In honour of world breastfeeding week I thought I would share my experience with breastfeeding. It was full of up's and down's but it was one journey I will always cherish and never forget.
I am pro-choice when it comes to breastfeeding. I strongly believe in the benefits and will always encourage a woman to give it a try, but at the end of the day, what we do with our bodies is our choice and what ever the reason may be, I will never shame a mother for not breastfeeding.
With that being said, I must give my complete admiration for the process. My daughter lived exclusively off my body for 6 straight months. Not another drop of anything ever entered her mouth. She went on to breastfeed for another 11 months.
Fostering this connection with my daughter meant everything to me. I knew that she still needed me, and I was so honoured and proud to supply her with exactly what her body needed. When Zinnia would stare into my eyes while feeding, play with my hair or hands and fall into a deep sleep milk coma after a feed was pure magic. This was our time. I loved the times she would fall asleep while drinking and slip off, mouth gaping open with the faint smell of milk on her breath. As she got older I loved how excited she became to have a drink. We would snuggle in our chair, with brownie (our blanket) and connect. No words were needed here. Just gazing, touching, smiling and kissing. We knew what we were experiencing was pure bliss for both of us.
The beginning of our journey was not all sunshine and rainbows. Zinnia had a super tiny mouth when she was born and latching was a nightmare. She wanted to be latched all day long for comfort and as a first time breastfeeder, I was in far too much pain to let her latch if it wasn't completely necessary. When my milk came in and it was no longer just colostrum I had massive engorged and very soar boobies. There was a period of time where a bra, let alone a shirt, was not on my list of things to get to. However this time, in the grand scheme of our breast feeding relationship, was a very small percent of the whole experience. It was quickly a very distant memory.
*p.s. frozen cabbage is amazing at easing overly engorged boobs and if you have a blocked milk duct, put a few drops of breast milk on the duct, several times a day and it will speed up the healing!
Initially I hadn't really had much of a plan when it came to how long I would breastfeed. I was fairly certain that I would have no problem feeding for at least a year. I had told Shane many times that by her birthday it would probably feel like the right time to ween. Then her birthday came and went. I could not fathom being finished. I cherished it too much to call it quits so soon, and so did she. We weren't ready, and that was ok with us!
The year had flown by anyway. Was there days I felt fed up with not having my entire body back in almost two years? Yes. Of course there were. Motherhood has extremely exhausting times. There were moments I dreamt of having my body back, not having to watch what I put in it for the sake of my feeding daughter. However they never lasted long, they came in random waves, and it was never enough to make me want to stop.
It wasn't until Zinnia was 17 months old that everything changed. I was quickly informed that the end of our breastfeeding journey was not solely for me to decide, but that Zinnia had a say as well. Anyone who knows Zinnia knows she is wise beyond her years. By 14 months Zinnia was acting like she was 3. She was her own boss and made her own decisions. She danced to the beat of her own drum and was rarely responsive to being told what to do. That's fine, I get it, I too can be a little strong willed to say the least. What caught me completely off guard is that she one day would be all done with breastfeeding. This, I was not prepared for.
By 15 months we had only been breastfeeding at night. She was feeding before bed, sometimes during the night and rarely in the mornings when we first woke up. Never throughout the day, and only at nap time if she asked for it. It was a system we eased ourselves into and it worked really well.
One dreadful night, Zinnia was an emotional wreck. She couldn't sleep, was crying inconsolably and could not get comfortable on or off the boob. She was calling out to have a drink, but was not satisfied each time she was on. I thought maybe my milk production had slowed down or something, but this was not the case. I checked, it was all there and ready to be consumed. The night went on for what at the time, seemed like forever. I begged for her to calm down, find solace where she always had before and just relax back to sleep with me, in our bed, in my arms. But she just couldn't.
The next day went on like any other mombie (mother+zombie) day might. I filled up on caffeine, found myself in pure shock every time I replayed the events of our seemingly irrational night and moved forward with my day.
We were about to go to bed so I sat in our chair and called for Zinnia to join me in her jammies. We got all cozied up in brownie and this is typically the time that Zinnia demands boob. There was nothing. She wasn't asking for it. She wanted soo-see and a snuggle and that was it. In shock, I was mouthing to Shane on the other couch, she's not asking for boob?! He was shocked and having too been fed up with the events of last night, gave a thumbs up. He was on the side of, its time to let this thing go. I waited for a minute and before I knew it, she was out like a light! That night she slept like a log. She didn't wake up for boob once and I was in pure astonishment.
The next day, seemingly normal. I figured it may have been a one off, so didn't give it too much thought, although my ego was feeling a little tainted. Why didn't she want the boob last night?! Was it something I said or did the terrible night before?! I accepted it for what it was and moved forward with my day.
That night, the same thing happened!
She snuggled up to me, only wanted soo-see and went to sleep. This time, I mentioned boob and she actually said no. As she fell asleep I remember holding her totally zonked, heavy weight in my arms and having the tears just stream down my face. I wasn't ready! There was no warning, no goodbye, no moment where I said to myself "Ok, this too shall pass" and got over it. She had decided she was done, and there was evidently not much say I had in the matter.
Zinnia was 17 months now, and I had already had 18 months as my next time to check-in and assess our breastfeeding relationship. She was already so good with having it as infrequently as she had been and I thought WE might be ready. But nope. She had another plan, and that was that.
I cried. Never really around her. I respected her for following her intuition and making this choice on her own. I remember thinking silly things like "was it something I did wrong?" or "should I have pushed the issue" but I don't regret one piece of how we handled it. I trusted her to make the call, and it was the right choice. Even though I had always heard of kids crying for the boob and had anticipated needing to take it away from her, I was lucky she did the hard work for me. I never wanted to be in a position where I had to tell her no more boob.
Since then, my breasts have not been completely returned to me. Zinnia has maintained a new relationship with them. One where she will hold them in her hands in bed or wants to lay on my chest if they're exposed to snuggle them and will even give them a kiss once in a while. We openly talk about how she use to take a drink from mommies boobies and that one day Zinnia decided she didn't need mama's milk anymore.
My daughter will turn two on Thursday, and this story has brought up a lot of reminders about what a big girl she is. I am so grateful for the amazing little woman she is growing into and cannot be happier for the deep connection our breastfeeding journey brought us.