Clarissa weaned herself

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Clarissa has always enjoyed breastfeeding. Honestly, I have mostly enjoyed it as well. I like the alone time we spend together and the bond that we share. I wasn’t sure how long she would want to nurse. She didn’t seem to be losing interest at all and so I decided that I would wean her when she turned three. At two and a half, I told her that one day she would be too big to nurse. I said that she could nurse until she turned three but if she wanted to stop before then she could. She said okay, but I didn’t think much of it.

I noticed a pattern with Clarissa this winter. The more she ate during the day, the less she would nurse before bed. After she turned two and a half, she started drinking soymilk and some smoothies during the day. Not every day, but I was thankful that she was starting to have more protein in her diet. She then started nursing only about 10 minutes most nights.

A week before she turned two years and seven months, she asked for milk in a cup during her bedtime story. I explained to her that if she drank from a cup I would not nurse her that evening and she was fine with that. That was a Monday night. Tuesday night she asked for her milk in a cup. On Wednesday night, I handed her milk and she refused. She didn’t nap or eat well that day and she wanted to nurse. That was ten days ago. I think it’s safe to say that she has weaned herself.

I enjoyed breastfeeding Clarissa. But I am enjoying our new evening routine. Clarissa is starting to ask to pray more when Daddy does the bedtime prayer. Her first prayer went something like this, “Dear God, thank you for pink elephants and purple heffalumps…” I don’t remember everything. We were trying really hard not to laugh.

Tim and I have an additional hour in the evenings together now, which means that we have more options for activities. I really enjoy our time together after Clarissa goes to bed, so it has been fun.

Breastfeeding timeline

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When I decided to breastfeed Clarissa, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While I have enjoyed this journey, sometimes I have wondered how long it would last. As we near the two year mark, I thought I would share a timeline for moms who may be wondering what it looks like to breastfeed your child as they grow.

Newborn

My milk came in really quickly. The first night we came home from the hospital, I already had more milk than Clarissa needed. Pumping would have been helpful at that point, but my pump didn’t fit correctly, so I struggled with engorgement for the first few weeks.

For the first few weeks it seemed like she nursed every 1-2 hours. After a couple of weeks it became more managable and she would nurse every 3 hours or so. By the time Clarissa was four months old, she could go about four hours between nursing sessions.

Five to nine months

We introduced some pureed vegetables to Clarissa during these months. She would nurse every 4-6 hours and then eat one serving of vegetables in the afternoon when I was working. By about seven months we added a serving of baby cereal as well. During this time, she was still waking up to nurse once or twice during the night.

Ten to twelve months

Clarissa would wake up and nurse first thing in the morning and eat some baby cereal. Then she would have some pureed fruit or vegetables, some baby crackers, and nurse before naptime. She nursed after nap as well. She would eat some vegetables and jarred food with meat with us at dinner time and then nurse before bedtime. She would wake up once 1-2 hours after she went to sleep to nurse before sleeping for 8-10 hours straight.

Clarissa didn’t have any teeth at 10 months. But by 12 months she had 8! So we probably introduced finger foods later than most due to her lack of teeth.

Twelve to fifteen months

Once Clarissa had more teeth, we added finger foods to the mix. She would nurse upon waking and then have some scrambled egg with baby cereal for breakfast. She was eating more of a lunch and not nursing consistenly before naptime. She still wanted to nurse after naptime. She would eat dinner with us and nurse before bed. At this time, she was still waking up 1-2 hours after falling asleep for one last feeding, but then would sleep ten hours straight.

Fifteen to eighteen months

When I went back to work, I was nursing Clarissa three times per day. Once in the morning, after naptime, and at bedtime. But one day I forgot to nurse her when I got home and she never reminded me. So we dropped the midday nursing and she started sleeping through the night. If I had known that, I may have dropped it earlier! At this point she went to nursing only upon waking and before bed. She slept about 12 hours at night.

In January, Clarissa started playing a lot during her bedtime nursing and I was tempted to stop nursing before bed. But at that point, I knew we were moving to Korea and I wanted to be able to nurse if she needed it with all of the changes.

Eighteen to twenty one months

I was glad that I had kept with the breastfeeding when we got here. Breastfeeding during the flight kept us (and the passengers around us) sane. Then, Clarissa caught a cold like a day after we got here. We were nursing like four or five times a day again. After she got better, I weaned her down to morning, before naptime, and before bed. When we were settled in to our apartment, we went back to twice a day. She has been sick a few times since we have been here and so then we go back to 3-4 times a day and I have to wean her back down to two. But it is consistent. When she is only nursing twice a day, she sleeps through the night.

Twenty two months

Once she hit twenty two months, she shifted in her breastfeeding. Her morning nursings have been inconsistent. She will nurse one day, skip a day, nurse, skip two days, and then nurse, skip three days. I don’t think we have nursed two mornings in a row for the past month. But we haven’t made it more than three days in a row without nursing yet either. So we will see when she finally decides that she is done with the morning nursing. But her bedtime nursing has become very business like. She nurses about ten to fifteen minutes on each side and then goes to bed without a fuss.

