Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Guest Post: Weaning, The Only Part of Motherhood That Came Naturally To Me

My friend and fellow writer, Erica Heinsman, wrote this beautiful piece on her experiences with breastfeeding and weaning.  Erica runs I’m Totally Faking It. You may remember her from her guest post Thou Shalt Not Judge The Pregnant Woman. I met and grew to love Erica while playing coed touch football with her when I lived in greater DC. She’s a smart, funny woman raising two adorable babes with her lovely husband. Like her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter @imtotllyfakngit. You’ll love her WTF Wednesdays and probably develop a Mom Crush on her.

Weaning, The Only Part of Motherhood That Came Naturally To Me
When I began the adventure into motherhood there were very few things I was sure about. One thing I knew I wanted was to breastfeed my baby. There were health benefits for him, and health benefits for me, including the promises from moms before me that the caloric burn that would aid in dropping the baby weight (which turns out doesn't happen for everyone, especially when you need to eat more than normal to keep your production up). 

Breastfeeding was not the beautiful and natural bonding activity I had read about. It was hard. I had a hard time producing a decent supply for him; a prior breast reduction left me with a lot of scar tissue and less milk ducts than I was born with. My cesarean with subsequent pain meds also didn't help us any. With the aid of a lactation consultant I was able to produce enough milk to keep him exclusively breastfed. Our regime for the first month involved nursing, pumping immediately after and then syringe feeding the baby with the pumped milk. I also had to swap out the potent pain meds for some tylenol, because even though the hospital told me it wouldn't happen, he was clearly getting knocked out when he would nurse as the medication was making its way into my supply. 

I went back to work when he was only 10 weeks old. We really had only started having success breastfeeding a few weeks prior, so I was determined to keep my supply going while I was at work. This was not easy. My designated pumping spot was the office cafe, so I had to be sure I pumped before anyone started their lunch break, and couldn't pump again until after everyone had finished. On top of that, the door didn't have a lock, so I had to put a rolling cart in front of it to keep people from just walking in and seeing my nipples being distorted by the milking machine. Combine that with the fact that before or after I pumped, I got dirty looks about my time away from my desk (it's okay for smokers, not for breastfeeders), my supply was starting to take a dive. In order to keep up with the demand the baby had, I made sure I was also pumping after he went to bed, before I went to bed, and before I left for work in the morning. 

Fast forward a few months, baby was 7 months old and I left that job and got one with more flexibility. It was also around this time that I was fed up with still holding onto an extra 20lbs of baby weight. I decided to rejoin Weight Watchers (for what is probably the 5th time in my life) and drop some of it. I really thought I could balance cutting calories and keeping my milk supply up...I was delusional. Even though I was focused on eating healthy, nutrient filled food, the drop in calorie intake took its toll on my production. At this point baby was eating some mashed veggies, so I didn't think it was much of an issue. Then we went for his 9 month checkup, and when the nurse weighed him twice after checking his chart I knew, he hadn't gained any weight since his 8 month appointment. 

We were 9 months in, I had overcome so many hurdles, I was tired of the struggle, and I wanted my body back to myself. Though we knew that formula was full of crap we didn't particularly want in our child's system, my husband and I agreed that it was time to ween our little man. 

Our plan of action was pretty simple, I would nurse in the morning before breakfast, and then again before bed. Because little man was very interested in our food, we made sure we always had mashed veggies available for meal times, and then bottles would be formula. We did have a small stash of breastmilk in the freezer, but instead of using it all before moving to formula we decided to ration it so it would last longer. 

With baby 10 months old now, my job was sending me for a week long training in California. It was at this point that I went cold turkey on breastfeeding. The hubby and I figured it would probably be easiest to go cold turkey when I wasn't going to be around, so it's not like we were depriving him of nursing, it wasn't an option without me there. I was a little concerned that I would be dealing with with the pain of engorgement, or leaking out in front of my new colleagues, but it turns out my body was ready to be done. I didn't have any suffering at all, my boobs went back to normal status within the week. 

I know there are a lot of moms that are sad when they are done nursing their little ones. I was sad too, but only a little bit. I was sad that this meant that he was growing up, and sad that this was the first time in his life he didn't need me for nourishment. In all honesty, I was mostly relieved to be done with it. I no longer had to schedule my life around feeding schedules, or hook my boobs up to a pump to be milked like a cow. I was free to function as individual again, not always having a person or machine latched on to me. 
I'm glad that I breastfed for as long as I did, and I'm proud of myself for working as hard as I did in order to do it for so long... and I saved us a crap-ton of money, because formula is not cheap. 

Erica is a native Buffalonian (Go Bills!) now living just outside of Washington, DC in Silver Spring, MD. She’s a working mom and wife attempting to make it through the day without crying or murdering someone.  Her basic life necessities are Amazon Prime, screw top wine, coffee, and her DVR. If she’s not drinking and/or online shopping, she’s probably at the playground giving the stink eye to parents who look too well dressed to be at the playground.