL DEDICATION. Nothing steers these athletes off course.

Of course, like most sports, there’s a team to think of here and Juno makes sure that her teammates – My Little Pony, lego Knight, and fluffy lamb – all get a turn at exercising their nursing prowess.

We move on to the time trials now as Juno shows just how seriously she takes the Olympic motto of faster, higher, stronger.

She hurtles in for a slurp, lasting just seconds before running back to her friends. Moments later she’s back, with yet another momentary tug, another sip and a even a squirt high into the air, for good measure.

And WHAT’S THIS?! Back for a third time in 5 minutes! This time showing true dexterity by nursing upside down whilst climbing over her mother’s shoulder.

The excitement is unbearable as we head into the all-important endurance phase.

Juno steers quickly away from her triumph in the time trials and, as we head into the night, she reveals exactly how superior her perseverance is. This tiny mite is a GIANT when it comes to breastfeeding non-stop throughout the period when mere mortals must sleep.

In the final round, Juno assures her reign by going all out in the multi-tasking phase. She steams ahead of the other competitors by nursing AND counting her toes AND honking her mother’s nose AND singing Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

In this round, we get a brief insight into just how critical an athlete’s equipment is, as nipples are stretched, pulled, stamped on, and knelt on in a keen display of versatility and strength.

AND SHE HAS DONE IT!

The champion of the world! The winner of the Breastfeeding Olympics, Juno Bear of Waihi.

These are dizzying heights for a toddler of such humble origins. Juno truly is the embodiment of Rio’s slogan, “Live Your Passion.”

Baby, We’re Home: Surviving the First Week

The first week home with a new baby is a little bit of a blur. A chaotic, exhausting, over in a flash blur.

Dispatches and fever dreams from the first days at home with a newborn.

Day 1/Night 1

This parenting thing is all coming back to me. Baby eats, falls into milk coma, fusses, and eats some more. Only one poop at 2:20 a.m. (Make a mental note to ask doctor if it’s supposed to be this green.) I’ve lost track of actual sleep minutes but I feel empowered. I don’t like to throw around the word “supermom” but this all seems manageable. I text friends with multiple kids how right they were that childrearing is so much less stressful the second time around.

Come morning, I bake banana bread for the first child and move light furniture while my Percocet-Motrin cocktail is fully engaged. Being conscious of the importance of self-care, I take a restorative nap to power up for another late-night party with me and the little lady.

Day 2/Night 2

My baby is a vampire. I desperately Google “out of milk, baby still rooting/crying/sucking on hands” and post the same on every Facebook mom group I can find. All sources suggest baby is “establishing milk supply” but obviously not fast enough for her liking. As I offer empty breasts, her skeptical side-eye quickly morphs into a red-hot rage. Come daylight, my husband finds me slumped over in bed, a shriveled husk clasping a snoozy newborn on my chest. I gasp for water.

Days and Nights 3-5

Concerned about the lack of poop on my part. Massive intakes of water and stool softener have been stymied by narcotics from C-section. Baby is still here. No concerns about her poop output. In fact, I’m pretty sure the load she just blasted sans diaper was a giant “eff you” for ignoring her earlier hunger grunts in favor of an extra 90 seconds of sleep. Do all babies turn this red when they’re mad?

Day 6? 7?

Days have fallen into comforting patterns of TV, laundry, napping, and cookie consumption. Nightly routines are optimized with multiple sources of water, three electronic devices, swaddle and backup swaddle, and breastfeeding pillow all within reach.

It would be nice not to be chained to the couch all day. Discover unused Moby wrap and watch how-to videos while shoving baby precariously into various folds and flaps. Baby is not amused. 

Day 7, definitely

Spend quality time recording baby’s facial expressions and editing into a video that will surely go viral once I add music and subtitles. Husband is stuck on endless assembly mode as house fills up with “go the eff to sleep” paraphernalia. Swing chair not as effective as with first baby. Discover dog napping in Moby wrap.

Same day? Night?

Google “sleep train newborn.” Internet informs me she calls the shots on the schedule at this age. Google “best new Netflix shows” because one more episode of “Chopped” might drive me to find and stab Ted Allen with a cleaver.

