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Weaning After Age Two  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

My berry-loving, messy-faced “Super Awesome!” girl.

Adelaide is officially weaned. She’s now two and a half years old (or 30 months). As I wrote in this post when she was 25 months, or in this post when she was 19 months, it’s been a slow process.

I let Adelaide wean on her own timeline. As a mom who has worked outside the home full-time since my daughter was 12 weeks old, I’m proud that I was able to nurse exclusively until she was one.  At around 13 months we introduced whole cow’s milk and continued to supplement breast milk with cow’s milk. Then at about 17.5 months I stopped pumping while at work. As my supply dipped and Adelaide’s appetite for “real” food increased, it was natural that she only nursed three times a day and drank cow’s milk the rest. Then she was nursing only twice a day. It was that way for several months–in the morning lying in bed before starting our day and at night in her room in the rocking chair, right before books.

The last couple of months Adelaide’s nursing sessions have become shorter and shorter. I laughed when one day she announced, “empty,” as she patted my breast. Sometimes she seemed a little frustrated that Mommy’s milk supply was low, but it didn’t usually bother her. She still nursed for comfort.

A couple of months ago I stopped offering Mommy’s milk, but Adelaide would almost always ask for it. Each night I tried to pause and savor the moment, to look into her eyes and remember the special bond I felt. Then, nursing started to not be as fun anymore. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t as comfortable for me as it used to be. Still, I thought each night might be our last, so I tried to appreciate it.

One night when Adelaide was nursing, I asked her if it was empty and she shook her head no. Apparently, she was still getting something. But the sessions became very short–just a minute or two on each side. The last several weeks, Adelaide stopped asking. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t remember the exact last day, the last moment we nursed together. I thought the date would be something nice to record here and in her baby book, but I was okay. I knew it was time.

Then, on Friday, February 7, I was changing Adelaide into her pajamas when she said “Mommy nilk.” The request caught me by surprise. It had been a week or two since Adelaide had last nursed. If Tim has been around, he probably would have said, “Oh you don’t need Mommy’s milk anymore. You’re a big girl.” But, it was just me and her. I was excited to have one last nursing moment with my girl.

I said okay and Adelaide nursed for maybe 25 or 30 seconds. When I offered to “switch sides,” she sat right up and we switched. Almost immediately she popped back up and climbed down to get books to read. That was it. No grande finale. It was less emotionally climactic than I thought it would be, but in a good way. There were no tears (from her or me). That was it.

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A while ago I ran across an article that reassured my thought process surrounding extended nursing and weaning. The following is an excerpt from Norma Ritter’s post “Thinking About Weaning” at Breastfeeding USA:

…human milk does not suddenly turn to water after a certain length of time! Mothers can nurse their babies for as long as both they and their children wish to continue. Children will wean all by themselves when they are developmentally ready to do so.

Many mothers are surprised to learn that during their baby’s second year (12-23 months), 15 ounces of their milk provides:

  • 29% of energy requirements

  • 43% of protein requirements

  • 36% of calcium requirements

  • 75% of vitamin A requirements

  • 76% of folate requirements

  • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements

  • 60% of vitamin C requirements

Ritter goes on to say:

I’ll bet you have never heard a mother say, ‘I will make him walk by the time he is xxx,’ or ‘I will make him talk by the time he is xxx.’ We KNOW that you cannot make a baby walk or talk before they are ready to do so! All babies are different, and there is no reason to set an exact date. The same goes for weaning; children wean when they are ready.

The article ends with the line, “Remember, you know your baby best, and you know what is best for your family. Trust your instincts, and you won’t go far wrong.” Great advice for all of us.

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breastfeeding awareness month  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

May, 2012 | Photo by Tammy Bradshaw

On this last day of National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to share this photo we had taken during a family photo shoot when Adelaide was 9 months old. I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate (and really I’m an education advocate–I  believe every mother should have access to information and support for breastfeeding so that she is aware of the benefits and can get through the tough stages of breastfeeding if it’s what she chooses). I’ve written about breastfeeding several times on this blog–you can check out posts here and here and here and here.

This may come as a surprise to some, but at 25 months, Adelaide is still nursing. She doesn’t nurse in public–there’s really no need for it at this point. She nurses in the morning when she first wakes up. I bring her into bed with me and it’s the way we start each day. I also nurse her before she goes to bed. The nightly routine is nurse, brush teeth, read books, bed. Sometimes, these nursing sessions are short, like she could totally take it or leave it. Sometimes, they are longer, as if this time with me is the moment she’s been waiting for all her life. I’m comfortable with our breastfeeding relationship right now. I thought I might try to wean her at two years old, but she seems to SLOWLY be weaning herself. Some mornings I ask her if she wants Mommy’s milk or milk in a cup. She almost always chooses Mommy’s milk, but she has chosen milk in her cat cup or milk in her Elmo cup on a couple of occasions. I know it is just a matter of time before those five-minute nursing sessions become two minutes and then nothing at all. Until then, we will continue to do what feels right for both of us.

