I stopped breastfeeding forever two weeks ago. 😭 Today I’m sharing how it feels to have breastfed all 5 of my babies over the course of 10 years, what has happened, how I’ve weaned, and what I’ve learned along the way. (Plus how elimination communication + breastfeeding have been the MAGIC KEYS to my new mom confidence.)
(This is a straight transcript of the improvised talk I did on my podcast, so please disregard any improper grammar.) :)
I've basically been breastfeeding for 10 years you guys. It's been crazy. In the beginning, I just knew I wanted to. I always knew I was going to nurse my babies. I always knew I was going to at least try - because I know a lot of women aren't able to, including some of my friends. But once I had my first baby, I had zero problems. I've had an oversupply with every single one of them and I've been really, really blessed with being able to breastfeed each of them as long as I want to.
My first child, Kaiva - breastfed for 2 years straight
For my first one, I breastfed him for two years - pretty much every two hours, 24/7 for two years. By the end of that, I was kind of a wreck, to be honest. I really wanted to stop breastfeeding him at about 17 months when he started ripping my bras to get to my nanas (which is what we call them). Just to be honest, I felt guilty about that. I felt guilty about wanting to stop and wanting to have my body and my energy back and to have boundaries between me and him, healthy boundaries.
I've definitely learned a lot with the last four babies since him, but with him, I felt guilty. So, I didn't. I stuck with it. What it caused was a lot of anxiety between us because I think he could tell that I was ambivalent and he could tell that I did it. And I willingly did it, but I was also like, I kind of don't like this ripping my shirt off thing. I don't know if you've had that experience, but especially in public, you're just like, "Okay, I don't want everybody to see my breasts every day."
For him, I did abrupt weaning. I read about it first because I was like, "Okay, gradually doing it for me isn't working." I tell him we can't have them right now because of the time of day, or whatever and he wasn't going to take that. He's like, "No, I want them all the time," because there's no reason not to.
To have a very clear ending with my first was a really good idea. I learned about that through the Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning. It's kind of an older book that a friend of mine gave to me. I found out that other indigenous cultures will often use a diaper backup, if anything at all, for a lot less time. Then they breastfeed for a lot longer than we do in America, where we're the opposite. We have kids in diapers till three and we only breastfeed for six weeks or six months. They only use a backup diaper for six weeks or six months, then they will breastfeed for three years - quite the opposite. That's a generalization, but you know what I mean? It's just a very different reality.
Anyway, I found out that they would put things like mustard seed on their nipples, something really spicy like jalapeno, something that the baby's like, "Ooh, I don't like it. It doesn't taste good." We want to deter them from wanting it, right? Then that kind of displaces the responsibility of, "Okay, it's not my mom who's telling me no and stop. It's actually that they just don't taste good all of a sudden and I'm not really sure why, but okay, I'll move on to other things." It's a really nice way of displacing that and not making it a power struggle, if that makes sense. You can learn more in that book, but to move on, that worked.
Within three days, we were done with him checking. But really, instantly, we were done. There was no anxiety, there were no tears. I had a few tears because I was a little bit sad about it, but to be honest, it was just really clear communication for him that this is over and you're a big boy now. He'd say, "I want nanas," and I'd say, "Okay, go ahead and try them." I'd already put the grapefruit seed extract on my nipple before, right when I woke up, and he didn't see me put it on there. He'd asked for them, and then he'd taste and he'd go, "Ooh, that doesn't ... That tastes yucky." And I said, "Oh, that must be because you're a big boy now. They're really only for babies and you're such a big boy." At the same time, we also moved him to his own bed. There were a lot of very clear rituals for ending babyhood and entering toddlerhood - big boyhood. That's my longest story to share.
My second child, Isadora - breastfed for 11 months
With Isadora, I actually had postpartum depression and I was taking Celexa (just to be completely transparent) until she was about 18 months old. (When I became pregnant with Cooper, I stopped.) They say Celexa doesn't pass through the milk to her, and she acted normal, just the same before and after. But, I feel like that's the reason why she just kind of self-weaned at 11 months. She didn't really want them anymore and there's a little bit of self-blame that I have, but that got me through that period. It was a very dark period of my life and very, very hard. I'd had undiagnosed postpartum depression for three years and had no idea. I just wasn't myself. It was really edgy and that helped me. Then I got off of the Celexa, no problems.
