I wanted to update where I am/have been with breastfeeding for the past 2 years. I’m anticipating needing more help and support in the next few months.
So H is still breastfeeding at 3.75YO (see summary of saga above @medfordkung). He was down to just once a day by the time my second arrived when he was 2.5 and I was barely making any milk at the time but he has kept with it anyway. More on that below…
With A, my adopted child, I worked really hard at getting him to adoptive breastfeed for the first 10 weeks of his life. We had so many issues compounding things (my Hashimotos, his laryngomalacia, the suddenness of his arrival as we only knew about him 1 week before he was born, his coming to us bottle reliant at 3 days old and us not being able to be with him in the hospital due to COVID, no family in the area and no access to the doula support we had for my first due to lockdown, etc. There were also other factors I won’t go into). Because of the pandemic (he was born early [name_f]April[/name_f] 2020) we were not able to have his laryngomalacia adequately treated right away. I was essentially told if he crashed because of a prolonged episode of apnea, bring him in for emergency surgery, but otherwise we had to wait. He could not adequately suck, swallow, and breathe whether by bottle or breast because he could not breathe well, but we kept him going. He had his suppraglottoplasty at 9 weeks old during the first day that the surgical floor was open for non-COVID, non-“emergency” cases. I had consult after consult with my IBCLCs and later OTs, who eventually stopped charging me because they wanted to help and his case wasn’t something you see everyday. Attempting to relactate was incredibly rough on me. I was pumping 10-14 times per 24 hours, taking domperidone and herbs, being vigilant about my sleep and diet (but stress was obviously through the roof between early COVID, social isolation, and sudden newborn). I was never able to pump more than 1.25oz a day but I kept at that high level of pumping for 10 weeks anyway. I’m so glad he had my milk, every last drop I was ever able to provide him. I also gave him my own pumped milk I had stored that fully met his needs for the first 3 weeks until we ran out. [name_f]My[/name_f] husband went back to work (grocery, essential worker) at 10 weeks and I was home alone with the two kids for the first time, still with super restricted social support due to lockdown, and the constant pumping just had to go… I kept pumping just twice a day but soon was only getting drops with so little stimulation (still didn’t quit that until 5 months in anyway). I told myself it was a break until I could get my feet under me. It was far too painful for me to think that was it… our breastfeeding journey was over. I had seen what it was like to persevere with H and get to that other side of the rainbow, only after a year… but all my persistence has felt sooo worth it for the bond H and I have shared ever since. So by comparison it just felt like I couldn’t even admit to myself that quitting was truly an option if that was what I was giving up. I cherish the memories of the few times that I was able to tandem feed both H and A at breast. They are some of my favorite moments of parenthood so far. So I had all this cognitive dissonance about stopping my efforts, but it was either that or drive myself metaphorically off a cliff. Something had to give based on the circumstances.
We decided to TTC when A was 6 months (we did not adopt for fertility reasons). Figured it could take a while, figured we also had high chances of a loss at some point (Hashimoto’s quadruples the individual relative risk of miscarriage, which of course is already prevalent even without thyroid dysfunction). But we got lucky again and conceived right away with this sticky bun in my belly. A small part of the reason to try right away was the thought in the back of my mind that if I could have them close enough together, there was a better chance of getting A to breast. Obviously other reasons had weight, too, but it was a contributing factor. With first trimester sickness and breast tenderness (H still comfort nursing but complaining pretty early that there was no more milk at all), I didn’t even think about attempting to get A back to breast during that time. But in [name_f]April[/name_f] of this year I finally felt ready to figure it all out. I had a consult with an adoptive breastfeeding expert (the author of Breastfeeding without Birthing) for how to strategize about getting a toddler to breast (he turned 1 the week of that consult). Since then, I have been working on making my breast available to him and making my bare chest a happy place with good associations. The hope being that he might eventually try to latch (he hasn’t latched bare, but has latched a few times to a nipple shield, though he hasn’t done that for a few weeks now). I’ve done LLL meetings since I was 10 weeks pregnant with my first baby… now virtual. But I find it amusing to see time after time now that A is beyond a year moms with similar-aged babies coming to talk about weaning while I’m just still trying to get A to the breast in the first place, but I think it’s what I need to give my best efforts in order to feel satisfied with our journey, even if it doesn’t lead anywhere and he never nurses. I’m all about consent-based caring for my children so I recognize that at his age, it is up to him whether he eventually wants to nurse or not… but I’m trying to stack all the cards in the favor and create the environment where that can easily happen. The hope is that when I have milk when my 3rd and final baby is born in just a few weeks (I’m 36w), he will:
- See H continuing to breastfeed as he has been exposed to his whole life
- See baby [name_u]Bao[/name_u] breastfeed round the clock
- [name_m]Feel[/name_m] slightly jealous of all the time in arms that [name_u]Bao[/name_u] gets because they’re nursing and figure it’s a good way to get some of that attention from me
- Try to latch and be really excited there is so much milk and nurse off into the sunset
[name_m]Even[/name_m] if A doesn’t try, I’m looking forward to providing him with my pumped milk. With this third, I’m aiming for an oversupply. 2 days ago at 36w I started breast massage and hand compression. I’m also encouraging H to nurse more often again (he was down to once every few days for the 2nd trimester, but he was SUPER excited when I started to have drops of colostrum again and has been willing to try when I offer now, as opposed to before when it was all about him asking). I’m also taking Goats [name_u]Rue[/name_u], Malunngay, and Alfalfa, herbs that have worked well for me in the past and that are evidence-based to start prenatally to up the chances of higher milk production postpartum.
Ideally, I’ll be breastfeeding for 2 more years at the very minimum. 2+ years was my goal with H and I obviously made it. I’d like to be able to exclusively breastfeed [name_u]Bao[/name_u], as well as providing for all of A’s toddler milk needs, replacing the cow, sheep, goat milk he has been on since a year. H can wean when he is ready but I’d love more time tandem nursing and I do think it REALLY helped the transition to siblinghood for him last time. I’m hoping it can help again. If possible, I’d love to continue to donate as I donated before A came along, and then we relied heavily on donor milk during his first year as well. I’d love to give back what I can. So basically I want to make enough to feed the world… but we will see what happens. I still have the thyroid stuff working against me. And I’m very anxious about Bao’s oral anatomy. H had sooooo many issues of oral dysfunction and anatomy that worked against us and I know parts of that are genetic and likely to be the case again. But I’m hoping that [name_u]Bao[/name_u], too, can come out latching and nurse off into the sunset. I’m so ready for an easy, straightforward nursing journey. It’d be nice if that could be 1/3 of my story.
Anyways thanks for reading if you made it this far.
TL;DR: whoo, man, breastfeeding is hard. I want to do it anyway.