About a week ago, I nursed my baby for the very last time. 13 whole months. I never planned to breastfeed for this long, but it just sort of happened this way, and I'm so glad it did. When I was pregnant with Riley, I knew I was going to breastfeed. Well, I knew I was going to TRY and breastfeed. I had read so many horror stories about how hard and painful and awful it was at first, and I was more than a little bit freaked out. So I just wanted to share MY story, in hopes of maybe helping at least one freaked out mom-to-be that might be reading?
Anyway, despite reading and hearing all the horror stories about breastfeeding, I tried to remain optimistic. As soon as Riley was born, I tried to nurse her. And, she wasn't interested! First nursing attempt = fail, but I tried not to stress. I had gone to a breastfeeding class, and they had told me that after I gave birth, if I wanted to shower that was okay, but not to use any soap because they baby needed to smell ME and not whatever soap/shampoo I decided to use. So I listened to that advice. I then tried to nurse Riley again, and she was having trouble latching. And it didn't help that all she wanted to do was sleep. The good thing was, in New Zealand, in the hospital there is a TON of support for breastfeeding. I had midwives helping me the entire time I was in the hospital (2 days) and they would not let me leave until I felt confident that Riley and I had got the hang of breastfeeding. I thought we had, so off we went.
I don't have any horror stories to share. I think relatively speaking, I had a pretty good breastfeeding experience. But I did have a few issues. (1) Oversupply. Some people don't have enough milk, but I had way too much. Which meant I could become really uncomfortable quite quickly, and Riley was often drowning in milk. And, I leaked through so many breast pads and shirts it was insane and a little, umm, embarrassing when it happened in public! Not the most fun thing, but better than not having enough milk! As for the pain? It really wasn't that bad. I put on that Lansinoh cream after every feed as a preventative measure, and around 5 or 6 weeks I stopped using it and was pretty much pain free. My biggest problem was that for some reason, for a really long time, Riley would only latch on to one side. So I had to pump from the other side in order to not lose my milk entirely. Super annoying, but not the end of the world. And on the upside, I got a sweet freezer stash out of it!
But eventually, all these issues worked themselves out. The pain lasted the least amount of time, then around 3 months Riley started nursing from both sides, and the oversupply issue took the longest to regulate, but eventually we got there. And then? Everything just became so much easier. So natural. And I started to really love it. Also? I had read that you shouldn't introduce a bottle or pacifier early on because it will confuse the baby... Riley got a pacifier on day 3, and a bottle of breast milk at 3 weeks, and we never had a problem. Although I wasn't very good at giving her regular bottles, so some time around 7-ish months she started to refuse bottles, but that wasn't really a huge deal since I wasn't going back to work or anything.
Then sometime around 8 months Riley started to get teeth, which means she started to experiment with biting. It didn't last long, but it was painful and stressful and I contemplated weaning. But we stuck it out, and the novelty wore off and she stopped biting. But around this time she also got sick and starting waking up at night, and I made the mistake of nursing her back to sleep for about a week, which then became a habit that would prove really really hard to break.
For MONTHS she was waking up multiple times a night, and often times she was wanting to nurse. I knew she was way too old to be nursing in the night, but I couldn't bring myself to just let her cry, and she wouldn't take a bottle, and so I just kept nursing her. Then around 11 months she started biting again (she would often bite when her teeth were bothering her), and I felt like this was it, we were going to start weaning. But she stopped biting pretty quickly, and we carried on. I wasn't ready to wean her at all, and neither was she.
And then, right before she turned one, I found out I was pregnant. And my milk supply took a big hit. I knew it was the beginning of the end of nursing, so I started cutting out a feed a week. We cut out the morning one, then the afternoon one, then the one before bed. So she would still wake either in the middle of the night or early morning for a feed. Then, on her own, she started sleeping through the night, and I would nurse her first thing in the morning. And last week, I dropped that last feed. I nursed my baby for the very last time. And she didn't even cry. And I've had no pain, no engorgement, no problems whatsoever, and I think that's due to the pregnancy combined with the month-long weaning process.
13 months is longer than I ever thought I would nurse her. And if I wasn't pregnant, I'm pretty sure we would have continued on. But I'm also pretty sure that she started sleeping through the night more frequently as a direct result of the weaning. I'm not saying that that was the only way to get her to sleep through, we could have done sleep training, but I didn't want to do it that way. And I wouldn't wean her just to get her to sleep through the night, it's just an added bonus. :)