My third child, Cooper - breastfed for 13 months
Then I had Cooper in an unassisted birth. While I was pregnant with Cooper (luckily I wasn't also breastfeeding Isadora), but when I was breastfeeding Cooper, I got pregnant with Branson.
When Cooper was about 13 months old, I remember how sore my nipples were from breastfeeding Cooper while being very newly pregnant with Branson. One night I was nursing him to bed and I just screamed. It hurt so bad. I didn't mean to scream but it was an "Ohhhhh" kind of a mommy scream, and Cooper started crying. David came into the room and he asked, "Are you okay? What's going on?" And I said, "It just hurts so bad. My nipples are so sore because I'm pregnant," and he said, "I'll put him to bed," and I didn't nurse Cooper again. That was 13 months old, which is a good long time and I should be patting myself on the back. Yay, good job, mama. I would pat you on the back for that, but I felt guilty again. I definitely felt guilty - like I could've, should've, would've done more if I could, but it was literally excruciating pain, like nothing I'd ever felt before.
My fifth child Twyla - breastfed for 22 months
With my fifth one, Twyla, we just recently kind of stopped and she's almost two. Just to share a tiny bit from that story - I was nursing her back to sleep all night and it was waking me up two or three times a night. After 10 years of being woken up two or three times a night, I was like, "I'm good, I can't do this anymore. David, I'm going to go nuts. You've got to help me." He started waking up with her, bless him. He'd wake up with her in the middle of the night, put her paci back in, and potty her if she wouldn't settle back to sleep right away.
That not only helped her become dry all night, not because of the fluid coming in, but because she just started to connect her sleep cycles and really sleep through the night solidly. Because of that, she was dry all night in the diaper backup at 16 months. Then at 17 months, we just stopped using diapers at night and she's been great. Knock on wood, she's doing great.
With Twyla, I'd breastfed on demand. I also work three hours a day from home and have a couple of hours of help otherwise, because there's a lot to manage here and my husband works all the time. I have help maybe between three and five hours a day, which I'm very grateful for because in the beginning, I did not have any help at all. I think that's why I had postpartum depression, I didn't have any help.
Coming back to Twyla - we co-slept for four months, then I put her in her own crib, and then I'd feed her. Every time she woke up, I would potty her, then feed her, nurse her, and then start our day. Then the first fuss after breastfeeding, I would potty her again. That's just our routine, our cycle.
Over time, it turned out that I would feed her before or after her nap in the morning, when she woke up after her nap, and then at night when I put her to bed. As her naps extended and there were less of them during the day, she naturally started to just choose not to nurse at certain times. This is also along with solids, and I think that's something to do with baby led weaning - when they start salivating and grabbing at your food and you start giving them solids, it's just a gradual weaning. That's exactly what our experience was. You can look more into baby led weaning if you're interested. With her, I didn't have to, and with all the others I didn't have to do any kind of abrupt weaning.
My fourth child Branson - breastfed for 18 months
I didn't talk about ending with Branson. I stopped nursing Branson at about 16 months because I was pregnant with Twyla, and I was just about to have her. I was like, "I don't really want to tandem nurse." I don't feel guilty about that. I commend those of you who have tandem nursed - that's nursing two babies at once. I was just like, "He's losing interest." Actually, he was 18 months. "He's losing interest so I'm just not going to push it. And my milk's about to change, and I really want to preserve that for the baby or reserve that for the baby." I just kind of said, "No, we're not having them anymore," and he was fine. It was really, really easy because of his temperament.
Gradual weaning with Twyla, continued
Okay, back to Twyla’s gradual baby led weaning. We were just doing nursing first thing in the morning and we'd lay there together for 30 minutes to just nurse. This was from about maybe 17 to 22 months. It was beautiful this time when we could just bond and lay there and nurse together. Then she just would do a little bit and just stop and be like, "Other one." And then do the other one for a little bit and then stop. She started to stop wanting it.