Day/night 8ish

Desperate to be near other humans but what if other humans pass measles/mumps/Zika onto my tiny human? Compromise with 5 p.m. dinner at empty restaurant where finishing a single glass of wine takes precedence over food. Once home, scrub baby and Google “meningitis transmission before vaccination.” She feels warm but temporal thermometer puts her at 79.7 degrees, which can’t be right.

Next day

Baby definitely not feverish. Discover it’s the weekend and invite child-free friends over to look at baby. Channel my inner Mother Earth by breastfeeding with ease, soothe with shushing and, talk with authority about how much less stress the second child is. Hope they don’t notice odor of dog pee.

Google “nipples stripped by baby gums.”

3:40 a.m. 

Baby woke me up with horking sound. Google “whooping cough.”

Curse these breasts and their magical powers. Imagine the napping opportunities if I could breastfeed while doing everything else simultaneously! Determined to conquer Moby wrap.

Moby wrap 2, mom 0. Baby red and angry.

Breastfeed baby on couch and watch “Chopped.” Ted Allen looks cute in his grill master cowboy outfit. Baby even cuter conked out in milk coma.

Day…

Look at calendar and learn the month has changed. Freak out over how quickly childhood slips away. Back to work in T-minus nine weeks. How I’ll miss these sweet days.

Breastfeeding Without Nursing: What It’s Like to Be An Exclusive Pumper

When I pictured breastfeeding, it didn’t involve an exclusive relationship with a heap of plastic and a motor.

Before I actually attempted it, my mental picture of breastfeeding looked like this: me as the adoring mother gazing down serenely at her beautiful baby, nursing her to a deep and peaceful sleep. Like a scene out of a Renaissance painting, basically. 

Once I actually attempted it, my picture of breastfeeding looked like this: me as the stressed out mother gazing down desperately at her screaming baby, willing her to latch and eat. 

Now, my actual picture of breastfeeding looks like this: me as the bored mother gazing down at her breast pump, willing the session to be over. 

I am a breastfeeding mother who exclusively pumps, and I hate it. But I’m not going to stop. 

Breastfeeding was always the most basic component of my vision for motherhood. While I was pregnant, I went out and bought all the supplies the registry checklists said I’d need: a breastfeeding pillow, nursing bras and tops, nipple creams and gel pads, even a beautiful and expensive rocker where I imagined my newborn and I would do our thing, blissed out and relaxed.

All of that stuff is collecting dust. But my pump is clocking about two hours a day. 

To make a long story somewhat short, my breastfeeding plans started going awry at the same time my birth plan did. In my imagination, I’d have a vaginal delivery followed by skin-to-skin contact with a baby who immediately latched like a champ.

In reality, I had an emergency C-section followed by my baby being whisked to the NICU before I even got to hold her, let alone nurse her. 

Because I couldn’t nurse, and because it was important to fight off jaundice and get her blood sugar levels under control, I began pumping immediately and feeding her bottles of breast milk. Little did I know I’d still be doing it six months later. 

In those early weeks at home, as I hooked myself up to the pump seven to eight times a day, I kept telling myself that the baby would latch soon enough. Maybe at two weeks old, or maybe when she reached her due date. Or when she was a month old. Maybe when I went back to work. So I kept on pumping.

But I also kept on trying to nurse. As soon as I would try to get her into position, however, it would suddenly seem like she had eight limbs instead of four, all of them flailing wildly. She would turn her face so far away from my breast that it was hard not to feel snubbed. Multiple lactation consultants couldn’t help. So I kept on pumping.

On the best days, she’d latch once or maybe twice, and I’d be able to skip a pump. On the worst days, she’d scream bloody murder. Eventually, there were more bad days than good, and around 12 weeks, she caught her first cold and went on a permanent nursing strike. So I kept on pumping.

Exclusively pumping is not something I knew existed before I started doing it. I sometimes describe it as the worst of both worlds. EP’ers deal with the same time demands and worries over supply that a nursing mother would, with the added headaches of tons of washing, prepping, and packing. I tend to start and end my day at a kitchen sink full of bottles, and in between I hook up with the pump five to six times a day for at least 20 minutes.

