I have always held onto the dream that it is possible and that I would get to exclusively nurse Penelope one day. I dream of not having to pump of course, and the freedom that it would give us, but I also dream of having a true nursing relationship. I am thrilled and very thankful for the nursing experiences I have been given, but I want more. I have it in my head, that if I can teach a older baby to do yoga and go poo on the potty on their own, I can damn well teach an older baby to nurse. I feel like Penelope is getting to that stage. I feel like she is almost ready. By ready, I am not sure exactly, but I feel like this moment I have been waiting for, her whole life, is getting closer. When she nurses, I say things like “do you want milk from mama?” When I offer her a bottle, I say “do you want milk from your bubba?” When I feel her sucking harder or make swallowing sounds, I say “Yay, Penelope! That’s a good girl, get that Mama milk, you can do it!!” She is beginning to comprehend. She also eating more and more solids each day and she is drinking slightly less milk in a 24 hour period now too.
I am a part of an online support group for women who have had to exclusively pump and not by choice. Of the almost 500 women on the group, only two (that I know of) have had success getting their babies to 100% nurse full time. One mom got her baby to fully nurse at 4 months after the baby’s third frenotomy and one got her 12 month old to exclusively nurse after stopping the bottle cold turkey and switching to sippy cups and the result was the baby wanted to nurse more than use a sippy cup. Both babies were comfort nursers like Penelope before they went to exclusive nursing.
I have found as much information as I think I can published online, but I would love to see if there are any other mothers out there that have gotten their older babies, specifically ones around Penelope’s age (she is almost 10 months) to exclusively nurse after bad starts, pumping and baby being able to comfort nurse. I have also looked up information on women who adopt an older baby and get them to nurse, and toddlers who re learn how to nurse once baby number 2 comes along and they want to nurse again after they have weaned, but still would love more detailed information from personal accounts.
So here’s some information about our situation and the questions I have:
I have talked about my nursing woes and successes here a couple of times. I am still not ready to tell the detailed story, because like I mentioned in my birth story, this story is not over yet and not ready to be told. I am still in the thick of our breastfeeding journey. The short version of the beginnings of our story is that Penelope had severe tongue tie. The first frenotomy at day 6, did nothing to free her tongue. Finally, at 8 weeks, I went with my gut and got a second opinion and we did in fact need a second, much deeper, frenotomy. She also had TMJ from her Atlas vertebrae being out. It caused her muscles on the right side of her jaw and neck to be so tight they would spasm and they caused her pain. She could hardly move her jaw enough to open her mouth wide enough, and then she couldn’t drop it down to create the proper suction movement. On top of both those things, I have flat nipples. I also think there might have been some issues with her palate being on the smallish side and my nipples being on the biggish side.
Finally, after taking her to 5 million different appointments and trying every breastfeeding contraption and trick known to man, AND spending a small fortune, I was finally able to get her to comfort nurse the day before she turned 5 months old. She nurses to sleep and if she is fussy and wants a little comfort. I am basically a human pacifier. But to eat, to really get a full feeding, she wants her bottle. Or as we call it, her bubba.
Lately, I have been feeling like something needs to change. Maybe its because Fall is in the air. I don’t know. Or maybe, like I mentioned before, I just am starting to realize that Penelope is ready to try. Mostly, I think its because I am so. damn. tired. of. pumping. Maybe my urge to quit pumping is the signal she is ready. My original goal was to pump for 12 months. To try to follow the World Health Organization guidelines for breastfeeding as best I could. Soon after that, I decided I wanted to pump for 2 or 3 years, because if I was exclusively nursing Penelope, we would do child led weaning and would probably nurse for at least that long. I am pretty damn close to my original goal. Only two more months to go. If I have pumped for 10 months, I can certainly last two more months.
Right now, I pump two times a day. Not bad you say? Yeah, well, each pump session is over an hour. The mid day one really is not that bad. It’s during her nap and now a days her first nap is an hour and half to two hours, so I have some time to get things done after the pump session. It’s the night time one that is killing me. Penelope goes to bed late, and that is not the problem, it actually works for us, because she usually sleeps late too. So I put her to bed about 9:30 or 10p. It usually takes about 10 to 20 minutes to get her to fall asleep by nursing. By the time she is good and asleep, I could easily fall asleep myself. But instead, I have to force myself to get up and go pump for over a damn hour. Then make bottles. Then clean bottles. Then wind down all over again. By the time I am just about to drift to sleep, she wakes up for night time wake up #1.
My specific questions are this:
1. If I quit the bottle cold turkey, how long do you think I could go without starving/traumatizing her before I re introducing milk in a sippy cup. The plan would be to quit the bottle and only offer the breast for a day or two, trying to communicate to her that if she wants milk, she has no other option than to get it from me. I will try the SNS again when we quit the bottle to see if it helps, but it has never helped us in the past.
