You can find Part One and Part Two of My Breastfeeding Story here and here.
This portion of my breastfeeding story is the most personal and the Internet is an admittedly intimidating place to tell it. Without this part, however, my story is not complete and I can only hope that by sharing it I can help another mom who may be experiencing a similar situation to mine.
Once I made the decision to extend breastfeeding beyond a year, I embraced it. The more research I did on breast milk, the more confident I became in my decision. I learned that Meghan could get a large percentage of her nutritional requirements from my milk into her toddler years. So even on the days when she was being a typical toddler and not wanting to eat a lot of nutritionally dense foods, I knew she was still getting excellent nutrition through my milk. I took great solace in the fact that she was getting the milk that was perfectly designed for a growing human baby and fit her needs perfectly.
I also learned that she was getting an abundance of antibodies through breast milk that would build her immune system. She turned one in September, so I felt great knowing that she had some natural defenses during the cold and flu season. Even though her doctor strongly recommended it, I refused to let her get the N1H1 flu shot. Although I don’t know for sure if extended breastfeeding had anything to do with it, she made it through the sick season without getting the flu or even a cold.
It was all the wonderful benefits of breast milk that kept me going through her second year, because breastfeeding a toddler wasn’t always easy. If I had to compare what it was like breastfeeding Meghan during her first year and her second year, I would say it was like I was breastfeeding a different child. During most of her first year, she didn’t even seem that interested in breastfeeding. You’ll recall how I mentioned she usually nursed for about 5 minutes at a time on one side. As she got older, she was very distractible and it was hard to get her to even nurse that long. Then she officially graduated from being called an infant, into her toddler years, and something changed.
The change started around 13 months or so when Meghan finally figured out the silly movements we’d been doing with our hands meant something. We’d used sign language with her for months, but it took a while to click. Once it did click, however, and she figured out she could squeeze her little hands in and out and that meant “milk”, her (and my) world changed. I don’t know if it was the fact that she could communicate with me better now, actually tell me exactly when she wanted milk, that made her want it more or if it was just a coincidence. But once she started signing milk it seemed she was a whole lot more interested in it. She could now ask for it whenever she wanted it. And ask for it she did.
By 15 months I had a full-fledged milk addict on my hands. On a typical day, she nursed when she woke in the morning, for morning snack, before her afternoon nap, after her afternoon nap, and before bed. And yes, she was still waking up to nurse once a night much of the time. Thankfully she would nurse and go right back to sleep, but when she finally started sleeping through the night consistently around 17 months, I was a happy mama. She was nursing longer as well. This could have been because my supply was lower (I may have had an oversupply when she was an infant) or she may have just enjoyed it more. I have no idea. It was very strange. Sometimes I loved it, other times it drove me crazy. Despite all of this nursing, she was still eating her solid food well, so I really couldn’t find a reason to not allow her to nurse.
Then, the dreaded sore, tender nipples from the beginning days returned. Meghan started looking at me funny after she started nursing, pulling off to smack her lips, and then say (and sign) “milk” as if that wasn’t what she was getting.
I was pregnant.
Tim and I decided to start trying but I didn’t think it would happen right away. My periods were still very irregular and it took me 8 months to get pregnant with Meghan, so I was shocked when it only took us two months of trying to conceive.
Breastfeeding while pregnant was hard. It was painful, my supply dropped, and judging by Meghan’s expressions when nursing, my milk tasted weird. It was frustrating for both of us, but I was determined to continue breastfeeding her until she was two. My initial appointment was with a nurse practitioner at my ob-gyn’s office. When she found out I was breastfeeding, she said, “You need to quit right away.” I was furious. I had done my research and knew there were many, many women who had successfully breastfed through pregnancy with no problems. She seemed uneducated in this area and it was hard for me to hear and try to explain to Tim, who seemed ready to have me quit. I compromised and said we would try to cut down on the breastfeeding sessions.
Getting Meghan to cut back was tough at first. My goal was to get her down to three nursing sessions a day, morning, before nap, and before bed. I had to hide the Boppy pillow because that was a trigger for her. She saw the Boppy pillow and wanted milk. It was really hard for me to say no to her when she wanted her milk, even though I knew it was probably the best thing for both of us. There were plenty of tears, but she eventually got used to our new routine and stopped asking for milk at other times.
My pregnancy started out roughly. When I was pregnant with Meghan I experienced all day sickness (I refuse to call it morning sickness. Who ever came up with that name, anyway?) that extended into the second trimester and this pregnancy seemed to be following the same pattern. Of course, it was more difficult with a breastfeeding toddler to take care of. Then, at 8 weeks, my symptoms started to subside. I thought I must be lucky and maybe it was a boy since I wasn’t feeling so sick anymore. It turned out that my symptoms stopped when my baby stopped growing. I didn’t find out until my 12 week appointment when the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat and an ultra sound confirmed the baby wasn’t alive.
