WBW 2016: A story of working and breastfeeding, and staying determined

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Yesterday, we read 5 tips for breastfeeding mothers returning to work outside the home. For this day of World Breastfeeding Week, we share another breastfeeding mother’s story of working and child-led weaning:

My daughter recently weaned after 3 and 1/2 years of nursing. We did baby-led weaning, so there were no tears shed — on either side. That I was set for failure to begin with in so many ways makes me want to share my story with others, especially working moms.

A Hard Start

As an older parent, with a cesarean birth, I was faced with the same struggles so many new moms struggle with: no to little milk supply for the first few weeks…no milk reflex that every breastfeeding book and counselor tell you about, for weeks…advice about pumping, giving formula, different nursing positions, and so on. But I stayed determined to breastfeed my baby!

My daughter spent some time in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). We were given the option of giving her donated breastmilk instead of formula, which we chose. Later, I found out that the breastmilk came from the first milk bank in Oregon, started just 3 years earlier!

At home, I did have to supplement with formula, but before every formula-feeding, I nursed her until she wouldn’t take more. Eventually after a few weeks, my milk supply did improve.

Returning to Work

After 8 weeks of maternity leave, when I got back to work, initially I tried to get to my baby to nurse her once during the day, but it affected both of our day time routines so much that I started pumping while at work instead. Before you return to your work, make sure your child safe with the nurse. It has seen many times nurses, neglect the baby, or abuse them or make them starve while parents are not around. Make sure the nurse don’t abuse your kid or neglect your kid. If any kind of abuse or negligence happened, protect your kid by engaging with the nursing home abuse lawyer Boston MA.

This is usually the time that babies develop a nipple preference — the breast or the bottle. In order to mitigate that, we followed a persistent routine with another caregiver offering her pumped milk and I always breastfed her on demand when home after work and on weekends.

At work, I exchanged notes with other moms who had done this before me. Every bit of encouragement and advice went a long way in taking us through the first year.

Somewhere along the way, during the 4- to 5-month mark, I had more milk than my baby needed and I made sure I froze the extra.

Breastfeeding Beyond 1 Year

The cultural expectation to wean around 1 year was a huge shocker. Most moms, family, and friends I interacted with thought 1 year of breastfeeding was enough and sufficient. Breastfeeding a baby on demand, especially at night, does take a toll on moms and this, I heard, is a big reason why many decide to wean at around the 1-year mark. But the ignorance, for a lack of better word, on why one would breastfeed beyond infancy took me some time to understand.

divya singh 1I educated myself and my family about the benefits of breastfeeding beyond infancy. This was especially important since my own parents had brought me and my siblings up in India in the late 1970s and ’80’s when formula and bottle-feeding were marketed as the pathways to “better nutrition” and “women’s empowerment” for middle-class families. I have lost count of the number of arguments I had with my own mother about why it was so important for me to take breastfeeding into my daughter’s second year.

Nighttime Nursing & Workday Mornings

As a family, we transitioned our daughter from her bassinet to cosleeping as soon as she was done with swaddling and had figured out the night-day difference around 3 to 4 months old. Nighttime and early morning nursings became a lot easier as a result.

My workday mornings were playful, fun, and challenging at the same time, especially to get out of the house. Breastfeeding in the mornings is not easy and for obvious reasons not workable for many working families. My mornings had to start at least 2 to 3 hours before I had to leave for work, so I had enough time before my baby was up to take care of morning chores, not rush her through nursing, and get an early start to work.

During a critical phase of a project at work, for months I would use alarms to wake myself up in the middle of the night after few hours of sleep. In all those moments, I just had to remind myself that even this would pass, to stay determined on my breastfeeding goals, and to keep going.

Our Marriage

At nights, nursing to put her to bed meant often that the dishwasher wasn’t loaded and the kitchen was a mess. Nursing on demand also meant that my husband had to pick up on chores where I left off. What resulted was a true partnership.

A Change in Jobs

When our daughter was born, my husband and I had jobs in different cities. We had figured our leave schedule so we were together the first year. After that, while we were still figuring out how to work it all out, there was an academic semester of my husband’s that I had to manage as a single mom with some domestic help and baby in daycare. It was one of the toughest times I had managing work and home and gave me a better appreciation of what was needed for my family.

At that point, I decided to change my job to one where the immediacy of deadlines was less intense. Leaving a project and team I loved dearly was not an easy decision, but something had to change.

Soon afterwards, as luck would have it, my husband was able to move his academic job to a branch campus much closer to home. All in all, it meant that it was only after her second birthday that we both could see her go to bed and get up in the morning every day of the week. Separation from her father for extended periods of time in the first 2 years also meant that our daughter grew much more attached to me then her father and her need for attachment and comfort with me would have made it very hard to wean her earlier.

Weaning

Two years and counting, I wondered when I was going to get my full night uninterrupted sleep. This is when I reached out to other moms at work who had followed baby-led weaning to hear their stories and experiences. We have this amazing working moms network where members respond to questions on a variety of parenting topics. We also have a moms mentoring program. This is especially important in a workplace that operates around the clock and therefore is obviously fraught with challenges for young families. Hearing from others that every child does wean themselves with some support from the moms when they are ready made all the difference for me.

Another big change was I had a job that offered me much more flexibility in the hours I spent at work or doing weekend coverage. Once we made the decision about following baby-led weaning, I had to come to terms with our nursing routine. By this time, I had nursed her wherever we traveled in India and the United States, from trains to buses, flights and metros, and all kinds of public spaces. We had managed 2 tough winters of daycare infections coming home and the long night nursings that come with a sick baby. By the third winter, however, I could already see the benefits of stronger immunity that my daughter developed due to extended breastfeeding.

