Cuddle = Nurse; A #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Andrea Jacko, a leaky

When I was pregnant with my first child I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. My mom nursed my siblings and I until we were one and I wanted to do the same. Looking back I didn’t think we would be going as long as we are with no end in sight. Maggie, my very energetic, free spirited 21 month old is so amazing. I treasure our nursing sessions because it gives us a few minutes throughout the day to just sit and cuddle. Cuddle is the word she uses when she wants to nurse – how can anyone say no to that?! 

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I’m an RN in a very busy critical care unit, working 3-12 hour shifts a week. I went back to work when she was 10 weeks old and I was determined to continue breastfeeding. Maggie reversed cycled something crazy and only ate 4 ounces on days I would work. That meant she was up all night long making up for the fact that she didn’t eat all day. Thank goodness for cosleeping or I would be miserable! Because she reversed cycled, I built up quite the freezer stash and I have donated over 1000 ounces to other moms for their precious babies.

When Maggie was 14 months old we found out we were pregnant! My biggest fear was my milk drying up and Maggie being forced to wean and her not being able to decide when to stop. My milk did dry up around 13 weeks and that’s when I stopped pumping at work. Thankfully, Maggie never stopped nursing. My colostrum came in around 25 weeks and Maggie was so excited! Nursing a toddler has it’s challenges and being pregnant I’ve had some nursing aversions but again, I want Maggie to decide when she’s ready to be done, not me. We have set limits with her and I night-weaned her at 19 months. Now we snuggle at night instead and she is perfectly happy with that.

Her vocabulary is expanding every day and I love the things she says when the time comes to nurse. Yesterday I was getting dressed and I didn’t have a shirt on – she looks up at me and goes “boobies, yumm!” And then proceeded to smile and sign to nurse. How can you say no to that? She frequently will kiss my breast and say thank you after a nursing session. Absolutely melts my heart. Hopefully she is okay sharing because it looks like I will be tandem nursing her and her brother when he’s born in 6 weeks.

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Can you relate to this Leaky’s story? Comment telling us how and if you would like to share your story, please do so by emailing content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces) with the subject line #MyStoryMatters submission. Join us in sharing #MyStoryMatters and normalizing breastfeeding with the wide variety of infant feeding stories we all have.

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My Nursing Days Might Be Done

by Karen, a Leaky

It appears as if after 10 years of breastfeeding my 4 children, my breastfeeding days are done. I had hoped that my “baby” (now 25 months old) would have chosen to continue our nursing relationship longer, but he appears ready to move on to be a “big” boy and catch up to his older siblings. 

With my older children, they nursed before bed or when they needed comfort after a boo boo, until well after their second birthdays. With all of them, as I was starting to feel ready to wean, I would gradually not offer, but I would not refuse nursing requests. My older two were about 2.5 years old when they each weaned and my third child was 3.5 years. I was sad when #3 weaned because we did not think we would have more children, but after 3.5 years, we were ready. I was so pleasantly surprised when I became pregnant with number 4 and was thrilled to be able to have that nursing relationship once more. And what a relationship it was. My little guy was milk and soy protein intolerant and so this lacto-ovo vegetarian mom cut dairy and soy out of my diet and I fought the doctor repeatedly when they pushed me feeding formula (both when he was severely jaundiced at birth and again with the MSPI). I was confident in my nursing ability – making milk was my super power and the way that I could calm and comfort my babies in a way that no one else could. 

I go over in my mind what I have done differently with this child than the others that he would wean sooner. Finding myself overwhelmed with four kids with 11 years between the oldest and the youngest, keeping up with activities, and therapies for my child with mild asperger’s syndrome, I was fortunate to bring in childcare help. At times when I had things to do, my toddler was distracted by getting snacks or cups of rice milk, or other activities. Being busy with other activities, there were times that I wasn’t able to be there at bed time to put my little guy to bed. We were blessed that he has always been a great sleeper, but that meant that there weren’t the middle of the night feedings (since he was around 2 months old – that was a first for me) and he was even so flexible that as a toddler he would go to bed for Daddy or a babysitter with a story and a cuddle. In general, I limited that to one time a week, but still, it could be why he was ready to move on so soon.