Not willing to wait an unknown amount of time for the baby to pass naturally, I was scheduled to have a D & C. Physically and emotionally, this was one of the most difficult days of my life. I can’t describe the pain and emptiness that enveloped me while I recovered in the cold hospital. The only saving grace was Meghan’s smiling face, waiting for me at home, reminding me to be grateful for all God has blessed me with. I wasn’t allowed to lift her, but being able to breastfeed her was a gift.
The first thing my doctor told me was, “Your breastfeeding had nothing to do with this.” I believe him. I have to believe him.
Despite believing that breastfeeding Meghan did not cause or contribute to my miscarriage, I knew I couldn’t do it again. I would always associate breastfeeding while pregnant with my miscarriage, and those are painful memories I didn’t want to re-live. If the pregnancy would have lasted, I can’t say how long I would have breastfed Meghan. There’s a chance I would have tandem fed her with her sibling. While the thought of it seemed strange to me, I also knew how much I wanted to let her lead the weaning process. In an ideal world, I would have waited until she was ready to wean to get pregnant again. But I’m no spring chicken over here and who knows how long this child would have continued. She showed no signs of slowing down, so I decided to delay trying to get pregnant again, and then in a few months begin the weaning process and have her be finished when she turned two.
The weaning process went much smoother than I anticipated. My plan was to cut out one of her remaining three feedings each month. We started with the morning feeding. This was easy. Daddy went in to get her instead of me and straight downstairs she went where breakfast was waiting. Yummy smoothie ready to go? Who needs Mommy’s milk? 🙂 She never asked for it in the morning again. The second feeding to go was her nap time feeding. This was the most difficult and took about a week before she stopped asking for it. There were definitely some tears with this one, but she got used to it. The last to go was the before bed feeding. I thought this one would be hard, but by this point I guess she was used to the process and it was pretty easy. She had her last drop of breast milk on her second birthday. And that was the end of our breastfeeding story.
While there were ups and downs, I have no regrets. I loved breastfeeding Meghan and am proud I was able to do it for two years.
Thank you for sharing this. I am in the EXACT same position (nursing toddler who turned 2 last week and a few weeks past a D and C with the very same timing as you – stopped growing @ 8 weeks, found out at 11 weeks). As I contemplate getting pregnant again, I also think I am going to pursue weaning. Reassuring to hear your story.
I’m glad you found my post. I’m so sorry for your loss and I wish you the best in your journey.
I just stumbled upon your blog and really enjoyed reading your breastfeeding story. It is so similar to my own. I had an incredibly rough start. I don’t think we found our groove until my daughter was about 6 months old. We had latching difficulties, oversupply, undersupply, nursing strikes, engorgement, mastitis, no support from my inlaws, etc. You name it, we endured it. My daughter is now 20 months old and we are going strong. I’m so glad we stuck with it, even through the hardest times, because it is now my proudest accomplishment. Your daughter is so lucky to have you as her mother and I’m sure that the bond you developed during your time breastfeeding will last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing your story.
Way to stick with it, Anne! I can’t imagine how rough that must have been. Good luck with the rest of your breastfeeding journey. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your breastfeeding story. It was an excellent read and brings back memories of nursing my 3 boys. It is great to hear that you had the opportunity to nurse for the first two years. I nursed Johnathan for 10.5 months since Dan and I were going for a 63-mile backpack trip. I weaned him in a week since I did not want to stop nursing him. Christopher, I stopped nursing at 11 months since I became pregnant and was contracting every time I nursed him. That was a scary feeling since I had experienced a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. Calvin I just weened at 13.5 months so I can send him with his brothers to my parents for a week in December. I did not start feeding solids until the last minute since nursing was so convenient and the last two refused any kind of cereal.
Thank you for sharing about your miscarriage. It definitely is not something that is easy to go through. The topic almost seems like it is taboo in our society. I new the statistics but before I miscarried I did not now of anyone who had had one. Once I did, women began sharing their experiences. When I had my miscarriage I was living in Germany. I saw the baby’s heartbeat the day before I miscarried. It was definitely an emotional experience. I now have four children, one in heaven and three here with me now. I have always wanted 4 children but never asked how.
Also, my sister, Sarah, had continued nursing two of her children well into her 2 trimester.
I was finally able to read this and just want to say thank you so much for sharing. It’s so important for new moms or moms to be to hear these kind of stories…the stuff no one tells you! All I was prepped for with Bodie was that it “wasn’t supposed to hurt” so when it did, I assumed I was doing it incorrectly. Nope…it hurts! But is such an amazing bonding experience all at the same time.
I found my body worked different between both of my children (I actually stopped producing milk when Adela was about 9 months). So it always helps to know what others have gone through…even if you’ve done it before.
I’m so sorry to hear that you experienced a miscarriage, but what a brave thing to share. I can only imagine how many women will benefit from your story!
