A little over two weeks ago Elle stopped nursing. It was not really a choice that either she or I made on purpose, it just happened that way. When I became sick the week of her second birthday, I was so sick in bed with the flu that having her drink was not physically possible – which to be honest is the only time I could ever have said no. This was also how Maya was weaned. I was too sick (with morning sickness pregnant with Elle) to keep breastfeeding Maya.
I have loved breast feeding my children and am so very sad to be finished. Literally, from my heart I poured my love and energy into feeding them. Holding them close and having them feed is one of the most precious things I have ever experienced in my life. I remember that feeling of astonishment the moment my newborn took its first drink. An instinctual sucking that felt so strange, but so right. It made me feel like a woman, like a Mother, and it created a bond and connection to my baby that is so special, so unique, and so personal. There is nothing like it, the pure love of giving yourself to another. Giving your baby the best, what it needs most, and what nature intended.
The journey of breast feeding for me has been completely natural, I could not have made any other choice. It never once occurred to me that I would not breast feed my children. I always thought I would do so until they were around two years, as my Grandmother did for all five of her babies. I admired my grandmother for doing this, and when people would say “Oh they did not do that when I had my children” I would proudly say “My Grandmother breast fed all five of her babies for almost two years each”. I felt that she made this decision based on her babies needs, and her intuition, not what other people were saying and doing during the 1950’s and 60’s when breast feeding was at an all time low in many societies.
I have loved every moment of Breast feeding my girls, even when it was hard. My journey of nursing my children has not been all smooth sailing, but no matter what I would not have given up! When I had Maya, my milk came in with such an intensity and abundance that I had the most engorged breast imaginable! My boobs started under my arm pits and were like rocks up to my clavicle bones (I will spare you that photo!). I was in such pain that I had to go to the Dr, who was very helpful and suggest cabbage leaves and herbal tea. Both of which I did. After about a week my milk supply and the amount Maya was drinking balanced….Maya drank a lot, hence the huge production…so I just kept on making a lot of milk…and eventually my boobs relaxed, and I got used to it . They did however become very very sore from all the drinking. Maya would drink every two hours, night and day, so this gave my nipples little time to recover. Bleeding cracked nipples is very painful, so quickly I worked out that if I fed from just one breast at each sitting then that at least gave a 4 hour alternate interval, during which time I would coat my nipples with a herbal salve to help them heal….oh so painful.
In time this all passed, and the miracle of producing milk and doing right by my baby out weighed all pain. Even while this was all happening, I was so happy to be feeding my baby that the discomfort did not matter. Within a month I was fine, and I had a very very chubby baby as reward!
With Elle it was all much easier as I knew what to do, but I had forgotten just how much milk I produced and how painful it was when my milk came in. That was until once again I had huge engorged boobs! I sent Aunt Heidi and Cam out for cabbages and for the first few days after having Elle I could be seen with leaves stuffed down my front. I have a photo taken like this the day after I had Elle, I am wearing a pink bra and cabbage leaves in it. Not my best look! I smelt like cooked cabbage and would have to wash before feeds, but it sure did wonders.
Elle did not drink near as much as Maya, and having fed Maya for almost two years, I did not have the same nipple tenderness as the first time. Second time round it really was much easier. Elle took a little while to figure out how to drink properly but with my coaxing and patience, and her practice, she got it and there ensued two years of fantastic drinking.
Over the period of 4 years of nursing both my Girls, I had mastitis 4 times. Once with Maya and three times with Elle. Some times worse than others. One time it was quite bad and like the flu and I could not get out of bed, my body ached all over. This was in addition to the burning red hard cyst like lump from the blocked milk duct- OUCH. A dose of antibiotics cleared it up quickly and in days I was feeling fine. I think back to it now and even though these few moments were hard, the reward of nursing was so great, that I could almost forget I ever had any pain.
Breast feeding has been one of the greatest joys in my life. After weaning Elle I felt in mourning for the loss of this connection – and still do. I was sitting and talking to Cam about it, sharing with him my feelings of sadness and loss, and Cam said “At least you got to do it, I never even got to do it”. This put the biggest smile on my face to hear him say he wishes he could have breast fed like I did. Hearing him express this made me see how valuable he thought the experience was. Cam saw the maternal bond that breastfeeding created with our babies, and he always felt he missed out on that. I loved that my breastfeeding our babies made my husband wish he could do it. The lure of the boobie and the power of Mother’s milk…it is oh so magical!
Breast feeding represented so much for me, it is symbolic of giving birth and becoming a mother. I am very sad this part motherhood is over…Here are some intimate photos of the special every day moments of breastfeeding Maya and Elle.