I can’t remember the last time my little guy really nursed. For the past month or so, he would latch on for a few seconds, then tell me all done. Recently, when it is my turn in the bedtime routine (after Daddy reads a book and then gives the little one goodnight hugs, it is my turn) he refuses to come to me in the nursing chair. He goes over to the crib and says “nigh nigh” wanting to go in. He is avoiding me at bedtime, and it breaks my heart. I ask him to come give me a hug and he eventually does so begrudgingly. Then I offer nursing. Sometimes he will do the few second thing, and even when I hand express down what is left of my milk, he says “all done.” Lately he says “no” and puts his head on my shoulder for me to sing our bedtime blessing. I think even though I am not ready to be done, he is.

I know I have done my job in providing nourishment and comfort to my children over all those years. I feel blessed that I made it through the tough stage four separate times and had as long a nursing relationship as I did with all my children. Our family is complete with four children. I am just sad that nursing seems to have ended before I was ready.

Last night as I was changing my little guy’s diaper at bedtime he asked to nurse. I got a little excited, but remained calm as I sat down in our nursing chair. Then when I lifted my shirt and took out my breast he very clearly told me “no” and “all done.” Perhaps he is a little conflicted by the fact that he asked, but something shifted for him and he seems done. Over time, I will come to accept this change and realize that child number 4 is really anxious to grow up like his siblings. I think from seeing babies nursing and from reading books about potty training he has come to see nursing as something that babies do and he does not see himself as a baby (even if I do).

Thank you for being there as support over the years. Thank you also for reading this far in my story. It seems like there should be some sort of ceremony for reaching the end of breastfeeding as well as the end of my childbearing years. 

Sincerely, 

Karen

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We agree, for those that want a weaning ceremony, that can be a very meaningful experience. This post has 12 suggestions for ways to commemorate the end of your breastfeeding journey with your child.

What would be a meaningful way for you to celebrate the end of your breastfeeding journey?

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Touching After Weaning

by Cindy MacDougall
Cindy and Eddie

The author and her son.

 

My youngest child, four-year-old Eddie, likes my breasts. He likes to hug them, and he will sneak a hand down my shirt occasionally. The family joke is that E. is a boob man.

Eddie loved to breastfeed, and continued to do so until his fourth birthday. When we finally weaned, it was a long and gentle process, which I wrote about in my parenting column here.

After weaning, Eddie still showed a need to touch the “babas” that far outweighed my patience for being touched. I had given him four solid years of nursing, and had been breastfeeding for a total of about nine and a half years over four kids. I was more than ready to have my body to myself.

What I hadn’t counted on was that Eddie and my breasts seemed to have a relationship entirely independent form me – at least in his mind.

“The babas are nice and soft,” he explained once. “I love them. I want to hug them, please.”

“But I don’t want you to touch me right now, Eddie,” I said.

“Oh, I’m not going to touch you, Mama,” he reassured me. “Just the babas.”

Another time, I explained to him that he was a big boy who had been weaned, and that meant no more touching my babas. He erupted in floods of tears.

“But mama, I gave up drinking the babas like a big boy,” he sobbed (taking the opportunity to lay his head on my chest.) “I didn’t know I had to give up touching them. I have to touch them, Mama, sometimes.”

We know from childhood development experts that children need touch in order to properly grow physically, mentally and emotionally. I touch and hug my kids often, as does their dad.

But I had never thought about my children’s needs to touch me back, and especially about a former nursling’s need to occasionally reconnect with the breast as they continue to grow away from being a member of a breastfeeding dyad.

I know Eddie is not alone in this need, as my other children liked to touch my breasts after weaning (though not nearly as much) and I had watched friends go through this same struggle. But I didn’t know how common this need is amongst children, so I did a bit of Googling to find out.

The La Leche League International message board has several long threads of posts about toddler and pre-schoolers touching breasts after weaning. One mother there described her child as “boob-obsessed,” and others described patting, rubbing, pinching and touching. Some kids were sneaky about it; others outright asked; some needed to touch the breasts to fall asleep.

Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of the parenting web site Aha! Parenting, wrote about weaned children touching the breast in her “Ask the Doctor” feature.

“It is very common for toddlers to need to touch their mother’s breasts for comfort or to fall asleep for as much as a year after weaning,” she wrote to a concerned mother. “Your breasts symbolize comfort and safety and love to her…. So if she is clingy, just give her lots of extra reassurance and realize that this is the final stage of weaning.”