Two years. Wow. I admit I was kind of happy to get out of there. After a year I fed my first formula for probably 5 months. I was scared of cows milk. And she never would drink milk out of anything but a bottle. Still doesn’t drink milk at all since it comes in a glass.
Your story about your miscarriage is heart breaking. I totally understand how your associations became so negative. You’re a very good mama.
Thank you, Mariko. 🙂
Maryea, I loved hearing your story! I’m sorry you had to experience such loss. I can only imagine how you felt. I can see how breastfeeding Meghan would be a comfort during that time. I also would have continued breastfeeding until 2 the first time around if Cael would have continued. Though he had other ideas and weaned at 10 months. I am still breastfeeding Brielle at 7 months and plan to continue. My struggle has been a low supply. I have tried EVERYTHiNG I heard, read about, thought of to try to increase it but to no avail. So I have supplemented with formula both times. I also still work part time. I pump at work but only enough for about 2/3 of what she needs. That can get frustrating at times but like you, I am glad to provide the immune system and other benefits she gets even if she gets some formula. Not to mention the closeness of nursing when I get home from work and at night. Thanks again for sharing your story!
I think anytime a working mom is able to breastfeed it is awesome! I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have to pump multiple times a day. Good for you for your dedication, even with a low supply, many women would have given up. Your little ones are getting great benefits!!
Michelle (Housewife in the Raw) says
Thanks for sharing your story. I went 15 months with my first, stopping when we decided to try getting pregnant. I ended up losing that baby around 11 weeks and, of course, questioned if it was something I did. I know how you feel and I’m so sorry for your loss.
My second nursed for 19 months – we are almost a year from his weaning date now. I miss it at times. I also, very selfishly, miss the nursing bosom! I am back to smaller than before I ever had kids and I was never big to begin with. 🙂
I hear you, sister! I was small to begin with and my chest is now comparable to a 12-year-old boy. 😉 Yep, I selfishly miss the nursing bosom, too!
Great to hear your breastfeeding story. I nursed Claire until about 14 months, but stopped in hopes of falling pregnant again. I got pregnant immediately after weaning but had a miscarriage too. Now, it’s been 2 years (still not pregnant) and I wish I had nursed her longer and not been in such a hurry especially since I am not sure I will ever get to nurse a baby again. What a wonderful blessing and bonding nursing a precious little baby is!! Good for you for doing the research, following your convictions and having the courage to share your story. Thanks!
I love your breastfeeding story! Very encouraging for me. I am breastfeeding my first and she is 10 months now. I love the bonding and also how breastfeeding seems to make her relaxed and drowsy before naps and bedtime. I had challenges with breastfeeding for various reasons until about 5 months (fussy nursing baby, especially before bed at night and positioning issues on the right side), but I’m so glad I stuck it out. I never considered quitting. Thankful for the health benefits for both my baby and for me. And like you said, I have peace of mind that she is getting great nutrition even on days when she doesn’t want to eat solids. Bless you and your willingness to share and encourage others.
Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun says
I think that is so impressive you nursed her that long. It really is a blessing! I’m sorry you had to deal with the loss of a pregnancy and child at 12 weeks though. Thanks for opening up and sharing something so personal.
This story is awesome! I loved all three parts. It is so encouraging to hear breastfeeding experiences from other moms. I probably would have breastfed Addie for longer than 13 1/2 months if I wasn’t trying to get pregnant. I too researched breastfeeding while pregnant and found that it was completely safe, but still after having a miscarriage myself I didn’t want to take the chance even though it was most likely unrelated. When I finally did stop it was very hard on me, but Addie was fine! I am not sure how long I plan to breastfeed AJ. He is doing great with it and I love our bonding experience. I definitely notice a difference between boys and girls. He eats A LOT more!
Wow! I’m really glad I got to hear you tell this story. Nursing my babies was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. I would’ve loved to have stuck it out that long. Unfortunately, with Jake, I wasn’t persistent enough (made it 6 months) and with the girls, at 9 months, Rily started biting and Camy soon followed. Meghan is a lucky girl to have such a terrific Mom! I hope I’ll get to meet her someday!
Aw, thank you. Wow I forgot about the biting! Meghan went through a little biting phase but thankfully it didn’t last. It was horrible though, she thought it was funny.
I hope to meet Rily and Camy and see Jake again too! We never seem to be visiting the UP at the same time these days! We need to coordinate a visit at the same time. 🙂
my daughter is 39 months and still like her mummy milk four times a day/night…
How wonderful! Your daughter is a lucky little girl!
Good for you. Proud of anyone who does what they feel is right, no matter what others think. You are a strong woman! I breastfed for one year, and really enjoyed the close bond I shared with my baby. It is God’s design, but I wish He didn’t make it SO painful in the beginning! I enjoyed your story, thank you.
I know! I think a lot more women would stick to breastfeeding if it wasn’t so difficult in the beginning.