Dear little one,
37 months ago, we met for the first time and started our nursing relationship. You were a tiny, fiesty one born unexpectedly at home, both 4 weeks early and in 2.5 hours. This was the end to a long journey to get you here to us: infertility, IVF, losing your twin, and severe hyperemesis gravidarium. You took to nursing immediately and enthusiastically, and I finally felt that SOMETHING in this whole adventure was going the way it should.
Until it didn’t. Or at least it seemed like it didn’t.
Six weeks of age brought a GI appt as you were referred by the ped who was concerned that perhaps you also had reflux like your older brother. Mama gut said you didn’t, but that you did have some food intolerances so I quit eating dairy in the interim. You were gaining weight, albeit slowly, and we were following this closely with weekly weights. We had seen a IBCLC and even the dentist who looked at your tongue tie and upper lip ties and proceeded with craniosacral therapy which seemed to help with the restrictions (as well as you re-enacting your birth each session by wanting to be held upside down).
The GI walked into the room. Looked at a graph, not at you sleeping in my arms, and pronounced you “failure to thrive”. He then declared that I needed to stop breastfeeding.
Wait. What? What? My heart hit the floor and the tears came shortly after. I managed to keep it together enough to tell him no, I would not stop, but that I could pump and fortify (add calories) if that was needed. He left and I called your dad and sobbed.
We left with the plan being partially fortified feeds and little to no instruction on an elimination diet. At the end of it all, you ended up with MSPI (which is now just milk protein intolerance still at 3 with liquid cow’s milk) and we both ended up gluten, dairy, soy, tree nut, and peanut free. I’ll spare everyone the long frustrating details. You gained weight with the extra calories and restrictions. Mama survived a restricted diet and we were both able to successfully reintroduce almost all the foods (no gluten for mama-celiac and still no liquid milk for you) by 2.
That diagnosis shook me to my core. I sobbed. I grieved that *I* couldn’t provide all you needed to grow and be healthy. Despite my sadness, I fought to keep our nursing relationship intact. You see, you loved nursing. You were a very intense nurser. Much more so than your brother. I knew that for us, for you, just giving up and formula feeding was not going to work. I had to fight. I cried every time I fed you a bottle for the first few weeks. I hated the cycle of pumping, adding formula, then feeding the bottle. But we kept on and you grew.
Along the way, mama (and you) got lots of help and support from other nursing mamas that kept us going. A supportive pediatrician helped. Lori who did your CST helped. Dr. Virts who released your ties at 6 months when your latch became painful helped. Daddy helped by feeding you bottles while mama pumped and cried. Daddy helped by being supportive of us continuing to nurse.
“Ee-es” you called nursing when you became old enough to have a word for it. When you first started using this phrase, you would also sign “eat”. I nursed your brother to past 2 and figured you would proceed on this path as well.
I didn’t expect you to nurse past 3. I admit, there were many times between 2 and 3 where I wanted to call it quits, it was driving me crazy. But, I also wanted you to wean peacefully and on your own time, like your brother. I was fervently praying that wouldn’t take until 4, lol.
It’s now been 3 days since you last nursed. You ask some times at night when you rouse. You sleepily say “ee-ees” and pat my breast. Then you snuggle up on my shoulder and go back to sleep. In this moment, inhaling in your little boy sleepy scent, I am glad that I waited for your time. That I let you choose the end of this story.
And I am ever grateful that we had this story and this journey.