I don’t talk about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding very often. I guess it just doesn’t come up in conversation. However, I’m not embarrassed of it. I’m proud that we’ve had such a long nursing relationship. My pre-pregnant self wouldn’t have understood why we’ve continued so long (see my point about being an education advocate above). I thought that when a kid was old enough to ask for it, they were old enough to wean. After educating myself about the benefits of breastfeeding and learning that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age, my attitude has changed. I used to feel shy when I saw a nursing woman in public. I didn’t judge her for not covering herself, but I just thought I would never be that way.

A lot of modesty goes out the door in childbirth and for me, in motherhood. I did use a cover when Adelaide was young, and I do love my nursing tops that give lots of coverage, but I’m not embarrassed to nurse in public. When my baby was crying and needed to eat, I didn’t hesitate to “whip it out.” My hope is that one day breastfeeding in public will be common place–that women will never be asked to cover up or leave a public place.

In celebration of the month, our photographer Tammy Bradshaw, has an exhibit up at Cloth, a new natural baby story on East Passyunk. I think the show may be coming down this weekend, but it got some nice coverage in the local media. (Save yourself a rise in blood pressure by not reading the comments.)

Also, earlier this month there was a lovely campaign going on over at Mama By the Bay. Suzanne Barston, Jamie Lynne Grumet and Mama By the Bay’s Kim Simon launched the “I Support You” project. Check it out. It’s about supporting both nursing mothers and formula-feeding mothers. It’s about ending the mommy wars and supporting each other without judgement.

So, my final words as Breastfeeding Awareness Month comes to a close is for people to keep talking about it. Keep educating others. Keep breastfeeding in public and nursing beyond the publicly-accepted one year mark. Help to normalize breast feeding and “extended” breastfeeding. Keep supporting each other.

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Adelaide turned two years old today. I thought it was time I finish writing her birth story. I consider this a work in progress, but I finally got the whole story out. Warning: it’s a long one, and it may be too much information for some.

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birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

Our baby girl was due August 13, 2011. (For the story of our gender reveal check out this post.) At our 12-week ultrasound, the technician said she thought the baby was measuring an August 17 due date.

“August 17?” I asked. “That’s my birthday!”

The technician said she wouldn’t want to be laboring on her birthday, and Tim and I joked that I would never have a birthday again. From then on, the day would be baby’s day, not mine. My doctor decided to leave the due date as August 13 since it was only four days off from my original due date. And while I knew that a “due date” was just an estimate and that I could reasonably go any time two weeks before or two weeks after, I knew it was likely baby and I would have birthdays very close together.

Fast forward to July. My sister bought plane tickets to visit me for a week beginning August 14, the day after my due date. She just found out that she got a new job (yay!) and no longer had the flexibility to come whenever the baby arrived (boo!). I’ll admit I was nervous. I thought there was a good chance I’d go into labor while she was here, and I wasn’t sure I wanted another person around while I was laboring at home and waiting to go to the hospital. I also worried that the baby may be late and my sister would miss her all together. My sister assured me it would be okay. Even if there was no baby yet, we’d hang out, finish getting ready for her, and celebrate my birthday. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry.

On Tuesday, July 26, I jokingly told Tim I thought the next Wednesday, August 3, would be a good day to deliver. My work had already hired a temporary worker to assist while I was out on maternity leave. I was supposed to start training her Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29. I figured that by the following Wednesday, I’d have most all my top priority projects wrapped up. My parents were “on call” to drive out from Illinois whenever they got word of baby’s arrival. If she was born on August 3, my parents could come out the following week and still have a week here before my sister arrived on the 14th. I was born on a Wednesday, and August 3rd seemed like a nice day for a birthday. I had it all worked out in my mind.

Still, it was all said tongue in cheek. While at 37 weeks I knew I was technically “full term” and could go at any time, I still figured I’d be late. Even though both my sister and I were early, I had heard that most first-time moms don’t deliver until after their due date. So, when I went into labor in the middle of the night, around 2 am on Thursday, July 28, I totally wasn’t expecting it.

It’s so weird. Wednesday we were eating dinner at IHOP and looking at lamps for the nursery at Lowe’s, and then the next day we had a baby. She was here. No more planning. I didn’t have my hospital bag packed. I didn’t have my birth plan written out. I didn’t have a glider or breast pump. I didn’t have nursing bras or a diaper bag. Our house was a mess. I wasn’t yet organized. The nursery wasn’t complete. The dirty dishes were taking over the kitchen. We also had a maternity photo shoot planned for Sunday, July 31. I had been telling people for the last nine months that I was due in “mid August” and it wasn’t even August yet. Then, I became a mom.

I woke in the middle of the night with an intense urge to pee. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. At 37 weeks pregnant I was regularly getting up in the night to use the bathroom – sometimes even twice in one night. Still, this sensation felt different – like, “wow, I must get to the bathroom now.” As I sat up and started to exit the bed, I ran my hand across the mattress to make sure that I hadn’t leaked or wet the bed.

