My inner hippie chick was released as soon as my pregnancy was confirmed. I made the decision early on to try breastfeeding, although the idea admittedly freaked me out a little. However, when Jackson was born, breastfeeding didn’t come naturally for either of us. I remember the first time I tried to nurse him, three hours after he was born. I couldn’t get him to latch correctly, and we both ended up crying and frustrated. I had my first new mom doubts about the decision I’d made.

But I’m a bulldog momma. Once I make up my mind about what I feel is best for my child, I rarely change my mind. I’d had pregnant daydreams of rocking Jackson in the glider, and nursing him gently to sleep. So I let myself be guided by instinct and I buzzed a nurse to schedule a visit with the hospital’s certified lactation consultant.

This was, hands down, the best parenting decision I’ve made to date.

The first time he successfully latched on, as the lactation consultant guided us, tears of joy sprang to my eyes and I knew I’d made the right decision not to give up during those first few frustrating days.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Moments after our first nursing session.

Months later, I was making breastmilk smoothies and pumping at work like a pro! The early days of tribulation had become a fading memory, thanks in part to the support team I’d assembled: the lactation consultant I met in the hospital and called as needed, my local La Leche League, the hospital’s in-person breastfeeding support group, a Facebook group of local breastfeeding moms, and a few coworkers who were also pumping in the office. With advice and support from these women, Jackson breastfed for 33 months.

Milk drunk!

Milk drunk!

Breastfeeding him helped us both in so many ways, in addition to giving him the best nutrition possible. Jackson was a high-needs baby, and nursing soothed and comforted him when nothing else could. As a mother who suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety, I, too, was comforted, as breastfeeding provided me with a few quiet and calm moments every few hours, when we would stop whatever we were doing and simply enjoy some skin-to-skin contact alone together. Further, once I got the hang of it, breastfeeding boosted my confidence—which, as a new mom, I desperately needed!

This post is part of BlogHer’s My ‘I’m a Mom Moment’ editorial series, made possible by Seventh Generation.

This post is for all you breastfeeders out there (dudes, you might want to skip it). I’ve had some trouble finding resources that provide the nitty-gritty details about what weaning a toddler from breastfeeding feels like.

As you know if you’re a regular here, Jax self-weaned on May 12 after 2 years and 9 months of nursing (a lot, up until age 2). Since then, I’ve had issues with anxiety, soreness, and insomnia. I can’t say whether those issues are definitely related, so take this post with a grain of salt. I am simply sharing my experience these past 6 weeks.

First, let’s talk anxiety. I’ve detailed previously how I have severe PMS occasionally that makes me feel like an emotional basketcase. Because Jax weaned very close to my period in May, I’ve really had only one full cycle since weaning, and the lactation consultant I spoke with last week said that it could take several cycles for my hormones to “level out.” Probably every other cycle, maybe every third cycle even, I have 1-2 days (about a week before my period) where the anxiety is relentless. This past cycle–the first full cycle post-weaning–was the worst. My anxiety started a full 7-8 days before my period. I can deal with a day or two of having to skip coffee and sugar, take an extra bubble bath or two, and generally take it easy. But a week?! I’m a full-time working mom with a hectic schedule. Let’s be realistic–I can’t practice extreme self-care for 7 or 8 days! So that was a tough week. But it passed & I haven’t had any anxiety since. I’m staying off the caffeine permanently, though (so I say now).Thank god for decaf & herbal tea!

As far as sadness or depression–I didn’t feel sad about weaning, oddly enough (to me). I had expected to be upset at the end of nursing. But guess what? I’m not! Perhaps part of it is that I’d been thinking about it for months before it happened. Part of it is that Jax initiated it & hasn’t asked since. The biggest reason is that 2 years and 9 months is outstanding, and I’m really proud of that achievement. I set my breastfeeding goals low initially–I was hopeful to nurse my newborn during my maternity leave. Then, once that was going well, I aimed for 6 months. Then when we hit that, I aimed for a year. After the year mark, I stopped making goals until, I admit, I becamed determined to have him weaned by age 3.

So, the little sadness I have felt the past 6 weeks snuck up on me and surprised me. It has been difficult for me to determine whether it’s a hormonal post-weaning thing or whether it’s part of the strangest grieving process I’ve ever had, given the situation with my dad (who died in May, only 4 days after Jax weaned). I’ve had a few random days that felt like major PMS–weeping at other people’s bad news, commercials and tv shows, sad songs, you name it. I keep telling myself that it is normal and will pass–and it definitely seems to have resolved (though I’m afraid to say that out loud & jinx it!).

