My breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months. In this series I’ll share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are years into their breastfeeding experience.
My third son was born, with a head full of hair like his brothers, 20 inches in length like his brothers and had the face of an angel–like his brothers. Unlike his brothers, he latched onto the breast minutes after being born and, with the exception of one case of mastitis, we had no breastfeeding issues whatsoever. It was incredibly relieving to nurse him easily.
He grew quickly and was a very happy baby. That is, until around 9 months. At his 9 month well check, he was diagnosed with failure to thrive. My husband and I had noticed that he’d lost weight, but weren’t sure if was simply getting taller and giving the illusion of weight loss. The doctor confirmed that he had gotten taller, but he hadn’t gained weight since his 6 months appointment. I felt sick with worry, but all tests came back with no red flags. The doctor recommended that I up his intake of solids and supplement with formula.
I realize now that he was being undernourished because I was on a diet. I know now that the low-fat, nearly vegetarian diet that I was on was starving my baby. I didn’t understand how my losing weight could affect my breastmilk negatively if I was still eating healthy foods. Needless to say, the type of diet I considered to be healthy then is not at all the type of diet that I consider to be nourishing now. I still feel guilt over it at times. I know so much more about nutrition now than I did when I was pregnant and nursing my sons.
When I tried to supplement with formula, my son (again, like his brothers!) would not take a bottle. Eventually the combination of my dieting cessation and feeding him more solids helped him to regain weight and we continued on with our nursing relationship.
One day, when he was 15 months old, he clamped down on my nipple with his tiny teeth and I yelped. I sat him down on the floor in front of me (my standard practice for babies who bite while nursing) and watched his face crumple as he reacted to my sharp exclamation after being bitten.
He never nursed again.
My son staged a hard core nursing strike. I tried every trick in the book for the next 4 months to get him to nurse again. I was able to pump a little (if you remember from the earlier parts of this series, pumping never rendering much milk for me) to give him in a cup, but he was mostly uninterested.
He wouldn’t nurse to sleep. He wouldn’t nurse for comfort. He was done.
I had never heard of a baby self-weaning before the age of two. I knew that this was a nursing strike and that he was fearful of the noise I might make if he nursed again. Still, nothing I tried would work.
I was not physically prepared to be so suddenly finished with nursing. I was certainly not emotionally prepared for our nursing relationship to end the way it did.
When I look back over my breastfeeding story, there are only two things I would change. I would have read more about nursing before having my first child and I would have made a better attempt to control my volume when bitten by tiny razor teeth. Other than those two things, I would do it all over again, just the same.
I hope my story has been inspiring and encouraging to women who are struggling to begin or maintain a breastfeeding relationship with their babies.
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