When I walked toward the bedroom door, I felt a wetness in my panties. As I walked down the hall, I felt a trickle down my leg. Right before going to bed that night, I was reading about incontinence in What to Expect When Expecting. I even told Tim that a mutual friend of ours had recently confided in me her incontinence issues after giving birth. So, as I’m walking (very quickly at this point) down the hall, I’m thinking that I’m peeing my pants. Still half asleep, it was instinct to run to the toilet as quickly as possible. As I got to the doorway of the bathroom, I started to “leak” more and although I thought, “I should tighten my kegel muscles and try to stop it,” I was already to the toilet. There was a gush, but it all happened so fast that I wasn’t sure if it was my water breaking or just my bladder bursting with relief now that there was release. My panties were completely soaked.

I had heard that amniotic fluid smelled distinctive – sweet, not like the ammonia of urine. I smelled my panties, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell what it was. At that point I thought, well, I won’t flush the toilet in case I need to come back and reference this liquid. I’ll just wait and see if I start to have contractions. I knew that few women actually have their water break before contractions – in our birthing classes they told us this was more of a TV sit-com phenomenon than true life. But, when talking about it with my mom in the weeks prior, she said it happened that way for her both times.

So, I went back to the bedroom, changed my underwear and crawled back into bed. I don’t even think Tim noticed I had gotten up. Then, almost immediately, I felt mild cramping in my lower abdomen, similar to period cramps. I knew I should relax, that I should try to go back to sleep because I could have a long day of laboring ahead of me. But of course, my mind was racing.

What? A July baby? What is today? July 28? Is July 28 even a Leo?

Our photo shoot! We were supposed to have maternity photos taken on Sunday.

And work! Oh, there’s still so much to do. Our temp was supposed to come in and train today. And all those invoices on my desk – how will they know how to process them? Who will set up the new budget spreadsheets?

I didn’t want to wake Tim. I wasn’t sure what was going on and there was no reason for us both to be awake and anxious. After about half an hour of lying in bed, I decided to grab my netbook laptop and come downstairs. Plus, I had to pee again already.

I opened my laptop and Googled “water breaking vs. peeing.”  There were a few message boards that came up, but nothing that answered my question to my satisfaction. I then downloaded a contraction counter to my smartphone.

I wasn’t really sure if I was having full-fledged contractions at this point, and they definitely weren’t regular. I figured I’d go back upstairs and try to sleep again.

I may have dosed off briefly, but I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t even have my birth plan written out. After attending our Mindful Birthing class and doing lots of reading, I knew birth plans rarely went as planned. One of the midwives told me “they’re more like goals.” Still, I wanted to have something in writing that I could hand the nurse when we got to the hospital. I wanted something that said we wanted a low-intervention birth, that I intended to at least try for a natural, non-medicated birth with a midwife in the hospital’s birthing suite. I didn’t want to be tethered to a fetal heart monitor if it wasn’t medically necessary; I wanted to be able to walk around. I wanted in writing that I wanted my husband to cut the umbilical cord and that I wanted to hold my baby and try to initiate breast feeding before she was taken out of room – that I wanted her with me skin-on-skin as long as possible.

At one point (it all seems like the middle of the night to me), I got back up and went downstairs to type this up. I basically summarized everything in the above short paragraph, but on that night, while beginning labor, I just couldn’t concentrate enough to write it all out. Plus, the contractions were getting more and more painful. I realized that if the contractions were too painful to continue typing, it was probably time to wake up Tim.

By this time it was about 5:15am, around three hours after my water broke. I told Tim I thought I was in the early stages of labor, that I thought my water broke. He wasn’t as surprised as I thought he might be. He was just very matter-of-fact about it “alright.” We laid in bed together for a bit, but my contractions were getting more and more painful and it wasn’t comfortable for me to lie down anymore.

Tim got up and started looking for someone to cover his shifts that day. He took the dog out for a walk. That period is now a haze for me. I remember throwing a bunch of stuff in my backpack. I didn’t know how long I would be laboring at the hospital, so I packed things for both my time laboring and my hospital stay afterwards – my camera, my laptop, the yoga ball, a book to read, an outfit to change into, my journal, some snacks.

I was trying to following the 4-1-1 rule we learned in our birthing class: don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are four minutes apart. one minute long, for one hour. My contractions weren’t a minute long, but they were closer than four minutes. What did that mean? I was so confused. I remember going down to the basement bathroom and laboring on the toilet. I felt better there, and I didn’t feel anxious about leaking fluids when I was sitting on the toilet. I bounced on the yoga ball, I leaned against the banister and Tim pushed my hips together (a technique we had learned in class). I tried to envision each contraction as a wave coming in and out (I had read that somewhere), but I don’t think I was very successful. I was loud. I moaned with each contraction and didn’t care that it was fairly early in the morning and that we lived in a rowhouse with neighbors close on both sides. I figured they could hear me and hoped that they didn’t call the police for some kind of domestic disturbance.

