My Breastfeeding Journey
6/17/2019 was the last night I breastfed my sweet Olivia, although I didn’t know it then. This date was her actual birthday, she turned 3. I NEVER planned on breastfeeding till 3, heck, I’ve been trying to stop since she was one.
Honestly I have mixed feelings about going this long and even stopping. It’s been such a hard process the entire way through.
6/17/2016 was the first day I breastfed Olivia, and the day she was born. I had no idea what I was doing and I was so afraid to even hold her in the hospital, I had never held a baby that small. She wasn’t latching properly and blistered my nipples making it dreadfully painful to keep latching her, but I tried and tried still. On her 3rd day of life a doctor came in and said we need to get this baby on formula immediately, she hadn’t eaten in days. I knew she wasn’t drinking from me when I latched. I kept telling the nurses begging for help or formula, but all I received was encouragement. “You’re doing great”. I wasn’t. I felt like a failure. My goal to breastfeed her was not happening. In a strange way I also felt a huge sense of relief because at least she was now eating. We left the hospital with a baby and formula.
I decided I was not done with breast milk though. We would formula feed until my milk came in and I would try pumping and bottle feeding. The next day I saw a lactation consultant and my milk came in. I pumped 5oz and fed Olivia her first bottle of breast milk. I felt so proud, so accomplished. Then I got mastitis. My boobs were large, rock hard and I had huge hard lumps in my armpits. I felt sick and had a fever. I rushed down to the ER and came home with antibiotics. Within a day I started feeling better. The next day was a crazy day of literally just pumping all day and making bottles. I couldn’t ever get ahead of it. I’d pump, she’d wake up and want it. One night at 2am, she woke up crying and I hadn’t even pumped yet. My options were to pump for 20 minuets with her crying, give her a bottle of formula, or…….I can try latching her again. I tried latching. She was a little bigger now and I was less afraid holding her by this point. To my amazement, she latched and I heard the most amazing sound in my life….little gulps. She was drinking! She was BREASTFEEDING!
From that moment on everything was so easy! We nurses when it was convenient but I still pumped after to make extra bottles for her. I use them if I had to leave her for longer than 2 hours, or if we were at a place and I didn’t feel like breastfeeding. Also, mommy was now able to have a glass of wine here and there.
A few months in Olivia got oral thrush from a yeast infection diaper rash. It’s super common but I didn’t know she had it at first till the rash got worse and wasn’t reacting to the regular cream. Because she had it in her mouth, she gave me thrush on my nipples from breastfeeding. GOOGLE IT! It was one of the biggest pains I’ve experienced. I’d cringe when she’d cry to nurse and I’d cry latching her. My husband kept saying just stop it’s ok. But every day I just kept saying, just do it today and quit tomorrow. I finally got through it and we continued on our breastfeeding journey.
By this time Olivia was now 1, and I was going to try cows milk. I was excited to stop breastfeeding. I had done it a whole year and been through so much. So I stopped pumping and used up all the bottles I had froze, but continued to still nurse her on demand from my body. She rejected cows milk and no longer would take a bottle with anything white, including breast milk, so at this point I could only nurse her.
We continued nursing her whole second year of life. At 2, I felt ok she’s 2 now it’s time to stop, but she wouldn’t let me. So I gradually cut out feedings. I’d distract during the day and cut out the early afternoon and middle day feedings. The evening was hard because I was tired and didn’t want to deal with the tantrums, but I did it. I put large bandaids on my nipples and told her they were ouchies. She’d cry for a little then accept it. I was still nursing to put her down to sleep at night though, and first thing in the morning…and in the middle of the night if she woke up. That’s where I cut next. If she woke during the night I covered up my breasts with my arm so she couldn’t latch and I’d just hold her till she’d cry herself back to sleep. It took several days but she finally started sleeping fully through the night and stopped nursing.
Next, I cut out the first in the morning feeding. I’d get a few breakfast food squeeze pouches and put them on the nightstand so when she woke and would try to nurse, I’d offer her the pouches. After a few days, that became the norm and the fussing and crying stopped. As she was eating, I’d get up and put my bandaids on for the day. I’d leave then on all day until bedtime. She started crying and begging for it less and less, till eventually we had successfully stopped breastfeeding except just at night.
The Nighttime Feeding
This was the hardest! This is what kept me breastfeeding until 3. She wouldn’t give it up. She’d scream, cry, beg please. Please mommy please. I didn’t have the strength and we we’re tired, just wanted to go to bed, so I’d give in every time….wondering when I’d ever be able to stop. Would she be 7 and still breastfeeding at night??
This leads me to where I began, 6/17/19, her 3rd Birthday. We spent the day at Disneyland and I nursed her to sleep as usual. The next day, Tuesday, she’s been teething her last 2 molars so she’s been irritable and not feeling well. She was so tired she just fell asleep in bed while I was getting ready for bed. Night 1 of not nursing her to sleep. The following day, Wednesday, she was crying and having a tantrum over wanting to breastfeed at 6pm. I told her no they were for bedtime. Next thing I know she’s asleep on the bathroom floor. I put her to bed and she slept all night. That was night 2 of not breastfeeding her to sleep. Last night, Thursday, was our 3rd night. We were at the beach all day and she was tired. I was tired. She didn’t go to bed without a fight though. But I thought, I didn’t want to waste the momentum of 2 non breastfeeding nights, so I put the bandaids on and said they were ouchies, and stuck with it. She cried, begged, sobbed…it was devastating for me. I almost gave in (a few times). Just at my weakest moment about to give in, she finally fell asleep. That was the 3rd night of no breastfeeding.
At this point I have no choice but to stick with it. It fell into my lap and although I was ready it’s still hard to stop. I’ll miss the bond. I’ll miss her needing me. It means she’s seriously not a baby anymore. Plus it means I have up putting my child to sleep in under 5 minutes (I hope I don’t regret it for this). But I cannot do it forever and it had to be done.
I didn’t know it then, but 6/17/19 was the last moment I’d ever breastfeed my child. I didn’t get to savor it or say goodbye to it. I know my road to stopping is not 100% completely over yet though. As I lay typing this post in bed, Olivia has been trying to pull the bandaids off and begging please mommy. But I feel at this point I must stick with it and keep going. I’ve already gotten plays the hardest first few days, so it has to get easier from here.
I chose to write this post now in the middle of stopping hopefully as accountability to keep going and not give in.
Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey!