When we had our first born I was so excited for him to reach the next stage or milestone of his life. Looking back now it felt like his first five years were actually fast but slow in comparison to our other children.
He was four days old the first time I got to breastfeed him and with an oxygen hose hooked into my bra he not only took his first few sucks he gulped down milk for a good 20 mins and then fell asleep exhausted. I was thrilled. I though the whole breastfeeding thing was going to very hard and I felt so lucky that it was a pleasant experience for me.
Because he was premature I let him demand feed and by the time he was three months old he was averaging a weight gain of 500 grams per week for four weeks in a row. Although he was turning into a mini buddah I was losing weight rapidly and my specialists recommended I wean him off the breast as it had put my thyroid functions into a spiral. I was devastated by this but believed it was best for both of us. At four months old I gave him his last breastfeed at 6.00am and we took a photo. He enjoyed it as much on the final time as he did on the first.
Nearly four years later and along came our only full term baby. I also demand fed her and she loved the breast even more than our firstborn. So much so, that when she had her four day weigh-in at the hospital she had not lost a single gram of weight. She was discharged from hospital at her exact birth weight. I am told this is quite rare. If you saw how she attached herself to the breast and guzzled the milk down you’d know why. She put on beautiful weight gains (even though I didn’t actually weigh her, I could tell by the clothing sizes that kept getting bigger).
This time I was determined to feed until twelve months of age so sought advice from my specialist in order to maintain a healthy weight for me and keep my thyroid levels stable. I had mastitis three times and persevered. One day when she was thirteen months old I sat in the rocking chair with her and she snuggled at my breast like she normally does. She took a couple of mouthfuls of milk and promptly pulled herself away from me and screwed up her little face. I wasn’t sure what the problem was so I tried to encourage her. She went back to the breast and had the exact same reaction. By the end of the day I was in tears when I realised she had weaned herself without any warning. My final baby, My final breastfeed.
Fast forward a few weeks and it was revealed I was pregnant with the twins. I am told that when you become pregnant, nature changes the taste of your milk so your feeding baby will wean in readiness for your -in-utero baby.
As you know our journey with our twins was very different to how we expected. I was excited to tandem feed our twins but never got that luxury. When Lucia was six weeks old and put to my breast for the first time I was so very apprehensive. I had done this many times before but this time my fragile little person looked so tiny in comparison to my massive breast.
Due to her tiny size and like many premature babies, the lactation consultant suggested we use a nipple shield to help her hold on to the breast and stay attached. They get tired so easily so every bit of help provided is for their benefit. I had never used a shield before and found it frustrating, not only trying to feed a tiny baby, hold her high enough up so she didn’t fall down my body whilst also trying to get her gastric tube to the side of her mouth so she could suck properly and watching her and the monitors to make sure she didn’t stop breathing. It was truly terrifying. I can’t tell you how many times we would start a feed and it would end up with her being whisked out of my arms and an oxygen mask put on her face and me standing on the side watching with tears streaming down my face.
She was a trooper though and kept trying. If she was too tired to suck she would nestle her little body on my breasts. It was my favourite time to spend with her. Somewhere along the line she voiced her oral aversion. This meant that with no prior warning she was telling us that she was fed up with anything and everything being stuck in her mouth. Her gastric tube was put in her nose instead of her mouth as she was now old enough for this to occur and she was rested from trying bottles or breasts. A speech pathologist was brought in to teach me and the nurses how to use positive reinforcement to try and encourage her to suck. I knew if she didn’t suck we couldn’t go home.
One morning after about a week of this even her oral stimulation was a disaster. I ended up a sobbing mess. I was lucky enough to have had the head of the Special Care nursery looking after us that day. She suggested we go slowly and make it all about what she wants. I knew she loved her bath and sitting in the rocking chair with me when I read her a story so that’s what we did.
For a week, I arrived early in the morning before the buzz of the hospital day started. I bathed her, I massaged her, I sat in the rocking chair in the dark and read to her. I always did this with my top off. One day she nuzzled my breast and started sucking. Even remembering that moment now I have butterflies in my stomach. She knew how to do it and did it beautifully. She sucked, she swallowed and she breathed all at the same time. What a miracle.
We gradually increased her feeds until she was on six full breastfeeds and it was time to go home.
I was even more determined to feed my tiny baby as long as she wanted it. We breastfed through five bouts of mastitis. One so serious I ended up hospitalised for a severe reaction to the antibiotics which actually started attacking my liver. We breastfed to keep the germs away, to keep her growing, to help get her strong, to keep a strong bond between us as we were separated so long in the beginnning, we breastfed through a six week camping trip, we breastfed through her first birthday, we breastfed through two hospital stays with bronchiolitis, we breastfed when she was happy, when she was sad and sometime just because we wanted to. We breastfed most nights to get her to sleep, she loved it, it was her comfort.
At seventeen and a half months old she woke at 6am, I sat in the rocking chair so she could feed.
She sat up and pushed me away and turned her head in the opposite direction.
I tried again.
She hit my chest and pushed me even harder away from her and tried to wriggle out of my lap.
I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.
I knew my breastfeeding days were over.
I walked downstairs with her into the kitchen, poured her some cows milk, heated it up and put it in a bottle. I laid her down on the lounge and watched the smile spread across her face and the light in her eyes as she grabbed for her bottle.
I watched my baby girl gulp down every last drop of her milk and I cried.
I cried because I wasn’t ready, I cried because there had been no warning, I cried for how hard I fought to have this with her.
But then I smiled, I realised I had protected her, nurtured her, helped her grow big and strong and now she was telling me that she was a big girl and she wanted to do it on her own, with me by her side.
Today my mindset is completely different to how it was seven years ago when we had our son.
Today I want time to stop, I want my babies to stop getting big. Our youngest is on the verge of walking and I know once she takes that first step our world will change again, we will no longer have a baby, we will have a toddler, a little person who will constantly assert her independence in many ways, and then before we know it we’ll be getting her ready for school.
She has made me understand and realise many things, especially that it doesn’t matter what I do to slow down the time, it will keep moving and they will all make sure we understand their need to change and grow before us.
Make sure you enjoy every moment xx