To Wean or Not To Wean?

My daughter is almost 10 months old, and about a month ago she decided to stop breastfeeding. I figured it was due to teething, which might have been the case at first, but now I think she just prefers the bottle over me. This has caused me to exclusively breast pump, which SUCKS! It’s so much easier to just breastfeed my baby and not have to worry about pumping, warming up milk, or cleaning pump parts and bottles.

My husband and I strive to do things as naturally as we can with our daughter.

With that being said, I’m trying desperately to get her back to breastfeeding.

So, I started doing research, and one major thing I learned is that babies don’t usually wean off the breast before they hit a year old. If they do, it’s usually because they are teething and their gums are sore, or they’re starting to prefer a bottle instead. With my daughter, it’s probably a mixture of both, but there are ways to get her back to breastfeeding.

Another thing I learned is that babies don’t really need more and 1oz – 1.25oz per hour, no matter how old they are or how big they’ve grown because their stomach (the actual organ, not the “belly”) is only but so big. So, if she’s eating about every 3 hours, then she shouldn’t really be drinking more than 4oz at a time.

This whole time I’ve been worried that I haven’t been expressing enough milk when I pump. In actuality, I’m really getting the amount she needs, which is also the amount she would be getting if she breastfed.

What a major relief!

As she has gotten older, we’ve been filling her bottles with 5-7oz of breastmilk because we thought she needed more. I also got a bigger size nipples that allow faster milk flow because it seemed like she was getting frustrated with the slower flow nipples. But as a friend told me, “your milk flow doesn’t change, so neither should the bottle nipple.”

Essentially, we’ve been overfeeding her. She typically doesn’t take that much all in one sitting, which is good, but sometimes she does. And we let her feed herself since she can hold a bottle on her own, so she definitely hasn’t been pace fed via bottle since she was much smaller.

Things I’m now doing differently to try to get her back to the breast:

-I’ve switched the bottle nipples from the size 2 that she’s been currently using, which makes the milk come out faster and she gulps it down too fast; back to either a preemie nipple or size 1 nipple, which both have a slower flow and more closely mimic my natural milk flow.

-When I’m with her, I’ll keep offering myself to try to get her back on track.

-I’ve asked her other caretakers to still hold her while she feeds and hold the bottle horizontally in order to pace her.

I think that since she got used to the faster flow and increased amount, she didn’t want to wait for my let down and slower flow, which is why she refuses me. Hopefully with these changes, she’ll be more willing to breastfeed again.

All of this has revealed to me the huge knowledge gap that moms have when it comes to breastfeeding their babies. Even as a NICU nurse, I didn’t know all the breastfeeding do’s and don’ts. We need more education BEFORE the baby comes, not just a quick course the day baby is born after hours or days of labor.

We are then sent to fend for ourselves thereafter.

It’s not right!

And it does a disservice to both mother and baby.

I know many moms who’ve gotten frustrated with breastfeeding or burnt out so they stop way before their baby is a year old.

To each her own, but I think if moms were fully educated and fully supported, babies would be getting breastfed much longer and wouldn’t go on strike at 9 months old.

Who’s with me?!