I remember Matt Lauer being in the background as I know the TODAY show was on the TV. By 8:00am I had Tim call my midwife practice. They weren’t open yet, but there was an emergency line to call and leave a message. A few minutes later the on-duty midwife at the hospital called us back and Tim answered. I didn’t feel much like talking to her, but she wanted to speak to me. I told her I thought my water broke around 2:15am and since my water broke, she told me to come on in.

Tim went and pulled the car up in front of the house. I was not looking forward to that car ride. At this point, I was in a severe amount of pain, and I was wailing pretty loudly. I leaned the chair back in the passenger’s seat and braced my feet in front of me. The ride to the hospital didn’t have to be a long one – we didn’t live far from the hospital. However, it was morning rush hour. Then, Tim took a left when he should have gone straight.

“Where are you going?” I asked. “You should just go down Passyunk.”

He wasn’t thinking clearly, and we hadn’t previously discussed the most direct route to the hospital. We also hadn’t planned out the “drop off.”  When we got to the hospital, he went straight to the Emergency Room drop-off when he should have turned and let me off at the main entrance. I didn’t want to wait for him to go around the block again, so I just had him pull over so I could get out and walk around the corner of the building. He went to park in the garage and said he’d meet me inside with all our stuff.

Having been to the hospital several times for classes and appointments, I knew there was often a line to get up to the reception desk where you had to sign in and get a pass to go inside. I walked directly to the font of the line and said, “I’m in labor and I need to go upstairs.”

The expression on my face must have looked very serious, because she just waved me on. “Third floor,” she said. I walked to the elevator and felt another contraction coming on. I was relieved there was no one else in the elevator. Then, right before the doors were about to close, a female doctor got into the elevator with me. I tried not to be too dramatic about my pain and purposefully didn’t “let loose” like I’d been doing at home and in the car. She immediately came over to see if I was okay. I could tell she was worried. I knew where I was going (I’d been on the hospital tour), and although she tried to get me to go the wrong way on the floor, I started walking toward the registration desk. “Okay, you clearly know more than I do,” she said. “Good luck.”

When I got to the desk, they were expecting me. I’ve heard stories about women having to wait in the waiting room or wait in the triage room for a long time. I was taken into the triage room, right as Tim arrived. They wanted me to pee in a cup and I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. The pain was all-encompasing.

I remember wearing a gown and laying in a hospital bed at one point. They checked me and said I was 5 cm and 100% effaced. “I guess it’s a good thing we had you come in,” the midwife told me.  They asked if I wanted to deliver in the birthing suite. “That was the plan. I’d like to try if I can.”  (If you have an epidural, our hospital doesn’t let you stay in the birthing suite, you have to be monitored in a standard hospital room).

A few contractions later, they checked me again. 7cm. Someone explained that most women increase a centimeter an hour, not a centimeter every 15 minutes. (Had it really been a half an hour?) Things were moving quickly.

Although I was told the birthing suite wasn’t available, the next thing I knew I was being wheeled up the elevator and into the birthing suite.

All modesty went out the window. I’ve had other soon-to-be-mothers ask me what to wear while laboring. Well, I guess you could wear a nice tank top or some other “laboring outfit,” but once in the birthing suite, I birthed completely naked. I think part of the reason was because when I first got into the room they asked me if I wanted to get into the bathtub. I had heard from friends that this relieved some pain, so I was really looking forward to getting into the water.

“If you feel like you need to push, let me know,” the midwife said. “We can’t let you have the baby in the water and if we do, I’ll get in a lot of trouble.” She said with a laugh.

I only lasted in the tub for a couple of contractions – sitting on my knees and leaning forward over the edge of the tub.

I remember the midwife trying to get me to trill my lips while I was mid-contraction, a way to relax and breathe. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t get my lips to work. After trying a few times I remember saying, “that one’s not working – try something else.”

Next, I moved into the shower. Standing, with the water flowing over my back and leaning with both arms on Tim’s forearms, I felt better than I did in the tub. But we weren’t in there long either. The next thing I know, we were back in the main birthing suite pushing. I started out in the bed on all fours, many pillows stacked up underneath me for support. The nurse left to get me some ice and a drink of what I think was seltzer and cranberry juice. Tim was next to me the whole time, but the midwife was the one in command.

We moved to a birthing chair – a weird wooden chair with no middle. I pushed through a few contractions there as well. The midwife asked me if we had a named picked out. “Adelaide” Tim and I both said. “Adelaide.”

I believe we then moved back to the bed where I pushed on all fours again. I remember liking the bed better than the chair because at this point I was getting really tired and I could rest all of my body weight on the mattress. I can picture Tim there to my left with the drink and the ice saying supportive things.

“I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” I repeated. “Yes you can,” they all told me. “You ARE doing this.”

“I don’t feel good,” I said, not knowing what else to say. The swearing I belted when I was laboring at home had subsided in the company of strangers.

“In what way don’t you feel good?” my midwife wanted to know.

I could tell she was concerned that there might be something more than just the pains of a natural childbirth. “I’m just tired,” I said. “I just want to meet her.”

