14 Months Of Breastfeeding

Yup, that’s what I did. Well, technically 14 months and three days if you’re really counting. And yup, this really is a post about breastfeeding, so feel free to skip it (you know, if you’re my brother for example). I never thought I’d be writing about it. But I actually get a lot of questions on the subject. And since I blather on about other random things (like cloth diapering) and this blog is really just a way for us to remember things that we might otherwise forget (like paint colors and vacation happenings), I figure that something I did for so long (around 425 days straight) deserved a post about the range of emotions that it elicited. So here we go.

My first emotion: grateful. I was just so thankful it worked. I was acutely aware that some moms try extremely hard but it’s just not possible. I was also pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as painful as I expected. I’d heard a lot about cracked and bleeding nipples (yes I just typed that) but thanks to genetics or a good latch (or some other random happening) I didn’t really have much pain at all (in the interest of TMI, I also never had sore boobs while prego, so maybe those things go hand in hand?). And I know the whole lack of pain thing might make you want to punch me (it annoys the heck out of my BFF) but I had a pretty frightening birth experience so I guess it’s always something (and not always the same thing) that throws you for a loop as a new mom.

Speaking of the whole birth thing, I was initially really stressed about Clara “taking” to breastfeeding because, due to our complications, I couldn’t nurse her until eight whole hours after she came into this world. I heard trying as soon as possible was the way to go, and I guess the whole scary birth experience had me fearing the worst (there was no baby-on-my-chest-to-snuggle-and-nurse-right-away occurrance, which is definitely what I pictured). But the sweet nurses pretty much just said to give it a try and it was miraculous. Clara got it right away. Such a relief.

As far as emotions go, after “grateful” and “pleasantly surprised” I moved into “exhausted and overwhelmed” territory. Clara was blissfully sleeping for 12 hours each night pretty much from the beginning, waking up for just one or two feedings most of the time (after we got the ok from the doc to let her sleep instead of waking her up to feed every 3 hours since she was steadily gaining weight).

But that meant that during the day she was feeding every two hours like clockwork (I fed her on demand, and at almost exact two hour intervals she screamed and wasn’t happy til she was nursing). So I really couldn’t get much done without having to stop and feed her. Which I actually loved for the bonding and the sweetness and the self-imposed break that it gave me from housework, blogging, and all that other stuff – but it was definitely exhausting and sort of all-encompassing in those bleary I-have-a-newborn months. I always joke that she let me rest at night, but during the day she made me work for it.

And when we went on a week-long family vacation when Clara was just six weeks old I remember sitting upstairs alone with Clara feeding her in a bedroom while everyone else was downstairs having fun together and thinking “I’m going to have to excuse myself and do this about eight times a day while everyone else hangs out – which adds up to 56 feedings that I’ll be doing over the next seven days.” That’s an overwhelming thought. At least it was to me. It was times like this that I actually wished feeding in public (or at least in front of your extended family) was more widely accepted. I tried to use a nursing cover but Clara wouldn’t have it. So up in my room I sat (with occasional visits from John who sweetly recognized that I’d rather be with the group and dropped in to keep us company). Back in these days feedings were pretty slow going (around 15-20 minutes per side for a total of 30-40 minutes spent sequestered). But we still managed to fit in some fun in the sun (or shade since she was so tiny).

I should mention that 1) pumping didn’t agree with me and 2) Clara never took to bottles (or pacifiers for that matter). You win some and you lose some. So every time she fed for the past 14 months it was directly from the source. Which was ok with me since pumping just didn’t work out and thankfully I have a job that allows me to be home with her. But it’s definitely sort of crazy as a concept because for over a year I was never away from my daughter for more than an hour or two. Ever.

But with a face like this, I was ok with that:

Around three months in I really got into the groove though. That’s where I’d characterize my feelings as “content and accepting.” I was happy to still be able to breastfeed and glad that it seemed to suit Clara. She seemed to enjoy it and I knew how to do it effectively and easily enough (in a parked car? check. in a dressing room? check). I even managed to sneak in a taping for the Nate Berkus show, nursing Clara in the green room right before we went on and right after (thankfully it was only a two hour process – or we might have heard her screaming for another feeding from on stage).

I guess I had adapted more to it, and it didn’t feel like as big of a job after I got into the swing of things. And by about 6-8 months old Clara had become a lot more efficient, so feedings were only about 15 minutes total (and sometimes even ten). Interestingly enough, the introduction of solid food at six months old (which Clara loved from day one) didn’t have any bearing on her nursing. She still wanted just as much, just as often. And I was secretly kind of relieved because I worried a bit about my production slowing or even stopping if she suddenly dropped a ton of feedings. But that was not the case.