It’s good to know Eddie is normal, if enthusiastic, in his need to have some cuddle time with his, ahem, my, “babas.” And the closer we move to his fifth birthday, the less often he seems to need to touch them.

If you’re dealing with a similar situation, there’s no need to change or challenge the habit if you’re both happy and comfortable.

However, if it’s driving you bananas, think of this as an excellent opportunity to teach your child about body autonomy. Your breasts are yours, after all, and it’s important to teach kids that each of us own our own bodies, and no one can touch us, or them, without consent (barring medical necessity, safety, etc.) That gives permission to set the same limits with their own bodies, to be able to say “no” to unwanted touch.

With Eddie, I made rules: no touching the “babas” unless he asked, only at home, and only a hug or cuddle. He seems to be approaching the end of this “final stage of weaning” and hasn’t asked in a while.

Despite what our society tells us, touching each other, with permission, is generally healthy. For small children, the breasts are about love and nutrition, not sexuality. If we are comfortable with that and allow them healthy touch, it teaches them good things about the body and physical forms of affection.

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Cindy MacDougall is a writer, a mother of four children, a public relations professional, and a former parenting columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. She covered health issues for CBC North Radio One for seven years, and is a recipient of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada’s 2004 Journalism Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Reporting for her radio series “Into the Mouths of Babes: Breastfeeding in the Northwest Territories.”
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12 Weaning Ceremonies


Breastfeeding can be such a sacred time in our lives. While we cherish the breastfeeding journey, it is rare in our culture to commemorate the end of breastfeeding with little more than a note in the baby book. If breastfeeding was important to you, consider celebrating your experiences and remembering this special transition with a weaning ceremony.

Your weaning ceremony can serve multiple purposes. If you choose to involve your child, it can be an event to mark the end of nursing – something that mother and child gently discuss and plan in anticipation of weaning. For mothers and their partners, a weaning ceremony is a way to honor the transition from breastfeeding to nursing beyond the breast, and all of the emotions that accompany that change.

Some children may not benefit from a definite, marked end to the nursing relationship. If a slow, natural end to breastfeeding is more comfortable for your child, you can still hold a quiet ceremony by yourself, with your spouse, or with other mothers who can understand and support you through this transition. Don’t be afraid to mourn the end of breastfeeding – it is a normal and healthy response to this change. But after you’ve given yourself time to mourn, consciously meditate on the joys of mothering a child who has weaned. A weaning ceremony can help you mindfully navigate this change.

Below are 12 weaning ceremony ideas that you can adapt to meet your own needs and those of your nursling. If you have other ceremony ideas, please share them in the comments so I can add them to the list.

    1. Write your nursling a letter. Include anything you’d like to share about your nursing relationship, what this change means to you, your hopes and dreams for them, etc. I found two examples of weaning letters: one at Mothering.com, the other from a Jewish mother at ritualwell.
    2. Anoint yourself with herbs for weaning. Herbs can help with physical discomfort and emotional healing. Kellymom lists several herbs to help decrease milk supply, including sage and peppermint. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a No More Milk tea that includes some of these herbs. And because you will experience a drop in prolactin levels during weaning, it may also help to prepare yourself with herbal remedies for depression.(1) Herbs to help alleviate depression that are safe to use while breastfeeding include St. Johnís wort, Evening primrose oil, Motherwort, and Blessed thistle.(2)
    3. Write your breastfeeding story. Start with those milky newborn memories – the pursed lips nursing even after they’ve unlatched, sleepy rooting at all hours of the day and night, the newness of life and the awe of continuing to grow your baby with your own body. Continue on through infancy – those milky smiles, dive bombing for your breast, the day your little one first starts babbling or signing in a recognizable way for milk. Write about the joys of breastfeeding past infancy – nursing gymnastics, manners, nursing away every hurt, the special words and phrases you and your nursling share.(3) Share the highs and lows of your nursing experience and the emotions you’ve gone through along the way. Here are two stories to get you started: one at Kellymom, another at La Leche League International.
    4. Throw a weaning party. For little ones who need a celebration to mark the occasion of weaning, consider having an intimate party – just you and your nursling and partner. Make special foods, bake a cake, whatever makes it special for your family. Here is an example of a weaning party.
    5. Write a book. Create a personal book for your child about their breastfeeding journey, their babyhood, and their transition into a “big kid.”
    6. Hold a special ceremony for your nursling.Sometimes breastfeeding pairs need to wean when neither mama nor child is ready. In these situations, a special ceremony may help mark the day of weaning, helping the child clearly see the end of nursing while beginning the grieving process for both in a bittersweet way.Jessica of The Leaky [email protected]@b was pregnant, gaining very little weight, and felt pressured by her care providers to wean. To help give closure to her 21 month old nursling, Jessica, her husband, and the big sisters all wrote a special note for the nursling. After eating a special meal together, the family gathered around a candle. Jessica invited her nursling to climb into her lap for one last nursing session. As her nursling snuggled in, the family read their letters to the child. They also gave her several sweet gifts. When she was finished nursing, she blew out the candle.