You won’t hear other moms gushing about exclusively pumping the way they do with nursing. You won’t hear doctors and nurses extolling the virtues of it the way they do with nursing. In fact, new moms aren’t even consistently given reliable support and information on pumping the way they are with nursing. Since my own pumping journey began, I’ve heard from many other mothers who were given incorrect guidance on when to start pumping, for how long, and how often. The logistical challenges coupled with the emotional disappointment of losing out on the nursing bond we hear so much about makes exclusively pumping an extremely difficult path.

For some moms, EP’ing is a choice, but it wasn’t for me. It may not have been what I imagined, but it’s the best option available to me right now. I’m not able to nurse my daughter, but I can still nurture her the best way I know how. So I keep on pumping.

Why I Weaned My Toddler Cold-Turkey

When we’re ready to call it quits on breastfeeding our babies-turned-toddlers, it’s sometimes best to close up shop and never look back.

I’ve complained a lot about nursing. My one-year-old would pull at my shirt and I’d roll my eyes while whipping it out, defeated.

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the tender, quiet moments of nourishment and bonding. Once he got his latch figured out and my breasts stopped running like Niagara Falls, I absolutely relished in the simple pleasure of holding my son close and feeding him while my preschooler yelled from the bathroom, “I’m ready to have my butt wiped!”

Seriously though, it’s been a powerful tool. I never needed to prepare bottles or run to the store. I always had what I needed to feed my baby, and never accidentally left my nipples at home. I’ve depended on nursing to keep my baby quiet during necessary times (phone calls, airline flights, and story times with big brother). I’ve also used it to get him to fall asleep in a jiffy, and to make the worst of boo-boos all better fast. But what was once a tool became a crutch.

The sense of peace I felt from nursing was eventually replaced with aggravation. One time, I was carrying my one-year-old on my hip in Target. I bent over to check out a pretty throw pillow, and BOOP! – he grabbed my breast from my sundress and popped it right into his mouth. And again as we walked through the parking garage to our car.

I was powerless to reclaim my lady bits because my hands were filled with bags. I trudged through the pool of cars with groceries in my hands, toddler on my hip, preschooler by my side, and my ninnie in a mouth.

It’s not society that made me feel uncomfortable. In fact I often felt that keeping him quiet and still was the polite thing to do. It’s that I didn’t personally enjoy it anymore. I hated my necklines constantly being stretched out, my nipples being tickled and scratched, and the immobility and fussing that came with the endless desire to nurse. I was ready to reclaim my body, rather than offer it as a pacifier.

This past week, I took my boys to the pediatrician for check-ups. When the doctor came into the room, my 15-month-old was throwing a fit on my lap and clawing at my chest. I told the doctor he wanted my breast, and was visibly frustrated. She said, “Today’s a great day to stop.”  

She warned me that once I make the decision I shouldn’t turn back or it would be harder on both of us. She also assured me he’s resilient, and would suffer no damage. “These changes are harder for adults to make than children,” she said.

I didn’t want to cut him off cold-turkey. I wanted it to be a slow, natural process for both of us. I didn’t want him to feel confused or rejected, and I didn’t want my body and hormones to suffer a shock. For months, I attempted to cut out feedings gradually, but as the pediatrician noticed – he was as aggressive as I was submissive.

He’d cry and throw fits, and at some point I’d give in because I wanted to be able to have a quiet conversation with someone or go on a family walk or do anything peaceful. I know cold-turkey weaning isn’t necessarily the recommendation, but just like giving up cigarettes, each quitting experience is unique.

I knew for us it would be easier to simply take the option to nurse off the table. I cold-turkey weaned my 15-month-old nursing addict because I didn’t want to spend any more time frustrated, and I’m happy I did because the process wasn’t even that bad. Sure it meant a couple days of early wakings and painful engorgement, but I expected a rough couple of days.

The most shocking part about the experience is that he totally understood from the get-go that he wouldn’t be nursing anymore. I always talked to him and explained things to him, but I underestimated how much he really comprehended. I thought our last time nursing would be bittersweet, but it wasn’t. I felt a mixture of relief and pride. After all, he wasn’t the only nursing junkie – I was, too.