Although I’d heard it over and over that delivering laying on your back is counter-intuitive to how our bodies are built to birth babies, I found myself on my back. I guess I was technically sitting more than laying on my back. I was propped up by so many pillows that I was in an upright position. An intern held my left leg up near my chest. Tim held my right leg. I remember having a hard time keeping that left leg up while pushing through the contractions. They really had to hold my legs tightly to help give me some leverage.

I remember the midwife and nurse talking about all the hair they were seeing. “Oh she has a lot of hair. There’s so much hair.” They asked me to reach down and feel the top of her head. Yeah, it was pretty cool I guess, but at the moment, I wasn’t having it. I didn’t care about her hair and I wanted them to talk about something else.

I remember feeling as if the pushing took a really long time. However, in retrospect, Tim said it was only about 45 minutes or so. I just kept envisioning the moment I would meet her.  “I just want to meet her. I just want to meet her,” I repeated to myself.

Then, on the final push Tim said, “Oh wow. Oh Wow. Oh WOW” – each time a little louder as he saw her head, then shoulders, then whole body emerge.

The nurse immediately placed her on my chest. Things at this point were a bit of a blur. We arrived at the hospital around 9am and just after noon, she was born. I believe my first words were, “It is a girl isn’t it?” still paranoid that the ultrasound had been wrong. The nurse lifted her back up to double check. “Yes, it’s a girl.”

She was beautiful and there was such a swell of emotion and relief.

Tim wanted to cut the umbilical cord and he did, but I wasn’t really “present” for that moment. I think for our next child, I’d like to delay the cutting and then when we’re ready, I want to make sure that I’m paying attention and present in the moment – the one down side of not having a doula or a written birth plan.

I held Adelaide for a bit and she found my breast. After a while (my memory loses track of time here), they took her to be weighed, checked her vitals and footprinted her. Tim took photos as I rested in bed across the room. Eventually they took her to get cleaned up and rolled in some lunch for me.

I was disappointed there was no photo shoot in the park, and I didn’t get the chance to train my temp at work. I felt guilty for leaving several things up in the air when I went on an earlier-than-expected maternity leave. I imagine I would have felt differently had I been scheduled to be induced and knew what day I would give birth, or if I had reached my due date and was more prepared that she could come any day. In many ways, I know I was lucky to have avoided the anxiety of being overdue. And the hospital staff made sure to tell me that most women would’ve been envious of my quick labor.

When we got home from the hospital, I missed being pregnant (at least parts of it), and I felt as if I didn’t get to properly say good-bye to that stage in the cycle. But, I had a new job. I was a mom, and I didn’t have time to think twice about it. I was doing it and trying to digest it all. In the days ahead, I tried to survive the sleepless nights, to sleep when she slept and to enjoy her bright eyes, many facial expressions and calming coos.

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

Born at 12:03pm, 7 lbs, 7 oz

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

The birthing suite at Pennsylvania Hospital

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

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Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to write about breastfeeding on this blog. I guess I shouldn’t be. Being a working mom living in an urban environment and breastfeeding are some of the reasons I think my “Mommy Blog” and my personal experience is different than so many of the other blogs out there. Many Mommy Blogs, even some of the favorites I follow, are written by moms who stay-at-home during the day. Many of them live in suburban areas with houses and big back yards. Many of them do breastfeed. However, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding seem to be easier, at least more convenient, when you’re around your little one all day. I come from a different point of view. I work outside of the home and returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. Breastfeeding and exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or any food aside from breastmilk) for the first 6 months were important to me, if possible.

Having said this, I like to think of myself as free from judgment. I know there are lots of superiority complexes out there, especially on the internet, when it comes to parenting. “Mommy wars,” as it’s often called, is a real thing, and much of the debate centers around subjects such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, crying-it-out etc… It’s hard to be completely free of judgment when you have opinions about these topics. But, I only know what works for me and my family. And that might be very different from what works for you and yours. I try to keep that in mind.

Sure, I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I try to educate people I know about the benefits for both mommy and baby. However, I know breastfeeding is not always as easy as it was for me. And sometimes women aren’t able to nurse for as long as they had hoped, and I know that can cause a lot of mommy guilt. I can see that. Mommy guilt is a real thing. Unfortunately, wanting the best for our kiddos and making that happen is not always easy, so as mommies, we’re often too hard on ourselves (dads too).

I have a friend who didn’t know if she even wanted to breastfeed. She wasn’t breastfed and neither of her sister’s breastfed their children. She just didn’t have any breastfeeding examples in her life. She tried it and breastfed for three whole weeks before throwing in the towel. I was so proud of her! She tried it and her daughter got an unmeasurable amount of nourishment and benefit from those three weeks. That’s a success story in my book.

My hope was to nurse for at least a year, but I set 6 months as a mini-goal. I didn’t know how pumping would go at work, if I would be able to keep up my supply etc… Six months came and went with little to  no problems, so we kept going. Then, a year.

