Wednesday, January 22, 2014

{Real Mom Life} An Unexpected End:: Weaning

It's difficult to decide where to start puttting down my thoughts because there are so many facets to what has happened over the past week or so.

But the bottom line is Maylin is officially weaned. My breastfeeding journey with her is over. Suddenly and unexpectedly so. And the truth of the matter is I'm heartbroken.

Our breastfeeding journey is a long and noveled one, full of mountains and valleys, and I intend to one day get it written down for all the mamas who struggled with breastfeeding like I did. I was determined and stubborn and maybe a little bit proud, and I accredit our 9 month success to those reasons alone. However, as much as I willed for the capability to nurse Maylin until one year, it was just physically impossible for us.

Let me start from the beginning. Well, the beginning of the end I guess. Last Wednesday night Maylin came down with fever and a runny nose which persisted all through Thursday. We visited our pediatrician early Friday morning, and it was determined she had a simple virus, the symptoms of which would probably persist for the next week or so. Our doctor didn't seem especially concerned about the virus, however she was extremely troubled over the discovery that Maylin had lost one pound since our 6 month well baby visit.

I was shocked at this as well. Consistent weight gain for Maylin has been a bit of a struggle for us from her birth. It is really a story entirely of itself, but suffice it to say after a pretty rocky and scary start her growth chart finally showed some upward curve progress, especially between 3 and 6 months. Maylin has always been very small for her age, and so many people have remarked upon that fact with a hint of disdain and accusation in their voice that I've come to prickle my motherly quills anytime someone references that fact, even if it's the sweet little elderly woman at the grocery store. Yes, Maylin is small. She's always been in 25th percentile or less, but I honestly just chalked it up to her being petite like me. Call it first-time-mother ignorance if you want, but I did. I'm barely 5'1 and weigh 114 pounds at 5 months pregnant with my second child. That's petite. Of course Maylin is small. It's in her genes.

However, even I was shaken when they put Maylin on the scale and realized that her weight had dropped so much between her 6 month and 9 month checkups. That's not supposed to happen to a healthy baby, even if she is "petite." 

It was at this point that the reality of weaning Maylin began to set in. My doctor gently but firmly suggested that weaning was really the only healthy choice for Maylin now. We closely scrutinized her growth chart, focusing on when the weight drop started. Maylin's weight loss corresponds exactly to the week that I got pregnant with Hartlie.  Bottom line: my body can't produce enough nutrition to keep both Maylin and Hartlie {and myself} at an acceptible level of health.

I'd read and heard that most mothers who get pregnant while breastfeeding have to wean their child, but I was still producing milk so I assumed that perhaps that wouldn't be the case for us. What I didn't realize was that the fat and nutrient level of my milk had been depleted, and even if Maylin was getting the good antibodies she was no longer getting those healthy fats that babies need to gain weight.

I was devastated. There is nothing quite so shocking as discovering something you think is immovable has suddenly disappeared. There is also nothing quite like realizing your body is not preforming the way you expected it was. Both of these things happened in a single instant while sitting in the cold, impersonal, flourescent-lit cubby of a patient room in the doctor's office.

I was a hot mess of weeping and tears.

I have always, always, always from the core of my heart cherished our nursing sessions together. Except for the rocky start, those times were always very calm. They were the times of day that it was just me and her. We could quietly rock with no one else around. It was almost like pushing the reset button on our day. No one else had those times with her. Just me. Call it selfish if you want, but I closely guarded those times between us. Any mother who breastfeeds understands what I'm talking about.   

I have known for a while that the end of breastfeeding was coming for us. She's only a couple months away from a year old, and I never intended to nurse longer than that, especially since baby sister will be born early summer. I'd started stockpiling pumped milk to slowly start the transition to cow's milk at twelve months, but thought I had at least another good month of nursing before the weaning process actually started. The fact that I feel our time was "cut short" makes the emotional side of weaning even harder.

In my heart I know weaning is the right choice for Maylin to be a healthy and happy baby. I want that for her. I want the very best for her, which is why I breastfed so long to begin with. I'm struggling with the idea that my body has let her {and me} down instead of doing what it's supposed to do. Of course, when I mention this to Michael he reminds me that hello, I am over halfway through the pregnancy of our second child and then I feel a little bit better about my body's nourishing capabilities. When I look back at pictures of Maylin when she was about 5 weeks old {at an all time low weight-wise} it breaks my heart to see her skin and bones little self. I've always sworn to myself I would do everything in my power not to have her experience that kind of hunger again, even if it means giving up breastfeeding. But that doesn't make it any less sad or make my  heart feel any less bruised.

The transition for Maylin has actually gone extremely well. Much better than for me as her emotionally attached mama. She loves taking a bottle and seems to really like the taste of the formula. We haven't had any problems with spitting up or gas. She sucks it right down. This causes conflicting feelings within my heart. I am so relieved that switching to formula has been an easy transition. However, there is a teeny tiny small part of me that wishes she would miss the breast milk too. But she just doesn't. And really, that's okay. I guess.

So, after a week of emotional meltdowns and lots of crying on my part, Maylin has stepped into a new phase of her life. A new stage of our mother/daughter relationship. It is sad to leave the old familiar behind, but I'm learning it can also be exciting to see what lies in store for us next.


  1. I completely understand! I don't even want to think about weaning Mia! That emotional bond is so intense! I never thought I would say any of this! You made it to almost 10 months with her and that is awesome!!!! Most people quit much sooner! You have already protected her from so many things! You are absolutely doing the best thing for your child and just think she only has 2 months left. Also, you get to experience that bond again soon with your next daughter :-). Good job mama!!!

    1. Yes, who knew that the emotional bond would be so strong! I hated to quit, but it has gotten easier the more time has passed. Thanks for your encouragement. It's been nice to talk to you through our journeys as BF moms together.

  2. You did amazing -- way better than I did, lol. And, geez, do I know that it's hard -- and this comes from someone who did not want to breastfeed before Alice was born, ha! Amazing how those little personalities change your whole life perspective. =)

    There will be other sweet mother-daughter moments when it's just you and her. Even though I wasn't able to nurse her long, I've found one of my favorite times of the day is that last bottle of the night, when she cuddles with me, stares into my eyes, and we listen to soft music in the background. It's amazing. SO amazing. And other times when she crawls over to me just to be close to me. Or when she runs off to chase the dog, lol.

    There are always precious moments -- with or without nursing. =) It's definitely hard, but it's way harder on us than it is on them, lol.

    1. Now that BF is gone I've found so many more times to experience that mother/daughter bond. I didn't know if I would, at first, but I've disovered that each time we're alone together is special. It's nice to see her so independent from me, even if it is a little bittersweet. I look up to you as a mother so much. You always give great insight, and I'm so glad Alice and Maylin are going to share their childhood with each other.

  3. Your breastfeeding journey has been an inspiration to me and I'm sure everyone else who knows you or reads your blog. I know for a fact I wouldn't still be nursing Shelby if it wasn't for your encouragement and willingness to share your experience. Be proud that you are the kind of mother who is willing to always do what is best for your child. When it meant just getting through the next feeding and now, when it means letting go a little early (to something you never thought would be so hard to let go of). Isn't it amazing to think you get to experience this journey all over again with another little one?!?! Love you!

    1. I am so proud of you and all you've done to stick with breastfeeding.Shelby is one lucky girl. I am so thankful for you and your friendship and companionship. This whole stay-at-home mom thing would be much harder if it weren't for you! Looking forward to many more neighborhood walks and mid-week play dates.