I expected lots of big emotions come bed time because he was used to nursing then. He pat my chest saying, “Mil, mil,” and I told him there’s no more milk. I hugged him, loved on him, laid him down, and he went to sleep. He’s capable of so much more than I ever imagined.

For the next couple of days we stayed out of the house a lot to keep him distracted. We spent many hours at playgrounds. My boobs were growing into my chest (actually just my left one) and I went to bed with ibuprofen and ice packs. Things were a little leaky too.

My little guy was fussy for days, and then it dawned on me: maybe he’s normally fussy and that’s why I kept him constantly at the chest. Maybe fussing is just what toddlers do. I felt good about him finding other ways to soothe himself. I also enjoyed comforting him in new ways that fostered more connection and actual engagement (I nursed from my left breast for a reason – so that my right side was free to type, text, and troll Instagram).

By the sixth day I felt like we were in the clear. I feel so much freer and energized, and I enjoy my babe’s company so much more because he’s not constantly demanding a quick nip. We are enjoying a new dynamic to our relationship that is devoid of nursing resentment and his neediness.  

My only complaint about cold-turkey weaning is holy engorgement! I thought the first couple of days would be the worst, but it didn’t seem to get better. I read about using cabbage leaves and they actually really helped, not only to relieve the pain (refrigerate them) but also to dry the milk. Why didn’t I invest in some cabbage sooner?

Back when I complained about wanting to be done nursing, people would often say, “Just do it.” I didn’t feel like it was that easy, but actually, it was. Sure there was some physical discomfort for me, but my toddler never suffered. I weaned him cold-turkey because I no longer enjoyed nursing. As the parent, I have the power to make changes, and I should because if Mama isn’t happy, nobody is.

Bottle Is Best For Us And That’s Okay

Formula feeding my son was not a decision made lightly. I put much thought and emotion into making that choice. I weighed pros and cons with my doctor.

Recently I took my son to the pediatrician for his 6 month well visit.

After a brief physical exam and three scream-inducing shots, I was sent on my way with a handful of informational handouts. That night at home, I sat down to go through my stack of paperwork.

As my little guy had recently started solid foods, I settled in to learn some tips on how to proceed with this adventure. I began to read the “handy dandy guide to your 6-month-old” and looked for the feeding guidelines.

I located the section. The first line read “If you are still breastfeeding your baby, that’s great!” It went on to encourage you to continue breast feeding as long as possible. As I am not breastfeeding, I kept reading. After that, it stated, “If you are formula feeding, then you are a bad mom.”

Well, okay, it did not say the last part, but it may as well have. That is exactly how I felt when I read this, and how I have felt many times over the past 6 months. Of course, no positive affirmations followed the statement about formula feeding, much like what is common in daily life.

The first time I felt “formula shamed” was when my son was only 5 days old in the NICU. He was having issues taking food by mouth and needed a feeding tube to help get the balance of calories that he didn’t take.

During this stressful and emotional time, one of the NICU nurses asked why I wasn’t breastfeeding. Maybe it was her tone or maybe it was just self-imposed, but this question made me feel guilty and almost like it was my fault my son was struggling to eat (which, by the way, it wasn’t).

Although it was the first time, it was not the last time I felt guilty about my choice.

Although it’s rare that someone will say something directly to me about this, there are indirect and passive messages everywhere – from the “breast is best” mantra to celebrity breastfeeding advocates loudly speaking out everywhere to the “brelfie” posts liked and shared on social media daily.

Messages are constantly sent, however subtle, that if you are not feeding your baby the “natural” and “correct” way, then you are not doing what you are supposed to do as a mom.

Formula feeding my son was not a decision made lightly. I put much thought and emotion into making that choice. I weighed pros and cons. I discussed the two options at length with my family and my healthcare professionals. I contacted lactation consultants. I went back and forth on what I was going to do.

Ultimately formula feeding was what I felt was the best decision for my son and our family.

There are many reasons why moms choose to formula feed. These are always very personal, and women may not want to talk about why they made this choice. In fact, they shouldn’t have to.

Maybe someone physically cannot breastfeed or has a medical condition that doesn’t allow for it. Maybe there are life circumstances which are not conducive to nursing or pumping. Maybe it doesn’t work out for mama and baby. Maybe they just choose not to. You cannot assume everyone’s situations are the same as yours. I, nor any mom, should not feel like we need to explain ourselves or justify our decision to the world.