Up until Clara turned ten months old I was still feeding her every two hours during the day at her insistence (screaming until I nursed her = her insistence). That’s right, for ten months (that’s 300 days) I nursed Clara every two hours (except during the night). I was ok with it, and my doc was ok with it, but I heard from friends that only going two hours between feedings at that age was reallllly often (as in all of my friends were only feeding every 4-5 hours or so at that age). My doc explained that it made sense since Clara was such an unusually solid night sleeper (she segued from waking up for 1-2 feedings in her 12 hour span of night sleep to not waking up at all around 2.5 months in – I know, we’re insanely blessed to have gotten such uninterrupted sleep for such a long block of time). But it did mean not-as-long daytime naps and a whole lot of frequent feedings to “tank up” during her waking hours in exchange for such an awesome night’s sleep. Heck, I’ll take it.

Blissfully, after turning ten months old Clara started stretching her feedings to every three hours, which felt amazing. It’s funny how an extra hour feels like all the freedom in the world. It’s all relative I guess. At this point I was coming into the whole “I love breastfeeding” phenomenon. I still felt grateful to be able to do it, Clara was a thriving happy girl, it was saving us money, it gave me a moment to step away from the computer/paint brush/hammer and connect with the bean, and it helped me get back into my old clothes (even though I don’t think I’ll ever have my pre-baby body again, it’s fine with me because Clara’s so worth it). I should add that I’m a breastfeeding enthusiast when it comes to me and Clara, but I don’t judge anyone else when it comes to what they choose for their family. Whatever works for you & your ducklings = my mantra as a parent in general.

The next speed bump that we encountered was when Clara turned a year old we introduced organic whole milk. The problem? Clara wouldn’t drink it. She still wouldn’t really take a bottle so our doc recommended trying a sippy cup. It worked for water, but she refused to drink milk (and we tried about ten million different sippy cup varieties, tried slightly heating the milk, tried watering it down or mixing it with breast milk, etc). This is when I started fearing that she’d be 21 years old and still addicted to breastfeeding.

Next we tried almond milk at our doc’s advice, and she went for it (we think the thinner consistency seemed closer to breast milk so she was down). And slowly we mixed almond milk with whole organic milk and she made the transition to 100% whole organic milk at around 13 months. Yup, it took nearly a whole month to get her on board with it. She’s stubborn like her momma. Haha. Shockingly, that’s when her feedings dropped waaay down. From around five times a day to just two – once before bed and once in the morning. Which made me feel excited and free but sort of oddly sad at the same time. “My baby’s growing up, and she needs me less” was sort of how I felt. I know that’s not really true, but it’s the best way I can describe the feeling.

By 13 months and three weeks she just wanted a feeding in the morning when she woke up. Clara has always been the boss of this whole breastfeeding thing (since we opted to just do the “on demand” thing from day one), so who am I to argue with the girl? Just one morning feeding opened up a whole new world of evening fun for me and John thanks to his parents offering to babysit (we could see a movie or go out to dinner without Clara after over a year of not partaking in those activities – amazing!). Of course I thought about her the whole time we were out, but I guess that’s to be expected (picture me saying “I wonder what Clara’s doing right now” every ten minutes during our first movie together in over a year).

Two weeks later Clara wasn’t even interested in her morning feeding. Which was sad because that’s the one where we lie down next to each other and relax together. I know I sound crazy, but it was such a sweet way to start the day. To anyone who has yet to try it, nursing on your side while laying down = awesometown (they taught me that move at the hospital thanks to the whole c-section thing). And now it’s over. So my current feelings are sad (because I’ll miss it) but proud (because I can’t believe I breastfed for over 14 months) and grateful (because I know being able to nurse that long or even at all definitely isn’t a given).

So that’s my breastfeeding journey. Off to cry now (and I can’t even blame breastfeeding hormones for the tears). I know, I know, someone with a nickname that won’t stick like $herdog shouldn’t be such a wuss. But it was an awesome/exhausting/amazing/tiring/surprising journey that I’m grateful to have experienced. Love you baby girl. Even if you’re over me my boobs.

Comments

  1. says

    I love reading stories like this, but at the same time it’s bittersweet. I also had a traumatic first delivery (four days in labor before an emergency c-section – found out later that my hips are mildly deformed, so I can never deliver naturally). I started out breast feeding exclusively, and my son was ALWAYS wanting to nurse…but he didn’t seem to be getting any bigger. I took him back to the hospital at two weeks and discovered that he had lost over a pound (which is a big deal for an eight pound baby).