Twenty three months

The day she turned twenty three months was the last day that she nursed before breakfast. Now she only nurses at night. I will say that since giving up the morning nursing session, her naptime is longer.  She still nurses between twenty and thirty minutes before bed. One day she decided that she wanted to nurse in the middle of the night to make up for not nursing in the morning, but I told her she was a big girl and she could only nurse before bed (sounded harsh in my head, but I know she needs to eat more during the day if she is actually hungry since she is almost two. I was fully prepared to let her cry for twenty minutes before nursing her). So we cuddled for a minute, I changed her diaper, and put her back in her crib. She cried about five minutes and went back to bed. She hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night since, even on days when I thought she would because she didn’t eat as much real food.

Two years and six and a half months

I noticed a pattern with Clarissa this winter. The more she ate during the day, the less she would nurse before bed. After she turned two and a half, she started drinking soymilk and some smoothies during the day. Not every day, but I was thankful that she was starting to make healthier choices in her diet. She started consistently nursing about 10 minutes at night. A week before she turned two years and seven months, she asked for milk in a cup during her bedtime story. I explained to her that if she drank from a cup I would not nurse her that evening and she was fine with that. That was a Monday night. Tuesday night she asked for her milk in a cup. On Wednesday night, I handed her milk and she refused. She didn’t nap or eat well that day and she wanted to nurse. That was ten days ago. I think it’s safe to say that she has weaned herself.

Things that Make Breastfeeding Easier

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Before Clarissa was born, my hospital offered a free two hour class on breastfeeding. The one benefit was that she showed us how to breastfeed in a few different positions and we practiced holding a baby doll in those positions. It sounds dumb, but she also walked around and watched how we held our breast in those positions and it was really helpful. The other parts of the class weren’t that helpful. So you can always watch a youtube video or talk to a breastfeeding friend. It would be good to know a few positions before your baby is born. Also, while you are in the hospital, ask the nurses for help. Some hospitals even have lactation consultants to help you.

You need a comfortable place to nurse. My friend gave me a cushioned chair that swivels and rocks. At my parent’s house, I use my dad’s recliner. I also nurse on the couch while we watch tv. Normal rocking chairs haven’t been really comfortable for me. You just need to try a few things and see what is comfortable for you. Also, I couldn’t figure the boppy out for nursing. In the hospital, I used normal pillows and that has worked for me since. I just use a normal bed pillow on my lap and Clarissa lays on that. At first, when did the football hold a lot. But now we pretty much always do cradle hold.

Everyone talks about the benefits of breastfeeding because of the bonding that happens between mother and baby. That is true. But nursing can also take a long time and get kind of boring. So it is helpful to have something else to do. I find it hard to hold an actual book. I have a smartphone and a Kindle. Those are easier to hold and read. Plus, you can nurse in the dark in the middle of the night so your baby will go to sleep easier. I can even watch Netflix on my Kindle.

In the beginning of breastfeeding, your nipples will get sore. There were a few things that really helped with the pain. The first are Soothies Gel Pads by Lasinoh. You can also find them at Walgreens. They were great because you apply them to your breast. They feel kind of cold and really help with the pain. You can take them on and off when you are nursing. They are safe for baby so you don’t have to wash your breast off to feed. The only downside is that they are only for 72 hours of total use. So they don’t last as long as I would like. And if you are in the phase where you are making too much milk, they might not last 72 hours because the milk will get absorbed into the gel pad. I went through a few of these in the beginning of breastfeeding and then again a few months later after she had a cold.

Another thing that works for sore or cracked nipples is nipple cream. My favorite is Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter. Each jar lasts several months. Originally, I was just using this when I was sore, but that was happening random times. Since I have been pumping almost every day, I apply every night before bed and I haven’t had a problem with soreness in a couple of months. This is another thing that is safe for baby so you won’t have to rinse off your breast. Clarissa seems to like the taste anyway. I have also used this on Clarissa’s face in the winter. I didn’t want to put Vaseline on her face because of the petroleum, so I tried this when her face was getting irritated from the wind and cold. It worked well. And she liked the smell!

Another thing that I use a lot are nursing pads. My favorite are Bamboobies. The reason I like these are because they are thin and don’t show as much under your shirt. They also have a lining so that milk doesn’t leak through your shirt. I wear these everyday. I just throw them in the wash with my cloth diapers. They also make an overnight version that is thicker. I don’t have the overnight ones. I have just used washcloths in a sports bra at night.

I also recommend getting a good nursing bra. Having two is helpful so that you can wash one and wear the other, or let one dry out when it gets wet. Department stores can fit you for a bra. A good fit will help prevent mastitis. I use the Anita Women’s Maternity Underwired Nursing Bra.

