It is world breastfeeding week, time to celebrate what our boobs were made for! ;)
My girls self -weaned about 3 months ago now. It was a happy mutual decision to stop feeding that sort of just slowly happened until one day I realised I hadn’t got my boobs out for a whole week and that was that. I was ready for them to wean and they were obviously ready to wean, but I still miss my super milk making power.
We had a very rocky start to breastfeeding… and infact my first breastfeeding experience was with the mean green milking machine at about 3 days post partum. Having had babies 10 weeks before I was supposed to have them, and not having any actual babies to look at or hold let alone to feed made the milk making game a bit hard for me. Initially we tried hand expressing to get colostrum to send down to NICU… it was a disaster… everyone could get milk to come out of my boobs except me and the thought of having to call for a midwife every three hours over night was too much to contemplate… enter the mean green milking machine!
I mastered the MGMM and took it home with me so I could set my alarm and wake up every three hours over night to express and mastered the art of double pumping hands free while on the net and even of doing two milk runs a day into the hospital and expressing in the ‘milking sheds’ while there. I still wasn’t great at producing but I had a bit of time up my sleeve as the girls started milk feeds at 3 and 5 days old and were only taking 2mls four hourly to begin with. At once stage I even had stacks of milk in the fridge in NICU but that didn’t last. The bigger the girls got the more milk they needed which was great… but I struggled to keep up.
We thankfully had a great OB and pead and had already discussed and made plans for breastfeeding before the girls were born so I had support and lots of it and started on my steady diet of things that would help me make milk. I ate oats till they came out my ears, took a concoction of herbs till I stunk like a curry house and drank water until I was a fountain…. it helped but I still struggled.
By the time the girls were ready to attempt sucking feeds I felt I at least had milk there for them to suck…. pity I have totally flat nipples and two babies who were a) tiny and b) exhausted just by breathing on there own…. so those first few tries were not very successful. Thankfully a lovely midwife in special care got my disabled nipples some prosthetics (ie nipple shields) which meant that at least my ‘lazy suckers’ had something easy to latch on to.. and we slowly slowly managed more and more breastfeeds. The girls were poor suckers, they took forever to feed and it tired zoe so much she’d be back on her O2 after every feed. We started bottle feeds for when I couldn’t be there to breastfeed them and to alternate between breastfeeds so they didn’t get too tired and they still struggled. It seemed like they would never get rid of the NG tubes and come home, but finally they did and we came home on alternate breast and bottle feeds… EBM.
Then came the rounds of feeding and expressing and feeding and expressing and feeding and expressing. We got the twin feeding going and that made life a little easier but then the reflux hit and that meant little sleep for the girls so little time for me to express. It also meant two very fussy feeders who refused to twin feed initially then refused to feed at all.
We battled the reflux and breast refusal and then bottle refusal on and off for weeks until we finally found the right drug in the right dose and got it all under control. But by that time breastfeeding was a fight and they were not gaining weight and things seemed very glum on that front. I saw two terrible LCs who wanted to know why on earth I’d want to twin feed and just told me that the breast refusal was probably weaning… at 6 months old… which is not even 4 months corrected!
Thank goodness for our pead who had way back when taught me how to bottle feed a breastfed baby and who sent me to a wonderful LC and we finally got them both back on the boob. We comped them with fortified EBM after a feed to help them gain some weight and to get the meds into them and we tried to get them back to twin feeding and off the shields. Sadly they never did go back to twin feeding until they were much much older and we never ever kicked the nipple shields and with the time it took to feed them both separately expressing time lessened and they had more formula than EBM in their bottles.
But they we were breastfeeding and fast approaching that elusive 12 months mark which I never ever thought we’d see. Their first birthday rolled around and not long after that we weaned them off the comp feeds and they were 100% breastfeed for the first time in their lives (apart from solids!)
I’d initially made the goal of feeding for a year and told myself whatever happened after that happened, I wouldn’t battled them on breast refusal then. But when it hit again not long after I turned one I wasn’t ready to give up the fight so fought Izzy tooth and nail till she was back on the boob. They both had a few more rounds of refusal during the first half of their second year and we dropped back feeds a lot more than I felt comfortable with. But obviously it was what they wanted as the refusal stopped and we had a long long patch of happily breastfeeding. We even got in a few twin feeds in those days… though they often ended in someone pulling hair or kicking someone else in the head!
When 2 years rolled around we were feeding morning and night and it was a comfortable routine. Then slowly the morning feeds disappeared and we just held onto that quick night feeds as part of the bed time routine. Now, 8 months later they talk a lot about ‘milk’, they breastfeed each other in the bath (using the bath toy suction cups as shields!) and they breastfeed their toys. They are obsessed by the toy cows ‘nipples’ and make the baby cows drink it’s ‘mamma’s milk’ but when they ask for milk now they tell me they want ‘milk the mamma cow gives it’s baby’…. not milk from me.
My girls have never been comfort suckers, as babies they were so small and sick they never demanded a feed… I had to wake them to feed them often in the first few months at home. So I never expected we’d make it past two years…. when I was first pregant I didn’t even think I was comfortable with people feeding after 12 months! I am convinced that the amount of breastmilk we got into the girls was what made them so healthy for that first year – despite the reflux they have never had an ear infection and never been seriously sick until the end of their second year. It was important for us in so many ways.
I am very proud of what we achieved. I was a very determined milk maker… I couldn’t carry them to term, I couldn’t birth them right, I couldn’t even be the first to hold and touch them, but I could do something no one else could. I could make breastmilk just for them. I miss my super power.
So celebrate your boobs! Even if you struggled more than we did with breastfeeding, even if you only fed for one month or one week or one day… be proud. You gave your child something no one else could and for that time.. you had a super power too.