      While your weaning ceremony will be memorable and sweet, be prepared for nurslings to continue to ask to nurse. They simply do not understand what it means to wean forever, and you will very likely have to soothe many tears in the weeks to come (as Jessica did).

    7. Give yourself (and/or your child) a gift. Find something special that represents this transition. I highly recommend Hollyday Designs breastmilk jewelry – it is beautiful.
    8. Create a breastfeeding scrapbook. Gather pictures and/or video of you and your little one snuggling and nursing and compile them into a keepsake scrapbook (a virtual one or one that you can hold).
    9. Go on a date. Take your nursling somewhere special. Make it an event that represents how “grown up” they are.
    10. Tell your child their nursing story. Regardless of whether you write it down, tell your little one about your nursing journey as you’ve lived it. Telling them this story over the years will help normalize breastfeeding for them, and it will help you both retain sweet memories from their nursing years.
    11. Choose a special time to be together. If you or your little one are missing a regular nursing time, find something special you can do together every day at that time instead. Think about snuggling, reading, yoga, meditation, art, or some other activity you will both enjoy. For as long as you need to throughout and after the weaning process, take a few moments at the beginning of your special time to check in with yourself and truly be present with your child.
    12. Design your own ritual.Several cultures and religions have weaning ceremonies. Research them and design a ceremony that will be meaningful to your family. Here are a few resources to get you started:

Did you do something to mark the end of your breastfeeding relationship? Please share in the comments.

Footnotes:
(1) From Kellymom: “Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects.”
(2) Safe herb list found here. It also says that St. Johnís wort should not be taken in conjunction with any other depression medication.
(3) And if you’d like to share your nursing past infancy story, consider submitting it to my series. See my Contributor Guidelines page for more details.

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Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is also cofounder of Natural Parents Network and NursingFreedom.org, and author of For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.
Connect with Dionna on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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Pregnancy, breastfeeding, my toddler, and me

My pregnancies suck.  I’m often asked why I keep having children when pregnancy is so difficult for me physically with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).  Usually my response is something like “because I’m crazy,” or “denial is a powerful thing,” or “I had to believe that next time would be different” and I attempt to laugh it off as just another piece of my crazy.  And maybe that’s exactly what it is.  The truth is, I don’t have a good answer that will help it all make sense, even to myself.  The best and most honest answer is simply that we didn’t feel done and I just couldn’t let HG win.

It gets even more confusing when I go through a difficult pregnancy and continue to breastfeed my current nursling.

At just over 26 months I’m pretty sure Smunchie and I are weaning.  It’s not what I wanted, or at least not what I planned.  I might have wanted it.  When I discovered I was pregnant with Sugarbaby I swore I would not intentionally wean during this pregnancy like I did last time.  No, we were going to stick it out no matter what.  Even if I hated it.

I did.  Hate it, that is.  It wasn’t the fact that my pregnancies are complicated, that I struggle to keep food and liquid in at all, that I end up with IVs and then a PICC line, or even that I feel like I have the most unrelenting case of food poisoning ever.  No, those things actually made me grateful Smunchie was still breastfeeding as it gave me a way to stay connected to her when I couldn’t get off the couch.  At first I was so grateful for breastfeeding and I cherished our cuddling “bobbies” time, because it anchored me a bit, it was only slightly uncomfortable, and I could tell she found it comforting in the midst of all the change we were experiencing with the effects of the pregnancy on our family.  But then it started to get more uncomfortable.  Then it started to hurt.  Then it started to require breathing exercises worthy of labor. Then every time she would latch I would mentally cry “please wean, please wean, please wean…”  I didn’t want to be a martyr, that doesn’t do either of us any good, but I didn’t want to end something that was so important to her plus I had this goal of not leading weaning and letting her self-wean.  And I’m a goal oriented person, I really like meeting my goals.  My experience weaning during my last pregnancy was unpleasant anyway and I deeply regretted it for even selfish reasons.  Mastitis and my HG getting worse made me greatly debate if the point of weaning, which was because I was still 26lbs below my prepregnant weight at the start of the 3rd trimester, would have been better served if we had continued breastfeeding instead.  Squiggle Bug was broken hearted and when she began rejecting me for all forms of comfort once we weaned, I was broken hearted too.  I wasn’t about to let any of that happen this time, no, I would fight for our breastfeeding relationship through this pregnancy.  It was important to me to continue, for both of us.