2. Is there anything I can do to teach her how to be a more efficient nurser and suck harder? I already give her praise, massage/tickle her jaw, tug on my nipple as if I am about to pull it out to get her attention and pull it back in, and do compressions to squirt milk in her mouth to get her to get going more or have more interest.
3. Check out my “game plan” to get her ready for the Big Switch, let me know if there is anything else I should add.
1. Start introducing more solids. As of now, she eats a handful of blueberries and half a piece of bacon for breakfast, nothing for lunch or snacks, and then at dinner she gets one egg yolk, and pieces of whatever we are eating-usually mixture of meat, veggies and fruit. The total of the evening food is only about a handful or two at most. I already started this today and added another full egg yolk for breakfast. I will also give her some fruit throughout the day for snacks.
2. Get her back to cuddling in a nursing position when she gets her bottle. Up until a few months I ago, I held her in a cradle position and had her rest her check on my boob (also called bottle nursing), to mimic breastfeeding as much as possible. I had gotten really lazy about this in the last two months. Penelope had gotten so active and mobile that she didn’t want to sit still long enough to get her bottle. She would much rather play than eat. She hasn’t gained a pound since she was 6 months old (she is 21 pounds then and now), so I started to get a bit worried and decided that getting milk in her body was more important than her getting the skin to skin and being in a cradle position with her head on my boob. We also get lots of skin to skin from nursing to sleep and baby wearing, so I didn’t think she was being deprived. So we started having her sit in my lap, in a reclined position, but her head facing out so she can still look around and do her dance/kick routine. She was more willing to sit and get her bottle this way. Then she started wanting to sit up or stand up and have her milk, and I let her do that too, again, because I was more concerned about getting milk in her. But now that she is eating more solids, I think this is a good first move. If she wants milk, she has to be in my lap, no question about it.
3. Offer her the breast more. I do this a lot already, but I need to do more consistently before I offer the bottle.
4. Maybe start putting the SNS on, while we nurse to sleep. Getting her to take in more milk while nursing to sleep, and thus needing less from the bottle to begin with before we even make the switch. I wonder if she would more readily accept it when she is sleepy?
5. Get rid of the nighttime bottle. I have already started doing this too. We are down to 2.5 ounces in the bottle. I have been giving her a bottle at night this whole time, even though she would nurse at night, because I wanted to give her a full feeding at least once at night in hopes that it would help her sleep longer stretches.
6. Wait for the sippy cups to arrive. I ordered this one. If the Big Switch fails and she is starving and miserable, then I am going to reintroduce sippy cups for milk, no more bottles ever. The reason I am using these types of sippy cups is because they are BPA and Phalate free and one of the lactation consultants we have worked with told me to use a sippy cup with a straw because the negative pressure sucking a straw is similar enough to the negative pressure sucking while breastfeeding and it might actually make her more of an efficient sucker now that she is older. Also, if the Big Switch fails at 10 months, I will try again later in a few months.
7. When I do the Big Switch, I am going to dedicate a few days to doing nothing but hang around the house with her, so that I can offer the breast as much as possible. I will also be topless most of the day. Penelope always comfort nurses in the bath with me. As soon as I am naked and she sees my boobs, she opens her mouth and makes a dive bomb for them!
8. Once the Big Switch has started, I am going to cut each pump session by 15 minutes or so, leaving me a bit more fuller for her. If it goes well, I will continue to wean myself from the pump in 15 minute intervals.
9. I will try the SNS at all regular bottle feeding times, in hopes that the milk will flow faster for her to keep her nursing for a full feeding. In the past, this has never worked for us, she either can’t transfer enough milk even with the SNS, or it tickles her mouth and annoys her and she wants nothing to do it.
10. During the Big Switch, give her lots of attention, skin to skin and praise. Giving up the bottle, the thing that has given her milk and comfort since she was 2.5 weeks old could be pretty traumatic. Even though its going to be a little traumatic, I really feel that going cold turkey is the only way to get some success. I feel like when we gave up the paci cold turkey when she was 3 months old (I gave her one at 4 weeks when I felt like nursing had been shot to shit), it was a big piece of the puzzle that helped open the door for her to latch on to me.
11. I will give her more water from her water bottle to keep her hydrated. And closely monitor her pee and poo output.
12. Spend lots of time visualizing success. I am big believer in the Law of Attraction. I need to visualize me putting the pump away, or Hanging Up The Horns as we exclusive pumpers say. I need to see the milk flowly freely and in large quantities from my breast into her mouth and belly. I need to picture myself putting away the bottles and pump parts and see myself nursing her in public or at home, no matter where we are or what we are doing.
13. Lots and lots of praying. I have been doing this every day for her entire life. Every day, I pray: “Please dear God, if its your will, help Penelope figure out how to transfer more milk so I can exclusively nurse her and be free from pumping.”
And on that note, if you pray, please pray for us. To get her to 100% nurse to get the milk she needs at this age, is going to be a full on miracle.
Thank you for taking the time to read this entire post and thank you in advance for any advice you have for us.