I thought it seemed strange to just stop because some arbitrary date had passed on the calendar. I had made it to one year. Yay! But now what? I’m lucky in that I have a supportive partner. I know that can be one of the most significant barriers to successful breastfeeding. Tim was willing to let me make the call. I got the sense that he didn’t think it was necessary for me to continue breastfeeding, but the more I read and the more I shared with him about the benefits of “extending” past one year, the more he seemed to agree that it was about my relationship with Adelaide and we could just go with the flow and decide on our own.

So here we are. Adelaide is now 19 months. We’re still breastfeeding, although it’s really only twice, maybe three times a day. I nurse her in the morning and when I first get home from work. I would be fine with just in the morning and right before bed, but Adelaide seems to prefer right when I get home from work over right before bed. She does nurse before bed too, but not very much – just a little comfort nursing (the fact that my supply is dwindling and she just nursed an hour and a half earlier are probably contributing factors to why the before bed nursing session is no longer a significant one.)

I thought it was important to nurse Adelaide through the winter. From things I had heard and read, this would be the best way to get through the cold and flu season. Often when kids are sick they get easily dehydrated and nursing is one of the only ways they will accept fluids. I was reminded of the benefits of nursing beyond one year that I wrote about here. Plus, the World Health Organization recommends nursing until age two at the minimum. I just didn’t see any reason to stop if she and I were both happy with the way things were going.

January 15 was my last day of pumping at work. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to stop that day. If it had been, I think I would have posted here – a celebratory blog post patting myself on the back while shouting “Hallelujah!” – instead, it was just that January 16 was a really busy day at work, and I didn’t make time to pump. Then, on the 17th, I just decided not to do it anymore. Adelaide turned 18 months on January 28, so I was planning to stop pumping at work around that time anyway. What a relief! Pumping is just such an annoying hassle. I can hardly believe I did it for as long as I did, but I made it 15 months – first pumping three times a day when I first returned to work, then two times a day since Adelaide was around 6 months (I think) and then once a day since around a year. Not having to worry about cleaning my pumping supplies and packing them every morning has been so nice. Freedom!

Breast milk freezer stash | nextlifechapter.com

This is a shot of my breast milk freezer stash this time last year – four bags full of 2.5oz bottles. When Adelaide was around 12 months, we introduced cow’s milk, and I went down to only pumping once a day at work. The stash became just one bag and we sent a combination of both whole milk and breast milk to daycare. We finished the last of our stash two weeks ago, and I’m sure Tim is grateful for the extra room in the freezer!

It’s been eight weeks since I’ve eliminated pumping at work and things are still going well. I’m sure my supply has decreased and that’s okay. If there’s not much milk to be had, Adelaide will slowly wean herself. And, I feel much more comfortable letting her slowly wean on her own than having to say no and deny her the comfort she has known since only minutes after she was born. Slowly weaning as she moves toward her second birthday feels right to me. And if she’s not quite done by two, I’m actually okay with that.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, Adelaide had Roseola this week. Decreased appetite was a symptom. Adelaide was nursing less and she even threw food on the floor instead of devouring it (so not like her).

The first sign she was nursing less came Saturday morning when I woke with sore, almost painful breasts. Adelaide had been “on the boob” like normal, but she must have been consuming less. Still, I didn’t realize how this was affecting me until I went to work on Tuesday and got very little milk when I pumped during the day. Since she hadn’t been eating well all weekend, she had been signaling to my body that it didn’t need to produce as much milk – it just wasn’t needed. While I had been getting between 12 and 15 ounces each day (it used to be even more in the fall), I only got 6 ounces on Tuesday. Some people might take this as a sign to begin weaning. I am not one of those people.

So, I’ve decided to step-up my game. I’ve been pumping three times at work instead of only two. I’ve been pumping at home before I go to bed – something I’ve never needed to do in the past. I’m determined to get my supply back up – or at least to try. My fridge is full of breast milk. With pumping just a few ounces a day at work, I could probably make it another month and a half and accomplish my goal of nursing until Adelaide’s first birthday. But, I’m not done with nursing. And I don’t think Adelaide is either.

Everything I’ve read says that there’s no reason to stop just because she turns one. One year is a good goal, but as a stop date it’s pretty arbitrary. While Adelaide can technically consume cow’s milk at a year old, cow’s milk is made for baby cows. Human milk is made for baby humans.

Now I want to pause here to say that I do not judge others who may be feeding their babies cow’s milk or formula for whatever reason. I’ve always said that I wanted to breastfeed if I could. I wanted to do it for the first year and made six months of exclusive breastfeeding my goal. I wasn’t sure how breastfeeding would be for me or how I would handle pumping while working outside of the home full time. I have friends that have struggled and for different reasons have already weaned. I’m of the opinion that “breast is best,” and as a breastfeeding advocate, I think it’s great when mom’s try to breastfeed – whether that be for two years or two months. Even two weeks is better than nothing! For me, it’s important to try and to seek out support when it’s tough. It’s not the same choice everyone makes and I support that. Fortunately, I’ve had a pretty easy time of it. If things had been different, my choices might have been different as well.

Anyway, I recently ran across this list of reasons to breastfeed beyond a year from BestforBabes.org. I didn’t always think the way I do now, so I feel it’s important to post the reasons here and not just link to the article. These are the reasons I want to continue to breastfeed, the reasons I’m working hard to regain my good supply.