Pain, discomfort, and being downright miserable are hard to push through though.  To preserve my sanity there were times when I’d limit her feeding sessions, telling her we’d be “all done bobbies” after singing a song or counting to 10.  I’d try not to clench my teeth while she nursed.  Or stick my tongue out at her.  Or make scrunched up torture faces.  Or cry.  It didn’t help that I could tell my supply was dropping quickly.  In previous pregnancies I had been on Reglan to aid in digestion but this time we decided to see if I could go without as the side effect of depression had been difficult on my family.  Without the Reglan providing a boost to my supply, I experienced my milk drying up and the only response I had to galactalogues was to vomit.  I knew that to best prevent drying up I needed to let her nurse more but between her frustration that the milk sometimes just wasn’t there and me being ready to climb the wall every time she latched, I had to have limits on how long she could be at the breast or risk damaging our overall relationship if my frustration really came through.

The handwriting was on the wall.  I resisted but I welcomed it too.  It was confusing to be so conflicted.  The Piano Man didn’t say anything but I could tell he wanted us to wean, wanted the stress and emotional roller coaster about breastfeeding to just end.  Finally, about a month ago, he told me he thought it would be ok if we were done because, well, look at her.  She’s happy, confident, healthy, and almost never asks for it.  He was right, about all of those things.  If I didn’t offer, she didn’t ask, often for days at a time.  She did happily come for cuddles and kisses all the time.  She was still very attached.  Just, without the breast.  I offered right then and she did come over, climb on my lap and latch for a moment.  A brief moment, for just about the time she probably got some let down, then she let go, sat up, patted my breast, and said “tan tou!  All done.”  I think that was for my benefit.

She has breastfed a handful of times since then, most were her request.  I continued to offer but she began to decline more frequently.  She had things to do, games to play, places to explore, “bobbies” just weren’t what they once were.  Two weeks ago she asked to nurse early in the morning in bed.  Excited and kind of squirmy, she latched.  I started my concentrated breathing when suddenly she let go, made a face, and said “blech.  Yucky.  All done.”  I tried to get her to latch again, encouraging her to try but she only pulled my shirt down and repeated “all done.”  Since then she has tried only 2 other times, all brief, and all ending with some kind of disappointment on her part.  Like she remembers what it once was but recognizes that it’s just not that any longer.  I’ve stopped offering, mainly because she was starting to seem upset when I did and usually refused me with a sad “no.”

Once SugarBaby is here I will let Smunchie have the breast if she is interested.  I’m not going to insist or force anything and if she’s moved on then so will I.  Letting go hasn’t been easy but I know that together we’ll share with our newest nursling the joy that is “bobbies.”  My friend Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC, encouraged me that we would find new ways to connect if our breastfeeding journey came to an end now.  She was right and they are equally precious moments.

Not everyone has a difficult time breastfeeding in pregnancy, please don’t think that just because that was my experience it has to be yours.  Every journey with every child is unique, honoring the journey means you take it as it comes.  I’m so grateful Smunchie and I have had what we have had.  I’m grateful for what is to come as well.  Breastfeeding through pregnancy isn’t easy for me but then, pregnancy isn’t easy for me.  This part of our journey was still beautiful and precious though, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My big girls helped me with a little video looking over the recent months of breastfeeding during this pregnancy.  Gathered around the piano for this simple recording I looked over these 5 girls that have each had their turn to be my nursling.  Seeing them, today ages 26 months – 13 years, I couldn’t ask for more, my ordinary miracles.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t include any footage of me vomiting while breastfeeding or Smunchie waiting for me to finish puking so she could latch back on to the breast, just the breastfeeding shots.)

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