I wrote a post on the benefits of pumping. Call your insurance company to see what they will cover. The one I use is Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. Any pump should be fine. I recommend a double electric pump. Just make sure the flanges fit correctly. You can order a different size if your breasts are too large for the flange.

A lot of moms that I know swear by Nursing Covers for nursing in public. Clarissa would nurse under a cover until she was about four or five weeks old. After that, she would kick around and move the cover. Since I pump on a regular basis, I just bring bottles when we are out and about. Speaking of which, you should have a few bottles for when you pump. We use AVENT bottles with the Natural Nipples.

Pumping is a Wonderful Thing!

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It will take a few days for your milk to come in. When it does, you may have too much. It takes a while for your body to adapt and get the right amount of milk for your baby.

I attended a breastfeeding class before Clarissa was born and the teacher said that you are supposed to feed a newborn every three hours even if it means waking up your baby. I tried that and it wasn’t really successful. Clarissa was mad that I woke her up and she wouldn’t eat.

So I basically had a meltdown before Clarissa’s first Pediatrician appointment. I was so upset that she would not eat like the teacher said. And I was super engorged. I tried to pump, but I couldn’t figure it out.

When I spoke to the pediatrician about it, she said not to wake Clarissa up to eat. She was getting plenty! Most babies lose weight when they leave the hospital and mine gained six ounces in one day! She recommended pumping or taking a warm shower and hand expressing milk in the shower.

I could not figure the pump out so I had to do the shower thing which helped the pain but meant that I was losing milk in the shower. We eventually figured out that my problem was that the flange on my pump was too small. Once we ordered a larger one, life got so much better.

When you pump, you have so many options. Pumping allowed me to sleep because someone else could feed Clarissa when I was in bed. I could also leave Clarissa with my mom to run errands or go to work. Even if you don’t plan to go to work, pumping would allow you to go on a date with your husband or for a fun night out with the girls.

It is also way easier to give your baby a bottle in public. Sometimes it is hard to find a place to nurse. They sell nursing covers but Clarissa would not stay under one after she was about six weeks. Unless you want to flash everyone, a bottle is a good choice.

Pumps are covered by most insurance companies. Some of my friends could buy whatever they wanted up to a certain dollar amount. I had to order mine through my insurance company and they had three to choose from. Call your insurance company to see what they cover. If you have any choice, I recommend a double electric pump. Any brand should do.

Before your baby is born, make sure that the flange fits properly. Do not turn the pump on, otherwise you will stimulate milk production early. Make sure you have the correct size before the baby arrives.

Colic or Food Sensitivity?

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Anyone who tells you that what you eat does not affect your baby is crazy.  Maybe that’s a little harsh… 

I am fairly convinced that when babies are super cranky or colicky,  one of the main causes is what the mother is eating.  At least that is the case for us. 

When Clarissa was very young,  there were nights where she was miserable with gas pain.  Gas drops helped but we were using them a lot.  So I started a food journal.  I wrote down what I was eating and noted the time.  Then I recorded what time Clarissa nursed,  for how long,  and I kept notes about diapers and when she was fussy.  I found a pattern.  She was miserable any time that I ate corn.  That was an easy fix.  I had to stop eating corn.  At first it was a big deal because I eat gluten free so my favorite snacks are tortilla chips with cheese and popcorn.  But after cutting those snacks out of my diet,  Clarissa was rarely fussy so it was so worth it.  It has been six months and I don’t crave those snacks anymore anyway. 

We had a few scary ultrasounds with her where they were concerned about her intestines.  Toward the end of the pregnancy,  it was no longer a concern.  It is interesting to note that during the time the doctor was concerned,  I was eating a lot of Mexican food.  At the end,  I was craving potatoes.  I wonder if what I was eating affected her intestines on the day of the appointment. 

If your baby is gassy,  you can try gas drops.  I like the Little Tummies brand.  But if you want a more natural approach, I suggest a food journal.  

There are other ways that what you eat can affect baby.  For the past few months,  I have been working part time.  On the days that I work,  I have noticed that Clarissa is up way later wanting to play with me.  At first I thought it was because she missed me and needed more attention.  But then it happened on the weekend when I took her to a party and I realized the culprit… Chocolate! 

I don’t drink caffeine at all.  I have never been a coffee or soda drinker.  But the days that I work,  I stay in a room with a ton of chocolate.  So between reading groups  I munch on Reeses cups and miniature snickers bars.  

I was hoping to be wrong.  So I stopped eating chocolate. I noticed a huge difference.  Not only were bedtimes earlier,  but Clarissa was sleeping ten hours straight at night.  We were doing so well until my wonderful husband decided to surprise me.  He brought home some chocolate for me,  and I am talking good stuff.  My favorite expensive chocolate.  So I had some. You know,  just in case my chocolate theory was wrong.  Well… It wasn’t.  Midnight and we are still wide awake and full of energy.  Oops.