If I could offer some handout editing advice for the pediatricians’ office, the one I received would read as follows, “If you are still breastfeeding your baby, that’s great! If you are formula feeding your baby, that’s great too!” Because, it is. If you are doing either of those things, your baby is being fed and nourished and given everything they need to grow and thrive, and that is great. Good job, mama!

I am a huge supporter of moms who can and want to nurse, but breast is not always best. Let’s finally stop the shaming on this issue and embrace that there are different ways to raise a healthy baby. Let’s post our “FFelfies” right next to those “brelfies” and be proud!

We are all in this together, mamas. Let’s support each other, no matter how we choose to feed our babies.

How I Found Strength to Make It Through a Weaning Nightmare

What followed from our first weaning attempt is a nightmare – a toddler who wants to suck incessantly – using me for comfort not sustenance.

At three o’clock in the morning, my two-year-old daughter screams bloody murder. Be strong. Be brave. I silently chant to myself in the bed.

Pease don’t cry. I want to tell her. You can soothe yourself.

After thirty minutes of non-stop crying, she finally breaks me, and I go in and give her what she wants. The breast. I stroke her tired sobbing face.

Could she be independent enough to handle weaning? Can I handle not being needed as her only nurturer?

I weaned my first at eighteen months without a hitch, but nine years had passed since having a baby, and I had to relearn the weaning process. At two years and four months, my girl and second child, a mighty vociferous bundle of energy and a force to be reckoned with, would not accept “no” without putting up a fight. Since I didn’t have this kind of problem with the first, I now needed strength to go through the weaning process.

When she was a newborn, each nursing session perfected our love bubble thanks to being high on the hormone oxytocin. Garbage trucks would roar, and neighbors slammed doors and shouted in a foreign tongue, but I cocooned our precious bundle. That love bubble carried me through Mom’s death and the stress of moving into our new home.

Each time she’d grope for my shirt, I’d pull her silky head closer. Her mouth knew what to do. On a bus en route to New York City, I’d cradle her with our non-verbal language. Happy sucks and murmurs would soon follow a litany of murmurs: “I’ll protect you. I’ll comfort you. I’m here. Mommy loves you.”

At three o’clock that morning, I finally realize though how much my body craves a break from nursing on-demand for the past two and a half years.  I need to reclaim my “me” time.

What follows from that first weaning attempt is a nightmare – a toddler who wants to suck incessantly – using me for comfort not sustenance.

Two hours later, she cries again for the breast, and this time, I bar her from pulling up my shirt. She throws both hands up in hysterics. I silently moan. This is going to be one heck of a journey. My first born never pouted, cried or screamed. I show her funny pictures. I offer milk and a banana. But they don’t help. Neither does massive amounts of hugs and kisses.

What follows from that first weaning attempt is a nightmare – a toddler who wants to suck incessantly – using me for comfort, not sustenance.

At five o’clock in the morning, I seek weaning help from Doctor Google and instead of looking for information on how to stop weaning, I find myself racing through the section, “is this the right time to wean?”

I quickly learn that the World Health Organization recommends nursing to a minimum of two years old. On the site healthychildren.org, my eyes fall on the words: “The simplest, most natural time to wean is when your child initiates the process.”

Well, clearly, that was far from happening. She was far too enamored with the breast, and hesitant me didn’t want to rock the boat. Insecure me is looking for confirmation as to whether breastfeeding on demand is practical and sustainable. But on the Internet, I can  find data to support or refute anything. This search flip was initially a subconscious choice to get a green light to continue nursing.

I decide to stick with it and again, a few days later at three in the morning, she screams, “tzi-tzi, tzi-tzi!” (“Tzi-tzi” is the Hebrew word for breast.) My husband carries her down the stairs, arms failing, cries menacing. I remember what I read the other night online. “The simplest, most natural time to wean is when your child initiates the process.”

What do all the mothers do with this crying – wait it out? With my oldest, I stopped breastfeeding him one day, and he simply accepted it. I never had to struggle with screams or cries.

