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Gentle Night Weaning: Finding our own way

I thought, like many mums of breastfeeding toddlers, that it would be totally impossible to night wean my two year old. Any time I read someone's explanation of how they did it, I was hit with a dozen 'but that wouldn't work for us'es. My boy's temparement was different, our sleeping situation was different, his relationship with his daddy was different, his and my breastfeeding relationship was different.

My boy was 2 years 4 months. I decided to tackle night weaning after months of awful aversion, figuring that I might feel totally fine with continuing until he chose to wean, if I could find a way to place that limit on it.
Feeding to sleep, three days into night weaning
I knew that I had done a great job, that we had gone above and beyond all imaginable lengths to be able to have a breastfeeding relationship in the first place, and that being in the situation where I was breastfeeding a two year old was unfathomable -- I was not even sure I'd be able to breastfeed him even once. So to now actively choose to reduce and to limit his breastfeeding, when I had spent the first year of his life doing everything in my power for him to find comfort at my breast, felt awful. I kept getting flashes of the things we had been through... and now I somehow found myself wanting him to stop. 

But this is my body. It was my choice.

Interview with Me: My Fight with Low Supply


It's time to tell my own story. My story is hard for me to tell, but I feel it is important. I have made many decisions throughout our breastfeeding journey, and all of these things have worked together to ensure that I managed to breastfeed him up until 12 months, then to 24 months, and now still at 29 months. So here is my story, with all the foot stomping, all the tears, all the hallelujahs. This is how I got to where I am:



The Beginning: Dealing with the Past
My second beautiful baby was born at the end of 2014. The months leading up to his birth were filled with anxiety, panic and dread at the thought of having to somehow navigate my way through those first three months again, now also with a highly sensitive toddler at my feet, as those months with my first baby were undoubtedly the hardest of my life. I'd had unexplained low supply with my first little boy, despite over forty lactation consultant appointments all over the country, and I had never found any answers or solutions. I spent much of my second pregnancy working with two lactation consultants, a counsellor and midwife, to accept that this was a different baby and that we should take our breastfeeding relationship on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis. After dealing with a lot of past wounds, we managed to be able to bring my baby to my breast after birth, but always maintained my goal of simply not having a hungry baby.





Breastfeeding Aversion, or 'Wanting to Scream, Run and Break Things'

I thought  breastfeeding aversion, or nursing aversion and agitation, was something that only inflicted pregnant mothers. And I'm not pregnant, so why have I had so many moments of hating breastfeeding lately?


My little boy is over two years old now. Considering I was unsure I'd be able to breastfeed him even once, this blows my mind. Two years kind of slipped by unassumingly, actually. I no longer felt that breastfeeding was an active choice I was making, but had simply become a very personal part of my mothering. He stopped breastfeeding in the day at around 18 months, and always adamantly declared 'Nei!' when I offered. Nights, though, have always been a different story. The various pros and cons are changing, and my own breastfeeding experience is continuing to challenge and educate me... and nursing aversion is a big part of that.

For the past 9-ish months, there is usually two evenings every month where I put my toddler to bed in our usual manner -- singing the Long Time Sun Song, lying down together in his big double bed, turning on his sleepy music (Bon Iver -- he has good taste) and breastfeeding him either to sleep or to almost sleep. Nothing is different to the norm, and yet these two or sometimes three evenings a month, I emerge in tears, seething with such intense rage, wanting to scream and throw something that will break into a hundred pieces, after trying so hard not to hurt my little boy for the time that he was nursing, and wishing I could just run out the door and just keep run run running to a dark cave where nobody will touch me for the next year.

Interview with Claire: Constant Pain

Claire is a Switzerland-based Australian writer whose passionate, thought-provoking musings and poetry can be found at clairevetica.wordpress.com. The clarity and intensity in both her self and her writing is something that I have long admired. Claire's first child was born in London and her second child in Zurich.

What were your thoughts and expectations about breastfeeding before you gave birth? 