    We discovered, when I used the pump, that I was providing less than half the breast milk needed by my son to grow. It was a devastating discovery – first I couldn’t deliver him naturally, and now I couldn’t feed him either? I felt like my body had utterly failed me.

    Over the years I became, if not content, accepting of the necessity to use formula. But every so often another parent would see me bottle-feeding in public and make some sort of comment about how much healthier breast milk was, and I would have all those emotions of shame and failure come back.

    Not every woman who bottle-feeds does it because she wants to. I wish other moms wouldn’t be so critical of those who do it out of necessity, because it’s really painful emotionally.

    • says

      Congrats to you for not popping those mean ladies in the mouth. How can people be so insensitive- especially to someone without knowing their situation at all?

      xo,
      s

    • Amber says

      Same here. My son wanted to nurse alll the time from before we left the hospital. I pumped for a month and never got more than 1.5 ounces from both breasts combined (mine is from PCOS). We started out supplementing with an S&S for the first two weeks, but it was too complicated for me to do once my husband went back to work. So, for nearly 6 months my son breastfed for 15-20 minutes, and then took a bottle of formula, even over night. Combined with the fact that he has acid reflux and we have to hold him upright for 15 min after eating, his feedings took over an hour. Luckily I am a stay-at-homme student. I weaned him from BF when he started solids because I couldn’t handle one more food source. I’ve never had people criticize me directly, but before this experience I had a lot of people tell me there’s no reason a woman can’t breastfeed exclusively, and its just not true. I still feel guilty giving him bottles in public. I was so thankful no one on here had made negative comments about not breastfeeding. My husband didn’t understand why I felt so guilty until he started reading parenting forums and bottle reviews online where women were being attacked for using formula. I guess YHL readers are just better than that. :)

    • says

      Yay. We do have some of the best readers ever. Not that we’re biased or anything. Haha. You guys are all just so amazing to share your experiences!

      xo,
      s

    • Heidi says

      What a hard journey, but you made it! My husband and I are (so far) appear to be infertile. We have been foster parenting for 1.5 years and have had a baby for the past year (leading to adoption, we hope!!) and it was also so hard to be in public bottle feeding, so longing to be breast feeding MY baby, longing to adopt, etc.!

    • Chari says

      I wish I had the “hopeful” attitude Sherry had to begin with… My thoughts were that EVERYONE could breastfeed! What a humbling experience when I realized that I couldn’t! I tried so so hard pumping and supplementing around the clock that I dont think I got to enjoy the first few months of my little guy being in the world. I still feel like i’d rather have a boob hanging out in public than be bottle feeding in front of people. It’s funny all of the many things that can make a woman self conscious of her body! But there are always things to be very very grateful for. My body was able to grow a healthy baby!

      Thanks for sharing Sherry! What a sweet sweet journey :)

    • says

      That’s awful. To me there’s no difference between those who tell mothers off for breastfeeding in public and those who tell mothers off for bottle feeding. It’s all judgement, and it’s all unhelpful. Why not support each other in making the best choices we can in our own individual situations?

      But that’s a rant for a different day!

    • Emily says

      I had a very similar experience and know exactly how you feel. I actually made it 3 months of breastfeeding exclusively, but found out a week ago that my daughter hadn’t gained ANY weight in almost a month. I am now giving her extra breast milk using a supplemental nursing system each time she nurses, and she’s finally gaining weight again!

      A couple of things I wanted to respond to in your post–even though in both our cases there WAS a supply issue, I just wanted to note that the amount you get when pumping is NOT necessarily indicative of how much you’re actually producing. Most babies are waaaay more effective at removing milk than a pump, so some moms (like me, and it sounds like Sherry too) are just never able to pump very much, but their breastfed babies are getting plenty of milk!

      Also, in case anyone doesn’t know about this, you can actually donate or receive human milk if you prefer it to formula. Even though my daughter needs a little more than what I’m able to produce, we are very lucky that a friend of mine (a pumping superstar) is passing on her extra milk to us. Please check out the wonderful organization Human Milk for Human Babies if you are in need of milk, or if you have a freezer stash you need to get rid of!