One mother said she breastfed until her daughter turned three and another vouched for breastfeeding until three and a half. But between the Internet and listening to other mom’s stories, I struggle to stay abreast of the situation?

At that stormy moment, I turn to my intuition. What was more important — preserving our breastfeeding bond or getting my body back? Between sobs and sleep, I take time to finally get quiet. “You need your body back. Get your body back,” the voice says.

With this need now clarified, I move forward with the weaning process, but I don’t research proven, kind ways to wean online. Instead, I continue with my Doctor Google route in the event I need to validate my decision to stop breastfeeding. I can always go back to breastfeeding.

Before settling in for the night, I find myself resisting change. I didn’t want to lose my breastfeeding baby to the forces of the outside world. So I cling to the thought she is my baby, and she won’t change.

I go through three weeks of theatrics, hysterics and tantrums – in short, a living hell. I curse and mutter, shout at myself, my husband, my son.

There is no short cut to the madness – just hugs, cries, tears, and frustration that leave me eating a chocolate bar and drinking wine at the end of each day. Off I go each morning, owl-eyed to work. I long for longer chunks of “me” time away from her cries.

And then, one night as if by magic, the madness stops. I wake up the following morning, [su_pullquote align=”right”]And then, one night as if by magic, the madness stops. [/su_pullquote]refreshed from a straight eight-hour slumber, the first full night of sleep I’ve enjoyed in years. I realize that my child doesn’t need the breast as much as I thought. In fact, she thrived without it! And from this hell, I reclaim something small but significant back for myself – my body.

These days, she roams the backyard, playing with toy cars and her baby doll. My latte warms my hand. Is this what it’s like to emerge on the other side of the weaning tunnel, emotionally stronger? Is this the same child who cried hysterically on my arm, screaming for my breast?  In retrospect, it isn’t selfish or damaging to wean my child from the breast even if she didn’t initiate the need to wean.

My decision has been empowering for both of us.

10 Signs You Are Breastfeeding In Public

Breastfeeding is an everyday activity and the single sign it is happening is that there is one less baby crying due to hunger.


[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]1 | You are in a place with people around you, a public sort of place.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]2 |  You have a small human having a feed through your breasts, breastfeeding, essentially.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]3 |  You are sitting down.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]4 | Or standing up.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]5 | You are looking quite relaxed.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]6 | Or maybe a bit hassled, if someone who doesn’t agree with feeding babies is eyeballing you[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]7 | You are eating lunch.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]8 | Or maybe doing something else.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]9 | Your baby is not crying.[/su_highlight]

[su_highlight background=”#b9fcf9″]10 |  You aren’t standing on a table with no clothes on singing “My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.”[/su_highlight]

Here’s the thing; it is virtually impossible to tell when a mother is breastfeeding in public!  Breastfeeding is an everyday activity and the single sign it is happening is that there is one less baby crying due to hunger.

Even if it isn’t completely discreet (why should it be? A tiny person is getting her basic needs met, and she should get her needs met any way she needs to!) it is very easy to ignore. What you do is, you kind of move your head in another direction and focus your eyeballs on something else. You with me?  It’s a bit like not looking.

I’ve been breastfeeding for over half a decade and have taken great pleasure in being able to feed my babies the most nutritionally potent substance there is and I’ve loved the connection it has provided to my angsty toddlers. 

I’ve had lots of different experiences of nursing in public from people shouting at me from a balcony, to a women giving me some straight up facts about there not being anything left in a breast after six months, to another mother coming up to me and encouraging me for nursing my baby out and about.

This last experienced made me vow to do the same.

So now, wherever I am, if I see a mother breastfeeding her child in public I give her a big fat smile, and, if I’m feeling brave enough, sometimes I even go right on up and say “Good on you! Every mother that breastfeeds in public is making it easier for someone else.”

The next time I see someone dancing naked on a table to Kelis, I’m going to give them a smile too. Why not? You gotta live the life you love, right?

How Does Oxytocin Impact Mother-Child Bonding?

A new study examines the impact of oxytocin levels on mother-child bonding, and what it might mean for baby’s healthy development.

Recent research regarding maternal mental health has prompted health care experts to consider that postpartum depression likely begins during pregnancy, and not after.