Labor is Almost Never What You Expect

Towards the end of my pregnancy, I had an entire labor experience mentally planned out.
I visualized myself and my husband walking to the Labor and Delivery unit at the hospital.
I saw my vitals being checked
My labor progression status being assessed
I saw us waking to the birthing suite that contained the hydrotherapy tub.
I envisioned myself birthing my baby girl in that tub almost effortlessly…
Here, you may wonder how I thought I’d ever walk anywhere while in intense labor.
Well, I studied hypnobirthing during my pregnancy, so I envisioned myself breathing through each phase calmly and confidently.
I had heard the term “hypnobirthing” briefly during nursing school, but hadn’t thought about it much since then.
So, I looked it up and read that basically…(and I’m seriously paraphrasing here)…
-Hypnobirthing is a natural method of labor and delivery that focuses on putting the mind, body, and baby in charge of everything instead of allowing the healthcare professionals to call all the shots.
-In essence, hypnobirthing allows you to tap into your natural instincts of how to birth your baby. Your body knows what to do. Your baby knows what to do. So everything should happen according to those two factors.
-There’s no need to experience pain, because pain is just a direct result of your fear of the entire experience, based on what you’ve heard from family/friends and seen on television growing up. (Crazy idea, I know. I thought so, too)
-Women have given birth naturally for centuries before the influence of western medicine. Hypnobirthing is a way to tap into that natural process by calming the body and mind, and using different breathing and visual techniques.
[Side note: I don’t think all western medicine techniques are unnecessary, as I ended up using many myself. I’m just summarizing what I read in the book “Hypnobirthing: the Mongan Method. A Natural Approach In a Safe, Easier, More Comfortable Birthing” by Marie F. Mongan.]
I read on and decided that this all sounded great to me!
I practice yoga and meditation (not as often as I should).
I try to eat healthy and mind what I put into my body.
So this natural method of childbirth seemed to be right up my alley.
In addition to the book, I also bought the audio tracks on my Amazon Music app and listened to them almost nightly from week 30, on.
I won’t lie and say that my labor was painless.
During pregnancy, I watched many YouTube videos of women claiming that hypnobirthing works tremendously and that they didn’t experience any pain at all during labor and the birthing of their baby, only slight discomfort.
Well, in the beginning, that was my experience also. I actually didn’t even know that I was in early labor. I only went to the hospital because I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and realized that I didn’t feel my baby moving, and that I hadn’t felt her move in a few hours.
When I got to the hospital and was assessed, the midwife told me that everything was fine, and in fact, I was in early labor; 5cm dilated, 90% effaced.
Wow!
There I was at home earlier that same day thinking I was still just having Braxton Hicks contractions.
I guess I should’ve figured it out when I was feeling them every 10 minutes all day long.
But, it didn’t click. I blame preggo brain.
My husband, Jay, and I even went outside for a long walk in the park that day. My goal was to get things going, but I didn’t know that I actually did.
At the hospital, I kept breathing through my labor contractions as Jay watched them on the monitor. He’d make a face every time he saw one coming in anticipation of my agony, but I didn’t show any.
So, to that extent, I would say that hypnobirthing was partially effective for me.
Until
I was still in labor come Sunday morning (2 days later). I tried everything to make my labor progress more quickly.
Jay and I walked the halls.
I sat on the birthing ball and did exercises, which I must say were much more painful during labor than they were at home a few days prior!
I did squats.
I tried nipple stimulation with a breast pump- which did work initially by making my contractions stronger and closer together, but then the contractions started to spread further apart again.
I drank Red Raspberry Leaf tea-some people swear by it…it did NOTHING for me.
My Lena Beans was just not ready to come out yet…
After about 28 hours of labor, the midwife asked if I wanted to try Pitocin to speed things along.
Pitocin is the synthetic form of oxytocin-the natural hormone released in a woman’s body during labor to create contractions and birth a baby.
She would give me Pitocin through my I.V. to speed things along.
I said no initially.
I waited it out for about an hour but then exhaustion set in hard.
I had been up for over 48 hours. The contractions were starting to get intense but still not close enough together to be in “active labor”. The breathing techniques I had learned over the past few weeks weren’t helping me manage the pain anymore. I was more than ready for this part to be over.
I kept thinking about the midwife’s suggestion.
So, I caved. I allowed Pitocin administration.
That kicked my contractions into high gear.
And I mean HIGH!
It was more than I could bear at that point.
I told my husband I wanted an epidural and he went to get the nurse right away.
His total support with me in this decision meant everything. Honestly, I was afraid that I ‘d look weak if I got an epidural.
For moms who openly plan to go natural, there’s such a stigma on getting an epidural. I had even told myself years ago that I would never ever get one after being traumatized in nursing school from seeing one administered firsthand.
But let me tell you, when you’ve been up for days, laboring for hours and hours, you may very well reach a point of pure exhaustion bordering insanity. I’m half joking but kinda serious because I was also dealing with PUPPP. Look it up. It’s AWFUL. That alone made me wanna get my baby out ASAP so I could have some relief.
Back to my point…I finally asked for an epidural, which I couldn’t receive for at least 40 minutes because I had to get the standard fluid bolus through my I.V. first. (So ladies, if you think you want an epidural during your labor, try your best to give the staff notice a good 45 minutes ahead of time.)
I experienced a super intense contraction during the epidural insertion, but I had to be very still to avoid paralysis.
Being extremely still while a huge needle is going into your back is hard enough.
Add an intense contraction on top of that? Whew.
We women are unstoppable goddesses.
Once the epidural was in and the medicine kicked in, I was extremely relaxed.
I didn’t feel A SINGLE THING.
At that point, the idea of natural birth went out the window and I decided that epidurals were the best invention on the planet. I had to remind myself that the main goal is to birth my baby by any means necessary.
[Another side note: I encourage any woman to go natural if that’s what you truly desire. It is possible! And I’m sure it’s very rewarding when achieved. This is just my story of what ended up happening to me, so don’t let it discourage you in any way. You have your own body and hopefully a baby that is much more eager to join this world than mine was.]
The midwife encouraged my husband and I to take a nap since we’d been up for so long.
And did we!
We knocked out for 2 hours until I was checked again.
The midwife said I was almost there, and to let her know when I felt like I had to have a bowel movement.
Another two hours later, I felt like Lena had moved down further, so I called the midwife in to assess me again.
I was right. It was go time!
At this point I was too in the zone to even show my excitement. I was in shock that it was really time to push…that I was really about to meet my little girl, but I could barely even keep my eyes open. Outside of exhaustion I believe I was in a hypnotic state at that point thanks to the hypnobirthing audio tracks I’d listened to endlessly for weeks.
I pushed with each subsequent contraction and 20 minutes later, my baby girl was born!
Then there were a few complications postpartum and I just laid there while the midwives worked to stabilize me.
Soooo yea
No hydrotherapy tub like I’d imagined
No smooth-sailing labor
That entire experience was more than I ever imagined it to be!
This may sound like a complete nightmare to you, but even as I retell my story, I have happiness in my heart about it all.
Everything I went through gave my husband and I the greatest gift we could ever imagine, and I wouldn’t trade her for all the money in the world.
Pain is only temporary and the joy you experience after you birth your miracle baby is priceless.
However your Labor and Delivery experience goes, you will look back on it fondly and smile at the thought of your precious one(s).
Be brave. Be strong. Be confident.
You got this!
Love,
Meg