Second, the soreness. Ouch, the soreness. For the first month after weaning–yes, an entire month–my boobs felt so sore! You know how toddlers are with their heads, bashing you with them constantly, right? Well, every time Jax bashed his big ol’ head into my chest, I winced and/or yelped. Fortunately, that feeling has subsided and toddler headbutts aren’t as painful anymore (unfortunately, I think my boobs have shrunk a little!). I  spent so much time the past month feeling for clogs that didn’t happen (if I have a peeping tom, I’m sure I made him happy, haha). My advice to those in the middle of weaning? Use ice compresses, sleep in a bra, and be vigilant for potential clogs.

Third, the insomnia. I’m not sure what that’s all about, actually. A quick Google search of “weaning and insomnia” brings up plenty of results, which is kind of reassuring. I appreciated what Ask Moxie said about weaning and feeling down, including having sleepless nights: Get 15 minutes of exercise plus a 15-minute massage and an omega-3 supplement daily. Sounds good to me! I do notice that I feel better on the days I walk during my lunchbreak, and I always take an omega-3 supplement anyway. Just have to figure out how to get that daily massage!

In short, every woman will have a different weaning experience. Mine has included a little anxiety, a smidge of sadness, a lot of soreness, and insomnia–no walk in the park. But I’m optimistic those symptoms aren’t my new normal, and I’m knowledgeable how to cope with them if they get to be too much.

If you weaned your baby or toddler, I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

Driving to work this morning, it dawned on me that all the anxiety I’ve been experiencing the past week and a half, and the sadness before that, is more likely a result of Jax having weaned than anything else on my plate lately. And trust me, there is a lot on my plate right now.

In short, I had a death in my family in mid-May, only a few days after Jax weaned; I assumed deep and unresolved emotions were to blame for the general anxiety and melancholy I’ve been experiencing since then. I’m also crazy busy (utterly swamped) at work, and so is my husband, whose new promotion has him working extra hours (and me picking up the slack at home every night). And then there is the usual insurmountable to-do list that comes with being a mom and wife. Let’s just say the dust bunnies have multiplied, and I’m considering attaching Swiffer dusters to the bottoms of everyone’s feet tonight.

Since mid-May, though, it’s often felt like too much all at once. This past Friday, for example, daycare sent home a note with Jax about how he may have been exposed to hand-foot-and-mouth disease. And then, don’t you know, Friday night he puked on me three times and spiked a fever. When he started to complain that his finger hurt and his lip hurt last night, my anxiety spiked too. However, upon close examination (many times, believe me), there are no tell-tale signs of the virus, so I guess the puking and fever were something else. He woke up at 5 this morning completely ravenous and fever free, so he’s back at daycare today so I can tackle my overwhelming workload.

Whoever came up with the name “hand-foot-and-mouth disease” should be severely reprimanded. Agree??

I left a voicemail for my trusted lactation consultant and am waiting for a return call. One that hopefully will reassure me that that anxiety and mild depression are completely normal after weaning (especially when weaning is combined with icky emotional stuff like death and a heavier-than-usual workload) and that it should subside any freaking day now. What I don’t want to hear is that I should consider medication or that this is not normal or that it should have subsided by now. (Not that there is ANYTHING wrong with medication. I simply prefer to avoid it at this time.) I got pregnant with Jax in 2008. I was either pregnant or breastfeeding for nearly 4 years. I should expect my hormones to be a little goofy right now, huh?

Kinda feels like super-PMS, with a side of insomnia.

Of course I’ll do whatever it takes to help myself return to normal as soon as possible. Like quitting coffee (again) altogether. Like forcing the time for self-care through exercise, bubble baths, and blogging. Like eating better. Like taking medication if I need it. Like talking about all this stuff instead of closing myself off.

On that last point, let me add that I am eternally grateful for both my real-life friends who have been so compassionate and for the friends I have on Twitter and through various Facebook groups, many of whom have also experienced the post-weaning blues (or anxiety) and are virtually holding my hand and encouraging me to do what I need to do to get through this rough patch–which I think means blogging about it a lot. For me, writing = processing. Always.

If you’ve weaned and experienced some anxiety or depression, how long did it last and how’d you combat it?