And here we are. My daughter has weaned. All in all, my breastfeeding and baby-led weaning experience has given me confidence in my parenting journey.

And we said bye-bye to breastfeeding

divya singh 1This holiday season, my 3-1/2-year-old daughter and I said bye-bye to our breastfeeding relationship on a very happy note. Here is how it worked for us:

When my daughter turned 2 years old, every now and then I talked about weaning, but she wanted to continue the morning and bedtime nursings. Then, on Thanksgiving weekend at the end of November, our weaning time came.

With a bad cold, she had been nursing a couple times at night in the 7 to 10 days before. One of these mornings I had sore nipples, and I told her I was hurting so she should be gentle. To my surprise, she just licked both sides and called it done. The following morning, she wanted to just cuddle, talk and sing before starting our day.

The first two nights after this, I intentionally avoided our bedtime routine — which she had been okay with on some recent weekends — because she was very tired, having missed her naps at daycare. The third night, after our usual night routine — to my amazement — she said she didn’t want “amma duddhu” (mommy’s milk)! I knew then that she was done.

And we said bye-bye:

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
You didn’t cry, nor did I —
One small step, one big moment,
To let go of this elixir so potent!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
You were ready, and so was I —
A moment to pause, and celebrate,
So many to thank and dedicate!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu,”
Like your first walk, like your first talk,
This was surely one milestone,
On this parenting voyage, a large capstone!

And we said bye-bye to “amma duddhu.”
When so many said you were too old to nurse
And questioned why I continued to nurse,
You affirmed our bond like a poem or verse!

Thanks for choosing me, your amma!

A Different Kind of Baby-Led Weaning

When people talk about baby-led weaning, they are usually referring to the method of introducing solid food that involves introducing finger foods and allowing the baby to decide what and how much to eat, rather than the parents spoon feeding baby food. Over time, feedings at the breast are gradually replaced with self-feeding of the same types of solid foods eaten by the rest of the family.

But breastfeeding is about more than just food. So in families that have chosen child-led weaning, meaning that the child (not the mother) decides when to stop nursing, the gradual process of weaning involves not only introducing other forms of food, but also other forms of comfort.

In our family, our babies were always nursed to sleep. That meant that I, as the nursing mom, lay down with them at bedtime and nursed them until the gulps turned to flutters and they drifted off to sleep. I could then sneak out and go about the rest of my evening. If I wasn’t there, Daddy would do, but their preference was always to nurse to sleep. We never pushed or forced independent sleep, knowing that like eating, walking, talking, reading and so many other things, they would one day be able to do it on their own. It might require some guidance and some reassurance, but certainly not force.

As it happens, both of our children were ready to give up nursing to sleep before they were ready to give up having a parent present at bedtime. Nursing is a powerful sleep tool and our kids needed something to replace it. Something that would help them go off smiling and secure into the Land of Nod. They didn’t stop nursing at bedtime all at once. It happened gradually. With both of them, they went from nursing to sleep to nursing at bedtime but not falling asleep while nursing.

So then what do you do with a still awake child that has finished nursing?

In our case, in child-led fashion, each of our kids decided for themselves what comfort they needed that would help them doze off. With Julian, it was an involved process. He wanted his back rubbed while being sang to. The Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, the Elmo Song, the Wheels on the Bus, over and over and over again. He wasn’t always quick to fall asleep and I would find myself drifting away mid-song as I tried to get him to sleep. With Emma, who is now just shy of three years old and only nurses at bedtime about every third night or so, the request is clear and simple: “Mommy, cuddle my bum.”

So I cuddle. Because she wants me to, because it comforts her, and because one day she won’t want me to anymore.

Photo credit: ibu menyusui on flickr

Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog. She wrote this post after cuddling her little girl to sleep.

Three Year Old Weans Himself

Nursing at 11 months

No, child-led weaning is not propaganda spread by La Leche League. It truly exists. I’d begun to wonder, honestly, even though I’d heard stories of friends, and friends of friends, whose children had weaned themselves. But now I’ve experienced natural weaning firsthand and I’m here to tell you it actually happens because my son just weaned himself!

In fact, he stopped nursing on New Year’s Day, but I’ve been waiting to make sure it was real, that I didn’t jinx it by declaring that it was so. Call me superstitious, but I didn’t want the milk gods to revive Cavanaugh’s interest or engorge my breasts.

This weaning has been gradual and I wondered if it would ever happen. What I kept reading and hearing is that children wean themselves when they’ve fulfilled the need to nurse. They won’t need a pacifier or to suck their thumb. They will be able to get food and comfort and whatever else that sucking reflex provided them from something else. Sure, I kept thinking, but when? Continue reading “Three Year Old Weans Himself”

Natural process of weaning

I really believe in child led weaning when it comes to extended breastfeeding however I personally would not like to nurse past 3-years of age. I know that many women do with great success and that’s wonderful and I fully support that. I just know my limitations and 3 years of age is about the age for me.

Our children have both been bigger for their age so I’m used to the looks outside of home when I’m nursing a 2-year old that looks like a 4-year old and I just smile. I’m forever grateful for our pediatrician Dr. William Sears for opening my eyes and educating me about extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning. It has been especially helpful at times when friends and relatives wonder why I’m still nursing and how long will I continue. It’s not always easy to stand your ground especially as a  first time mom so it’s important to have the knowledge to deal with criticism etc because you sure need that so that you don’t start to doubt yourself because of all the “advice” that is being given to you by mainstream parents and friends.

Continue reading “Natural process of weaning”

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