Then nursing her at night, she started to just sort of dive into her crib. She didn't want me to rock her or nurse her or anything. She just wanted to go to bed. I followed her lead with that. I was like, "Cool because that's kind of where I'm at too. Great. It's been a long 10 years of nursing. I'm good." It was a little bit bittersweet, but I asked her one of the last days. I said, "Is this the last time we're ever going to have nanas?" And she goes, "Yeah." And I trust her and all my children to communicate. I want to ask them questions. I just trusted that as her answer. Then I think the next night I asked her, "Hey, you want nanas before bed?" And she goes, "No," and she just went off to play. And so that was it.
The end of breastfeeding my youngest baby
Then we had thrush, she had thrush for about a week. I really felt like emotionally, I really wanted to nurse her. I don't know if any of you have felt this way, but I was just like, "Gosh, I really want that connection back." I'd still had milk. I checked, I squeezed, and I still had milk but thrush can be passed between each other so I cleared up the thrush with the doctor's help. I tried natural remedies and then I was like, "Okay, she's in so much pain." Thrush is when you get candida in your mouth and she just couldn't, it was hard to eat. She just wasn't feeling well. She didn't have a fever, but she was definitely miserable.
That said, that week kind of what was a blessing in disguise. It helped me to stick with my decision. At 22 months we were weaned. She did try again after that week of thrush. She was like, "I want nanas." She'd start to open my shirt, which you know is like, "Boundaries girl. Okay, let's do it." She'd suckle and nothing came out and it hurt me. She just kind of gave up and walked away. She tried again the next day and then that's it.
My three-year-old sometimes comes up and he's like, "I want nanas too." They'll open it up and look at them - I let them look at my body because I feel like it's a normal thing for me. I mean, we walk around naked most of the summer inside our house or outside our house. We have a lot of property so we're like, "Yeah, whatever. Bodies are bodies. These are bodies." But I don't let them try to nurse when I have milk because I feel like, "I know you're done and it's baby's turn, this is baby's milk." Now that I have no milk, I'm happy to report my boobs are about the same size as they were before I had kids. My nipples are very different, but that's okay. I took one for the team. It was worth it and I think it's amazing.
How amazing are our bodies, y’all?!
Can we just take a moment to marvel at the beautiful creation that our bodies are, that my breasts can create exactly the food that my baby needs at that moment in her or his development, in that moment in time of their wellness or illness that we are so synced up between our breasts and our baby's mouths?
For those of you who are blessed to be able to nurse or are pumping and bottle feeding (like my friend who just had twins), let’s just take a moment right now and be grateful for our breasts. Yay, nanas!
That's all I wanted to share today. If you want to check out that resource on weaning, feel free. They also talk about gradual weaning in there. I know there are lots of different opinions, and I'd love to now hear yours. Leave a comment down below and let me know:
Have you also stopped breastfeeding or are you about to? And how do you feel about it?
Because we all have mixed emotions about it. There's guilt, there's blame, there's shame, there's just ambivalence, there's also clarity, and boundaries, and wanting our own bodies back, but also wanting to nurture our babies. All of that is totally okay and welcome. In those comments, feel free to write there and we can support each other.
I hope you enjoyed learning about that and just thanks for listening to my story. I'm a little bit sad. My husband has done “the clip” so we are done having babies and I am a little bit sad that I'll never breastfeed again because that means I'm onto the next phase in life, which is nurturing these babies in other ways, homeschooling, and being there for them.
Elimination Communication + Breastfeeding = A More Confident Mother
I just want to add that breastfeeding the way I've been able to and doing EC the way I've been able to have both been very clear choices that I've prioritized with each baby. I feel like both of them have made me a better, more confident mother in everything. My kids are thriving and I feel like it’s because of both of those things - EC and breastfeeding (or nurturing through nutrition, whatever that ends up being for you if you didn't breastfeed. I don't want this to make you feel guilty if you weren't able to breastfeed. I just want to share my story - I think with everybody's stories, we all learn something from our stories, right?).
Hopefully this episode has helped one of you and we can connect down at the comments, but what goes in and what comes out nursing, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and then what comes out EC are two ways to definitely build confidence in parenting and being a new mom. It's very special.
Thanks for sharing this with me, and until next time, happy potting y'all.
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)