  • After 1 year, human milk has significantly increased fat and energy contents, compared with human milk before 1 year.  Babies’ brains are growing and NEED the extra fat & especially human cholesterol.
  • In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides (Dewey 2001):  29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements,36% of calcium requirements,75% of vitamin A requirements,76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements . Note that this is exactly what baby humans need; cow’s milk is designed to grow baby cows which have smaller brains per body mass.
  • Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers (Gulick 1986).  In other words, the longer that toddlers are allowed to nurse, the lower their risk of disease.  There is also a proportionate increase in IQ for babies and toddlers who breastfeed longer, i.e. higher IQ for breastfeeding over 1 year vs. 6-12 months.
  • Some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Goldman 1983, Goldman & Goldblum 1983, Institute of Medicine 1991).
  • In cultures where mothers and babies are not pressured to wean prematurely, babies self-wean  naturally between 2.5 and 7 years of age, with most babies self-weaning around age 3 or 4. (Dettwyler)
  • The longer babies are allowed to nurse the better socially adjusted they are. Per the researchers, ‘There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.’”
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year), helps them learn to self-soothe and self-regulate, manage frustrations (some parents report avoiding the “terrible twos” altogether) and lessens pain from bumps and bruises (breastmilk contains analgesics, i.e. natural pain-killers).  Nursing toddlers are easier to handle in the doctor’s office, too!
  • Breastfeeding toddlers (babies > 1 year) helps them make a gradual transition to childhood, “Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable.”  Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.
  • The longer mothers breastfeed, the lower their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease.
  • Older babies/toddlers nurse fewer times per day, most people are usually unaware they are nursing.
  • Babies that are old enough to “ask” to nurse are also old enough to say “thank you”, one of the sweetest experiences any mother can experience!

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The first three months after babies are born are often referred to as “the fourth trimester.” It’s because human newborns are so much more dependent on their parents and vulnerable than other newborn mammals. While some mammals can practically walk at birth, I remember reading that human babies intuitively know only how to suck, swallow and breathe. They even have problems breathing consistently sometimes. I believe this has something to do with evolution and since we walk upright, we have evolved to a gestation period of around 40 weeks so that we can safely birth our babies’ big heads and big brains. So, the infant human baby is still developing during that fourth trimester in a way that is similar to how other mammals develop while still in the womb.

In learning about the fourth trimester, I remember feeling relieved that parents shouldn’t expect babies under three months to be on a schedule or to sleep through the night. We need only feed them on demand and let them be infants.

Adelaide turned nine months on April 28. Tim pointed out that she has now had equal amounts of time growing both inside and outside of me. “Nine months in, nine months out” as my friend Jennifer put it.

At her nine-month appointment on Tuesday, Adelaide weighed in at 19 lbs 11 oz (50th percentile) and 28 1/2 inches tall (75th percentile). She’s leveled off a bit on the weight chart, but our pediatrician said that was normal at nine months. Adelaide still has no teeth. My friend Brooke’s son is a month younger than Adelaide and he’s had six teeth for weeks. No teeth and six teeth are both totally normal.

We also talked to the pediatrician about food. Although Adelaide has loved all the solids we’ve given her, we’ve been slow to introduce them. Knowing she’s getting all her necessary nutrients from my breastmilk, we’ve just been experimenting with solids at night and on the weekends. And we haven’t even been doing that consistently every night. But that’s all starting to change. Our pediatrician suggested that we start sending food to daycare and giving Adelaide three “meals” a day. While she doesn’t really “need” solids as a form of nutrients right now, she will start to need nutrients from solids at around a year old. She’ll be twelve months with just a blink of an eye, so we’re going to step-up her solids intake. We’ve also started letting her play with a sippie cup and drinking from a straw is next.

We have a real crawler on our hands now (no more just hacking it with an army crawl). She has pulled herself up to standing in her crib (just once that we’ve seen – but hey, she can do it). She likes to clap and is happy and social, smiling at strangers and letting everyone hold her. People ask us all the time if she is always that smiley (answer: yes, usually), and when we pick her up from daycare they always say she just smiled and laughed all day.

Someone recently told me that it’s around nine months when babies really start to develop personality. Nine months in, nine months out. Six months post the “fourth trimester.” And so much to look forward to.

 

 

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My attitudes about breast feeding have changed a lot in the last eight months since Adelaide has been born. I never questioned whether or not I would breastfeed. I just assumed I would if I could. Tim and I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital a few weeks before Adelaide was born. It was a one-night class that informed parents about the benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mom – fewer ear infections and allergies for baby and lower risk for breast cancer for mom, just to name a few. Really? Bonus! The benefits I learned far exceeded my simple expectation of “good, natural nutrients for the newborn.”

 Breastfed babies have:

  • Less instances of gastrointestinal issues, respiratory infections, and ear infections
  • Less likelihood of developing allergies
  • Higher IQs
  • A decreased risk of obesity later in life
  • Lower rates of infant mortality
  • Less illness overall and less hospitalization

Check out page 12 of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding for a complete list!