 

Dear Snooki,

I read what you said about breastfeeding during an interview on Good Morning America:

“I’m just scared…. My friend did and she said it was so painful … but I definitely want to pump because it’s the best nutrients for the baby…. It’s kind of like you’re a cow and you’re just milking.”

This veteran breastfeeder is here to assure you it isn’t always painful (and it shouldn’t be painful). If it is, you should seek the help of a certified lactation consultant as soon as possible, in addition to finding a friend who was successful with breastfeeding and is willing to both cheer you on and give you practical advice. Someone you’re not afraid to show your boobs to–which I’m guessing would be plenty of your friends, actually.

Anywho… breastfeeding isn’t scary at all–once you get the hang of it. Ok, ok, the first few weeks are a little weird and crazy (but not what I’d call “scary”). I mean, there’s (potentially) the leaking and the trouble latching and the round-the-clock feedings. But once the baby and you get a rhythm going, your confidence grows and you start to feel like you actually might know what the hell you’re doing. Soon enough, you might find you’re doing it in your sleep!

And the oxytocin (aka, the “love hormone”)! It’s like your brain is fist pumping. Really!

If you ask me (which would be really something, wouldn’t it??), breastfeeding was less scary than pumping. Sure, I got the hang of pumping, too, but I never enjoyed it like I came to enjoy breastfeeding. It was cold and loud and inconvenient–and I did feel like a cow (and who wants that?!). It was the opposite of nursing a baby. I did it because I needed to, not because I loved it. This feeling is also opposite to how I felt about nursing my son.

I nursed my son for 2 years and 9 months. If breastfeeding were scary or painful, trust me, I would have quit long ago. Pain isn’t really my thing.

I could ramble on and on about how breastfeeding isn’t really scary, but let me just stop and give you the best advice I have when it comes to nursing your little one:

Try it for a month, with a lactation consultant on speed dial. You may be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

When it comes to being a first-time mom, a whole lot of things are scary. And I think that’s normal. And it goes away eventually.

 

 

Me & Jax at the carousel on the National Mall

I can’t believe it’s already June! It’s been a quick 10 weeks since I wrote my “Spring Bucket/To Do List” but it doesn’t feel like that much time has passed. I say that every year, though, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

As June begins, I like to revisit my spring list and make a new one for summer. I’m happy to say that it’s been a busy & fun spring and that I can cross off nearly everything I wrote back in March on that list. Which probably explains the lack of blog posting I’ve been doing, but whatev…

We went to another Flyer’s game, and Jax cheered and did all the adorable things toddlers do when egged on by family members seeking an easy laugh.

We went to Washington, DC–eventually. Our original trip was rescheduled due to the stomach virus from hell, which had me and Jax puking our guts up for a week. It was worth the wait, however. The weekend we chose was the most beautiful weekend all spring. Perfect for wandering around a new town.

We hit up the Italian Market Festival in Philadelphia, like we do every year. I’m disappointed to say I didn’t drink a single cup of wine there and I didn’t eat as much as I usually do. I blame Jax, who was a little crankypants that day. But I did get my pistachio gelato, so all was (mostly) right with the world.

Our friends’ wedding is in 2 weeks. You’ve probably seen my tweets asking which dress to buy or which shoes go with each dress, and so on. Which reminds me–as much as I love Shabby Apple, they sure are awful at responding to tweets directed at them (or maybe they hate me). Good grief!

Playdates, playdates, playdates. We’ve had a few so far. Jax informed me the other day that he plans to marry my friend’s daughter, who is one of our frequent playdates and a year younger than Jax. I told him no weddings for at least 20 years.

Zoo membership? Check!

Phillies tickets? Check!

I’m proud to say I’ve gone out with girlfriends a few times over the past few months, too. I’m trying to make free time (time alone) a priority in my life. It’s key to avoiding burnout, but it has been a challenge for me over the years. Which is odd, given how energizing and refreshing it is!

And as for the jogging stroller, we’ve certainly got a lot of use out of it so far. One of my favorite things to do after dinner is to put Jax in the stroller and do our usual lap around the neighborhood, ending up at the local park. It’s a nice way to kill time before the bath and bedtime routine and combine fresh air with some light exercise.

In addition to those bucket list items, we’ve been busy with other things this spring, too! Like weaning! And hitting our local farmers’ markets. And spending tons of time outside, whether in our own backyard or in a friend’s or family member’s yard.

What’s on your summer to do list? I need some help writing mine!