While the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, an influential government heath panel, now recommends that pregnant women be screened both during and after pregnancy, the factors contributing to postpartum depression, and its impact on a developing newborn, are still not entirely understood.

New research currently being conducted by psychologists at Florida Atlantic University considers, “how breast feeding, oxytocin and face-to-face interactions between a mother and her baby are impacted by depression and the mother’s oxytocin levels.

It’s commonly understood that oxytocin — a hormone with anti-depressive effects — increases during pregnancy and is also released during breastfeeding. Is this different for mothers who already suffer from depression? How does it impact the child? Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D. of FAU explains the various aspects of the new study:

…we are looking at oxytocin levels in pre- and postpartum mothers who suffer from depression to see how they differ from mothers who don’t have depression. Another novel aspect of the study is that we also are examining the oxytocin levels of the infant once they are born and how these levels change across development.

Why is this significant?

We are really trying to understand how these varying levels of oxytocin affect the mother-infant emotional relationship as well as the baby’s emotional development and their emotional bond with their mother. 

Jones continues,

In our previous studies on breast feeding versus bottle feeding and depression, we found similar patterns of brain asymmetry in the baby and the mother. What appears to be happening is that these babies are either inheriting or developing a pattern that is similar to their mother’s depression. They focus on the negative emotions and withdraw from stimuli as if they are withdrawing from the world.

The importance of the study lies not only in understanding which factors impact the mental health of the mother, but also the healthy development of the child.

If depression in mothers-to-be is not addressed and treated, these mood disorders can negatively impact the child’s well-being and the important mother-child bonding process.

Source: Newswise via Florida Atlantic Newsroom

Increasing Breastfeeding Could Prevent 800,000 Child Deaths Annually

A large-scale analysis finds that increasing breastfeeding worldwide could prevent 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 breast cancer deaths each year.

The largest, most detailed analysis of breastfeeding outcomes calls for urgent action. “Powerful political commitment and financial investment is needed to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding at all levels — family, community, workplace, and government.”

The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and published by The Lancet, estimates that:

…increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels for infants and young children could save over 800,000 children’s lives a year worldwide, equivalent to 13% of all deaths in children under two, and prevent an extra 20,000 deaths from breast cancer every year.

While rates of breastfeeding are low across the globe, this is particularly, and surprisingly, true in high income countries. The benefits of breast feeding have historically been correlated to poor countries where nourishing food is more likely to be in short supply.

According to the study’s author, Professor Cedar Victoria,

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our work for this Series clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike. Therefore, the importance of tackling the issue globally is greater than ever.

The comprehensive analysis revealed that in addition to having multiple health benefits, breastfeeding also effects life expectancy.

For high income countries this could mean a nearly 33% reduction in sudden infant death syndrome. In low income countries, breastfeeding help prevents life-threatening dehydrating diarrhea episodes and respiratory infections.

Other benefits of breastfeeding include increased intelligence and protection against obesity and diabetes in later life. Mothers who breastfeed for longer periods reduce their risk of ovarian and breast cancers.

Of course, mamas everywhere know how tough this topic is. Whether or not women breastfeed, and for how long, is influenced by a quagmire of overwhelming factors.

Among the top five issues cited by women working outside the home is the balance of career and children. A balance made nearly impossible in countries like the U.S. where paid maternity leave is a rare job benefit, health and childcare costs are through the roof, and breastfeeding or pumping are relegated to bathrooms and closets.

Additionally, producers of breastmilk replacements quite literally profit from undermining the benefits of breastmilk. Formula sales in high-income countries are expected to grow by 15% in the next few years, and it will be a whopping 70 billion dollar industry by 2019.

A Vermont-based company (and friend of Parent Co), Mamava, is helping facilitate breastfeeding in public spaces like airports and stadiums. Their “breastfeeding modular suites offer nursing mothers a safe, clean, and beautifully designed space to pump/nurse when they are away from home or at work.”

Parents can download Mamava’s locator app — and even rate and review their favorite suites and locations.

If you have breast or bottle feeding stories to share, Parent Co. would love to hear from you.

Source: Science Daily, The Atlantic, The Lancet, Mamava