I didn’t really think much about breastfeeding before I had kids. While pregnant with my first child in London in 2010-2011, like most women in my position, I was mostly focused on the pregnancy and the impending, terrifying Major Life Event of actually giving birth. It seemed as though the books I was reading and the people I spoke to focused on that too, rather than talking much about what came afterwards. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

I guess the thoughts I did have about breastfeeding were that it seemed vaguely ick to me personally (ie: while I’m not grossed out by others doing it AT ALL, I didn’t love the thought of doing it myself). I don’t think I’d heard of people having major problems with breastfeeding, apart from mastitis, (which sounded bad enough – but as though most people got through it and went on to bf fine). However, breastfeeding seemed like the Right Thing To Do and if women had been doing this for millennia, why wouldn’t I? I guess I felt much the same about giving birth “naturally” (ie: vaginally, without drugs) – again something that women had been doing since the dawn of time. The natural birth went fine. The breastfeeding did not.


How were those first few days and weeks? Did you feel supported? 

Speaking at the WHO

Last weekend, I travelled to Geneva to speak on a panel at the World Health Organisation's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative congress. Surrounded by over 300 experts from 137 countries, I shared my story and apparently made a whole bunch of them cry (including myself). 


I am still in disbelief that I can open a blog post with that. Isn't it entirely mind-boggling?! Being able to do this is an absolute dream come true, and absolutely one that I had never envisioned happening -- at least not for the next forty years, anyway. I have never before felt so humbled, such a small fish in a big pond, so incredibly in awe of the power and influence that this group of passionate people held over a subject that is so dear to my heart. It was in my preparation that I truly realised the gravity of what I had been asked to do: 'So you are here, surrounded by the most influential and knowledgeable people in this field, from all corners of the globe. What is it that you think they should be doing differently? What do you want them to do to change the experiences of women in the next generation?' 

Interview with Rachel: "I didn't really breastfeed"

Rachel, an American mother living in Switzerland, writes the inspiring expat lifestyle blog My Mini AdventurerI asked Rachel to be a part of Milk and Motherhood after meeting for coffee and learning that she, in her own words, 'didn't really breastfeed'. 

This beautiful, dedicated mother breastfed her little baby for three months before too many obstacles and difficulties led her to the realisation that continuing was not the best decision for her family. I feel very honoured that she agreed to share her story with me here. 


Did you go into motherhood with a firm idea of how you wanted to feed your baby?

It was doomed from the start, really. The moment they took my little guy away and whisked him off to the NICU, we didn’t stand a chance. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Your friend has low supply?

As someone who has struggled with low supply for both of my babies, who had over forty appointments with lactation consultants throughout Switzerland and also in Australia, who used formula and donor milk through a Supplemental Nursing System for almost six months, who tried seemingly every milk-building remedy from every culture on earth, it's time I write this post.

I had some truly wonderful friends during this time, but I also lost friends during this time, which still breaks my heart.

The first few beads sent to me by friends and family around the world for strength and love during the birth and postnatal period. My most valuable possession. There is so much love right there.
If you find yourself sitting next to your friend who is struggling with low supply, whether you consider it true low supply or merely 'perceived low supply', here's a few tips.

Disclaimer: I am a very sensitive person. During the first six months of each of my baby's lives, I was the most vulnerable and emotionally pained that I have ever been. All I can do is share my own personal experience.



WHAT TO AVOID SAYING

1. 'Do you really have low supply?' This is hard. There is a lot of information out there about how to ensure you truly do have low supply, and that your fussing baby, empty-feeling breasts and bottle-guzzler don't necessarily mean you aren't producing enough milk. But you are her friend, not her lactation consultant. Don't question her, don't expect her to explain to you in detail about all the ways she is (or feels she is) unable to provide for her baby. Don't get her to justify her pain to you.

2. 'Have you tried fennel tea?' or any number of remedies... lactation cookies, beer, more skin to skin, checking for tongue tie, staying in bed for a weekend with baby, meditation, domperidone, etc. Again, unless she specifically asks you for advice, don't offer it. Chances are you are the ten-thousandth person that has mentioned this to her, and you might just be the straw that breaks the camel's back and have a box of breastfeeding tea thrown in your face.

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