New Mom, Who Dis?
I never thought I would care about breastfeeding. My mom had trouble breastfeeding, so I was formula-fed. And as I went into motherhood, I didn’t think that I would be able to breastfeed either. I had fully accepted that before my son was born in January 2016.
While it was not easy at first, I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed my first baby without any significant problems. I weaned him very slowly and breastfed him for the final time on Mother’s Day of 2017. He was 15 months old.
I Didn’t Care Until I Did
Fast forward to November 12, 2019. The day my daughter turned 11 months old, she went on a complete nursing strike. We had had a very uneventful breastfeeding journey up until that point. But I had been working a ton (fall as a photographer) and had skipped a feeding or two several times over the previous week. Apparently I got a little too relaxed. It was devastating. I cried harder than I had in I don’t know how long. At that moment I knew I cared, and I cared deeply.
I didn’t want to end our journey together on a nursing strike. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want her to be ready. So after bawling my eyes out, I called my friend who was an exclusive pumper and asked her what I could do to build my supply back up. She was wonderfully patient as I asked a million questions. She gave me several ideas and I immediately started baking the lactation cookies she gave me the recipe for.
I can’t tell you how many of those cookies I ate over the next few days. (Side note, they were delicious.) I kept trying to get Charlie to latch and she occasionally tried for a second or two and then pulled away. So I ended up pumping every three hours during the day. At first I got barely any milk. But thanks to those cookies and mass amounts of water, I ended up building my supply back up to what it needed to be. In the meantime, my husband and I continued to feed her both pumped milk and formula.
A Hugh Sigh of Relief
Finally, after about four days, she latched and drank. And she kept latching, albeit somewhat reluctantly. It certainly didn’t go back to how it was pre-strike, but it was still perfect at the same time. However, she absolutely had to be distracted while she was latched. If you’re wondering what the only thing that kept her little 11-month-old self distracted was, it was The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix. She would. not. eat. unless it was on the TV. I tested other movies and nothing worked like The Christmas Chronicles. Needless to say, that movie made it on my Christmas Classics list for various reasons.
But I decided as soon as she started latching again that I was going to start weaning her. I was terrified of another strike and wanted to be able to finish breastfeeding on good terms. So I slowly dropped feedings from least importance to most important.
Making the Most of Our Time
When Henry was one, we had lifestyle photos taken in our house. I was able to get some pictures of me feeding him before we started weaning. I cherish those photos and I knew I wanted them with Charlie as well. As soon as she was feeding again, I woke up early and did my hair and makeup for photos. Will took beautiful photos of us together and they’re exactly what I needed to feel like our journey was finally ending.
January 12, 2020 – the day she turned 13 months – was the last day that I breastfed Charlie. By that point we were both ready. I’m proud of what we did together. I knew it wasn’t a guarantee that she would latch back on after her strike, but I’m so thankful she did.
Breastfeeding is something that snuck up on me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. To be honest, it was quite an inelegant part of motherhood most of the time. But it was still part of my journey and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I fed both of my babies with this body and was able to donate 75 ounces of milk to another baby when Charlie was three months old. And while the last few months of breastfeeding both of my kids wasn’t what I had pictured, I love our story and will continue to be proud of all that we’ve done together.