  2. alexis says

    first of all, i think my daughter Mila is a carbon copy of Clara! not only do they have the same nickname, but it seems as though they have the same eating/sleeping habits too! Isn’t it great to sleep 8 straight hours with a newborn? (insert evil laugh here…)

    second, kudos to you for your 14 months of hard work! i am also breastfeeding, which was extremely difficult for the first week, but i get what you’re saying about the gratification you feel when you can provide your baby everything she needs to survive…ah, motherhood! :) i am only 4 months in, so we’ll see how long Mila sticks with it!

    loooooooove your blog! i only check it about 803858 times a day ;)

  3. Stephanie says

    Good for you Sherry! We’re on month 9 and still going strong I plan to continue until she refuses like you did. You should feel so proud of yourself as a BFing mom I know how hard it can be but it is so worth it :)

  4. rachael says

    Aw, I’m so glad you wrote this post, I was wondering if you were still bf’ing but didn’t want to ask b/c well, we don’t know each other. I’m still nursing my daughter and shes over 1 yr old now, with just doing it when she wakes up in the morning and just before bed. I have to say though, it was a real struggle for us in the beginning, she had thrush within 5 days of her birth, I had cracked and VERY sore nipples, she would feed for like 40 minutes, and I was also that person alone in the room upstairs or inside. Then she became interested in everything around her so she’d pull away with a mouth full of milk and my clothes would get soaked. It made me so grumpy!! Plus, the only true support I had was from my husband,I call him Captain Lactation, everyone else kept asking if I was still nursing her and how long I planned on doing it, and when was I going to wean her so she could sleep over at their house.I hated it for the first 6 months, but for some reason I couldn’t stop. One day I gave her a bottle and she reached up to touch my face and I bawled, so I threw it in the sink, and I realized then how much I actually enjoyed breastfeeding her. So heres hoping she’ll still want to for just a couple more months longer. Thanks for being so inspiring, Sherry, as a DIY’er and as a parent. You’re amazing!

  5. Amanda says

    My 5yrs old daughter I only breastfeed in the first 4 months exclusive, after that I had to complement with formula cause I was not producing enough breast milk, with the complement she prefered the bottle instead of me and stop breastfeeding, she was 4 to 5 months.. I get really sad.

    With my son who will turn 2 yrs old in july 31, when he born I was so scared I was not going to be able to breastfeed him cause of the producing little milk thing, but all turned out fine! And he breastfeed till present and I dont have a clue what I will do to unbreastfeed him, cause he dont accept any other kind of milk, only juices, water and breastmilk..

    Now Im with the problem that I want him to stop breastfeed, and he tottaly dont want to.

    Kisses

  6. Jamie says

    Thank you for sharing! :) I like your parenting mantra too. I nursed my son for 13 months and he self-weaned. Just was pretty much done one day. I’m glad you guys got to peacefully transition.

  7. Amanda says

    I feel for you! My baby cut me off, too (but at a much younger age), right when I was really enjoying it! The whole beginning had been really stressful for me. It has been a year now and sometimes (more often than I would have thought) I still have the urge to nurse her and I find myself wondering if I will still want to do that when she is 21!

  8. says

    I read this as I was feeding my daughter (also named Clara). I can completely relate to every bit, and I know that when the day comes to stop breastfeeding, I will also feel a range of emotions! I loved the genuine heart of this post.

  9. says

    I loved this post! My ‘babies’ are almost 15 and almost 18. *sigh* I breast fed both for as long as I could…unfortunately it was only for about 9 months each. Then mama dried up. It was the most magical thing ever and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

  10. says

    Good for you. I lasted 13 months with my first son (who’s now 3 1/2), and that included pumping while at work part-time. That 13th month was similar to what you described, with weaning down to morning and night, then just morning, and then almost overnight, he didn’t seem to even remember it. I’ve just had my second baby (3 months ago), and I wonder if we’ll last as long.

    Also, I wanted to throw out there that I didn’t get the magical weight-dropping effects at all–just the opposite. My body held onto those extra pounds until I weaned, and then they just seemed to fall off instantly. That makes it kind of hard to look at the 10+ months ahead and carry on with nursing, but I’ll do it for the baby. He’d better be glad he’s so cute.

  11. says

    Way to go Sherry! Quite the accomplishment and you should be proud! My little two year old weened himself off around 13 months and I identify with all your feelings outlined. Rest assured though, even though they are over your boobies they still need their mama. ;)

  12. Sandra says

    Congrats on making it so long! I nursed my son for 13 months and while we had a really rocky start, I grew to love it as well. It wasn’t until we had weaned that I realized how sad I was that our breastfeeding relationship was over. I loved this post – thanks for sharing!

  13. says

    Congratulations! What a sweet post. I just weaned by little boy – he’s my third. I’ve been fortunate and proud to have nursed all three of my kids for a year each! I know it’s very bittersweet when you come to the end of the nursing relationship, but it sets such a close bond and foundation for all of the awesome times you and Clara will share together in the future!

  14. debbie c says

    Sherry, you are so blessed! To be able to breastfeed for as long as you have is awesome. And yes, you are REALLY blessed for having little/no pain or issues with it (I had many). Also, 12 hours of sleeping at night…Clara is a good sleeper AND a good eater, every parent’s dream. :D