Monday, April 13, 2015

Our Journey: Breastfeeding

Noah turned 15 months old this month. We have had a strong nursing relationship from the very beginning. It definitely hasn't always been easy, but it has always been successful and insanely rewarding. For 24 months, my body grew and nourished my son. I was his primary source of nourishment until he was around 9 months old and even then he was only snacking on solid foods. It wasn't until he was around a year that I reduced his nursing schedule to two times a day: naptime and at/through the night. As long as he was eating something, he was completely happy with that decision. 

Noah was never able to sleep through the night without nursing at least once, usually up to three times if you count a really early morning session. But around 13 months, something clicked with him and he was up nearly all night long. The slightest disturbance would wake him and throw him into a tantrum unless I let him nurse. It was getting out of control and I was beginning to hate nursing him. I could not handle taking care of my three kids so sleep deprived, so I took another step toward weaning him. I eliminated his nap session. The first three days were not easy. He did NOT respond well. I always made sure he had a full tummy before naptime, so I knew he wasn't hungry, it was just the comfort that he needed. I made sure to lie down with him and cuddle him until he fell asleep, so he was still getting the closeness with me that he did while he was nursing. After three days, he never asked for naptime nursing again. 

The next step I took was eliminating nursing overnight at 14 months old. I still nursed him before bed, but I refused to let him nurse during the night. He was going to bed with a full tummy, so I was sure that he was only nursing for comfort and out of habit. Our routine was for me to nurse him until he fell asleep and then I'd put him in his crib. He'd wake up around midnight and want to nurse, but instead I held him and sang to him until he went back to sleep. The first few nights were horrible. I almost gave in, but I knew that I'd just have to start all over again the next night if I did. I didn't want to give him mixed signals, so I stuck to my decision. That also meant no more early morning feedings. Even though it was hard, it only took 3-4 days before he stopped asking to eat during the night. He was still waking up but he was easily comforted. After the first time that he'd wake up, I moved him into our bed and let him spend the rest of the night there. And each night, he was waking up less and less. I think that him knowing that we were right there and being able to feel us while he slept is what helped him transition so easily. 

I intended to keep our bedtime nursing session for as long as he wanted. I had no idea that he'd give it up so quickly. Three days ago (at 15 months old), we were coming home late from dinner and shopping. It was past the kids' bedtime, so they had all fallen asleep in the car. Jonathan took Noah upstairs while I took the girls. Noah fell asleep easily and I just assumed it was because he was so tired and never fully woke up from sleeping in the car. The next night I took him to bed and decided I'd let him ask me for milkies. He didn't. He just wanted to snuggle on my chest and after some singing and cuddling, he went right to sleep. On top of everything else, he slept in his crib until 6:45am! The next night was the same thing except he slept all night long. Last night was the same thing.

It's bittersweet not nursing him anymore. For the first time in two years, I have my body back to myself. And I'm getting a full night of sleep for the first time in a very, very long time. I keep thinking that it's a fluke, that he'll start asking for milkies again or that he was just sleeping through the night because he had a busy, fun day. But I really think he's just adjusted exceptionally well. Before weaning him, I prayed that God would make it easier for him. That he'd be open to weaning and receptive to the changes we were facing. He no longer needed to nurse for sustenance and he's confident that we're right next to him if he wakes up. Nursing him, wearing him, and co sleeping with him hasn't spoiled him like most parents assume, it's given him the confidence he needs to step out and be independent when he's ready. I did have to lead him during most of the weaning phase, but I was confident that he was ready to move on, he just didn't know how.  

I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it already. It was very abrupt to me. I didn't soak up that last feeding and really enjoy the moment knowing it was our last. But I do have 15 months of memories and lessons learned. I'm so, so grateful that I was able to nurse him at all, much less for as long as we did. I had difficulties with both of the girls, but with Noah it was so different. If you're expecting a baby, please try your hardest to breastfeed. The benefits to you and your baby are endless. The bond is indescribable. It's completely worth the pain, sleepless nights and nearly constant nudity! ;) 

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