Breastfeeding helps mom:

  • Lose weight faster
  • Control post-partum bleeding
  • Reduce the risk for ovarian and breast cancer
  • Working parents of breastfed children have up to 6 times less absenteeism

I used to believe that when a baby is old enough to “ask for it,” they are too old to be breastfed. I saw photos of two-year-olds breastfeeding and cringed.  I’m not sure what I thought – that the children would somehow be irreparably damaged for being coddled by their overprotective mothers? There wasn’t one single event that changed my thinking.

It started with that breastfeeding class, and continued with the breastfeeding support group I attended at the hospital after Adelaide was born. The more I read and the more I became informed, the more I realized that my previous way of thinking is just part of what our society has told us to think. Although breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, it’s not normalized in our American culture. Women are not supported to get through the early humps and hurdles of breastfeeding, they aren’t supported when breastfeeding in public, working moms aren’t supported to breastfeed and pump in the workplace, and they aren’t supported to breastfeed their children past some arbitrarily picked maximum age.

My attitudes surrounding breastfeeding are changing, and as Adelaide heads toward the nine-month mark of exclusive breastfeeding (she’s had some “solids,” but no formula), I’m starting to think about how long we might continue to do it. I’m becoming a breastfeeding advocate while still trying to be considerate of those who make different choices, or are somehow forced to make choices different from their intended goals. Normalizing breastfeeding in our society is not going to happen overnight. It starts and ends with education, with a lot of compassion, support and understanding in between.

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Liquid Gold

I got 12.5 oz at my first pumping at work today. I don’t know about you, but I say that’s a lot of breast milk. That’s more than a can of Coke. Liquid gold! And my magical breasts continue to amaze.

(Sorry, no photos on this one)

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Adelaide had her two-month check-up yesterday. Our little baby is 14 lbs, 11 oz which puts her in the 97th percentile!  We asked the doctor if this was okay, if we had any reason to be concerned, and she said, “No, it’s breast milk. It’s not like you’re feeding her Oreos.”

She’s no longer that wee infant we brought home from the hospital. She’s almost doubled her birth weight at this point, and looking back at the photos from the first few weeks, I am amazed by how much she has grown and how quickly the last few weeks have passed.  I never posted the last weeks of belly photos, so with these final images the collection is complete.

36 weeks

37 weeks

38 weeks

 
Apparently I like to wear purple.

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There's no wait when you're out for brunch on a Wednesday!

7 weeks

1. The forgetfulness/scatteredness people claim as pregnancy brain/new mom brain is a real thing. (This may also extended longer than just for new moms, I’ll keep you posted.) Last week I left the house and spent the evening with friends all while wearing my shirt backwards. No one said anything (knitters, I’m looking at you), so either it wasn’t that noticeable or else they felt sorry for me and didn’t want me to feel bad. Three days later I left the house with my pants on backwards. How do you not notice your pants are on backwards you ask? Well, they were more the yoga-style pant than a button-up fly. I noticed when I got to the car and tried to put my keys in my pocket. The pocket faced the wrong way. I switched the pants around while sitting in the car parked on our street. Fortunately, I did it quickly and I don’t think any neighbors caught the brief moment I was sitting in the driver’s seat in my underwear.

2. Babies are harder to care for weeks 3 – 6 than they are the first couple of weeks. I feel like no one mentioned this. The first couple of weeks Adelaide just ate and then slept, and when she was awake and fussy (which wasn’t very long), I would just feed her again to quiet her. Now, she’s awake a lot more, and that’s a good thing. It’s fun when she’s alert and calm. She has so much more personality when her eyes are open, and I love looking into her deep gray eyes and talking to her. However, being awake more and more also means she’s fussy more and more. And now, I don’t always know what to do to make her happy. Feeding her doesn’t always do it, so it can be frustrating. Since she’s awake more, that means she’s sleeping less, and unfortunately she’s sleeping more during the day than at night.

3. It helps my sanity to get out of the house every day. The last several Mondays I’ve been attending a free breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered. The discussion is usually informative, but I appreciate the opportunity to get out of the house more than anything. Plus, it’s a safe place to breastfeed in public. I’m now much more comfortable using my cover-up and breastfeeding while out and about, but in those first few weeks it was nice to be able to socialize and not have to worry about the logistics of how to discreetly nurse in public. Last Friday, I also attended the New Mom Support Group at the parenting center Ali’s Wagon. Right before the drop-in support group, the My Baby, My Self session features a different speaker each week. You can attend both the guest speaker segment and the support group for $10 (otherwise it’s still $10 to attend one or the other.) I’ve also been trying to make time to meet friends for lunch, make a trip to Target or just out for a walk.

4. When the doorbell rings, take the baby with you to answer. While writing this, two Jehovah’s Witnesses just came to the door. Seeing that I literally had my hands full got rid of them quickly.

There's no wait when you're out for brunch on a Wednesday!

 

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