Thursday, March 15, 2012

Weaning Without Me

I always wanted to nurse for a long time. For me, "a long time" would be about 18 months, since most women in my family nursed less than a year, if at all.

Nursing: Take 1

My son gained only 6 ounces in the first 8 weeks of his life. Here he is at 8 weeks old: So skinny!

He nursed like a starving baby, furiously sucking for almost an hour every 2-3 hours around the clock. His diapers were always soaked, but he was still always hungry. 

I was a new mama, afraid that I would somehow accidentally kill my baby. The doctor put my poor baby through numerous tests, doing x-rays and drawing so much blood I was ready to attack the nurse who was using a needle almost as big as his arm. 

Finally, they determined that he was perfectly healthy, without any metabolic problems, albeit far too thin. I began to supplement with a bottle of formula every day. My son gained nearly a pound that first week, and soon learned that the bottle was more satisfying than the breast.

I would hold him to my breast as he struggled and screamed, tears pouring down my cheeks as I tried to just get some relief. He weaned himself in three days. I felt like I had somehow failed him for not providing what he needed.

Nursing: Take 2

Fast forward 11 days shy of two years, and I gave birth to a healthy baby girl at home. I took my daughter to the doctor's office to be weighed every few weeks, and watched the scale closely to track her weight gain. After 4 months I was satisfied that my daughter wouldn't have the problems her brother had, as she weighed 12 pounds and was gaining well.

But by 7 months she had lost a pound and weighed only 11 lbs.

In all other areas she was doing well, excelling really. She was sitting up, crawling, and pulling to a standing position. But she was so thin, and I had so many negative memories from the previous experience! 

I realized that it would be different this time, and that I didn't HAVE to move her to a bottle because she was old enough to eat solids. I added solids to her diet, but only gained a few ounces. I decided to start listening to my baby. She didn't want to nurse any more! Instead of nursing 6-7 times a day, I began to feed her 3 meals a day and snacks, nursing before each meal (nursing 4 times a day). 

My babies were both ready to wean without me. 

I think nursing was more important to me than it was to them. A few moments to snuggle, look into each others' eyes while a baby hand opens and closes around my fingers... I didn't want to let that go. I had several God-given breaks where I could sit down and rest and even close my eyes if I needed to. I had the perfect excuse to get away from things and people... "Do you have a quiet room? I need to nurse the baby."


After we switched to formula, my son gained about a pound a week. Now he is a healthy almost-3 year old, weighing in at the 75th percentile. 

My daughter is 9 months old now. She has been gaining weight rapidly (3 pounds in 4 weeks!), and has dropped one of the daytime nursing sessions. She doesn't miss it--I do. 

Her doctor has suggested that my children may each have an extremely high metabolism, which is very likely, given the evidence. My son can eat 3 pieces of pizza, or two sandwiches at a meal, and my daughter eats as many as 3 jars of baby food in a meal in addition to her cereal. They keep clamoring for more! Also, neither my husband nor I have ever dieted, we both have big appetites, and we weigh the same amount (that's before I lose the baby weight, people!).

Everyone's nursing story is different. Yes, mother's milk is the best food out there for a baby, but not everyone can nurse. You are not a failure if you do not nurse. You are a good mama. Don't ever forget that. It'll be okay. Even if your baby happens to be weaning without you. 

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