Harper has officially been weaned for just over a month, and World Breastfeeding Week just happens to start today! Did I ever expect to be nursing a nearly 3 year old? Nope! But my parenting experience has been, if you ever say you'll never do it, that guarantees you will. Here's a bit of our journey, that thanks to a willing husband, selfies, and some amazing local photographers has been well documented.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed. It was supposed to be this natural thing that both you and baby just DO. I was told there'd be 3 weeks of pain and then after that it was easy. I had this magic "3" number in my head, and was in excruciating pain for all those weeks until I finally reached out for help. I was at the point where I wouldn't feed Harper on her early, more pleasant feeding cues, and would wait until I HAD to feed her, which resulted in both of us crying. By the time I reached out for help, I was missing a chunk of my nipple. It was raw and painful to say the least. I had a lactation consultant come to my home, and unfortunately wasn't given that great of advice overall, but did take Harper to get her upper and lower lip tie, and posterior tongue tie lasered by Dr. Heit at Scotia Square Dentistry. While I understand the long term importance of tie removals, it did nothing for us in the short term. I was still having the same pains while nursing, except now we got to do a bunch of stretching exercises on poor little 1 month old Harper's mouth on top of it all. Not one to give up (I am extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something), I went to my family doctor, showed him my sad nipples, and he instantly said thrush. All my Facebook mommy groups led me to believe that babies AND mom both have to show signs of thrush, but not in this case. My nipples were all he needed to know! I was placed on a 4 week course of prescription anti fungal medication, and referred to lactation consultant Erica Kalke. I had a much better experience with Erica, and I remember at around 8 weeks old I was finally able to breastfeed Harper in public, with no pain. It was amazing!
We finally had the swing of things, this girl loved her mommy milk so much, and I loved being able to enjoy nursing her, finally! THIS is what I had envisioned for so long. I didn't get her dream midwife birth, but I was able to accomplish this with a lot of hard work and perseverance. Around 6 months, I was at a babywearing class and one of the instructors, Julia Mio, chatted with me about going to my local La Leche League, where she was a leader. I had heard of La Leche League, but always felt too shy to go by myself. Julia convinced me to go, and I went to their next meeting. It was such a wonderful experience, and I remember opening up to the group and crying about Harper nearly being 6 months old and sad to start solid foods. We worked so hard to get breastfeeding to where it was now, and now she's going to eat solids and forget all about me! Well, jokes on me, Harper hated solid foods until she was around 15 months old!!
When Harper was 8 months old I had the opportunity to work with Kelly Marleau of Fiddle Leaf Photography for her Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project for 2015. Myself, along with several other milky mamas got together at Glo Juicery and got some amazing photos taken.
At just over 2 years old, we got the chance to be a part of A Mother's Beauty 2016 by Hobbs Photography. This inspiring post went viral, for good reason, so chances are you've already seen me in my panties! Video clips were on the news, and I thought it was so awesome that I was shown nursing my toddler on TV.
For the longest time I would nurse on demand. I had said I wanted Harper to self wean, but apparently my "milky" is REAL GOOD. Eventually I had to put up some boundaries. This started with no nursing while out (unless she got hurt or was overwhelmed and really needed it!), then eventually I decided I'd like to know what it felt like to sit on the couch and not have a boob out. Then we were down to just morning/naps/bedtime/overnight, which when I think about it is still a lot of times during the day, but 5 times is still less than the 600x it felt like before. Then I cut it to just bedtime/overnight. Then I decided I'd like to also know what it felt like to sleep through the night after 2.5 years, so we cut out overnight nursing, and after a couple weeks Harper decided she also liked to sleep! Wahoo! At this point, we were only nursing at bedtime, and it wasn't lasting long. I was experiencing some nursing aversion, plus I was starting to resent it. Was breastfeeding why I haven't been able to conceive after trying for a year? We had such a good run of it after such a rocky start, I didn't want to end on a hateful note. So I decided I was done. I told Harper, we planned a super fun day, I got my husband to take a ton of photos of our last nurse, and I had a good cry. Breastfeeding had been such a huge parenting tool my entire parenting experience, what am I going to do without it? Time would tell. I'd figure it out!
Harper's first day officially weaned was a blast. We made cupcakes, we went to a play place, we got a fun new book. It was awesome. My big girl! She would ask for milky at bedtime, and I'd remind her of the super fun day we had, and she'd smile and cuddle me. I didn't need the breastfeeding to be a good, connected mom. I get more cuddles now than I ever did before. My husband shaved his beard around the same time Harper weaned, and I swear she asks more about his beard than she does about milk!
I'm glad I could share a bit of our story, and honestly I could talk about breastfeeding/breast milk/public breastfeeding forever, so if you ever want to talk about it you're seriously doing me a favor! I thought I would list some resources/tips that I wish I knew to begin with, but look forward to using once I get to have another little babe (send some baby dust my way, will you!)
My main tips would be, research while pregnant, and ask for help. Don't pull a "Zoe" and try sucking it up for so long that the problem takes 4x longer to solve than if you just dealt with it in a timely manner.
La Leche League (they also have a 24hr phone line, please don't hesitate to call!)
Edmonton Breastfeeding Cafe - Facebook Group
Lactopia Lactation Services - I have not used Lee-Ann, but she is very highly respected in the community
Lip/Tongue Tie Laser Revisions: