by Alysia Lee
Hong Kong Working Mothers' Group
Now that I have weaned my younger daughter, Tara, I can look back on the many months I spent breastfeeding her and her big sister, Padma. What fond memories! In a way, it shocks me to realize that I spent a total of 50 months nursing my two daughters. During the whole time, I worked in a full time job and lived as usual.
My elder daughter Padma weaned quite suddenly. She self-weaned at 20 months because she simply lost interest in breastfeeding. There wasn‘t much I could do about that.
Looking back I think the abrupt nature of her weaning was perhaps connected to her interest in taking the bottle. With both daughters, I worked full time. The major difference is that I expressed a lot more for Padma. Once I was back at work Padma got used to drinking from the bottle. On weekdays – in a 24-hour period – she was probably taking half her feeds from a bottle. She became a professional at bottle-feeding and enjoyed the fast flow of the milk. Padma was quite attached to our domestic helpers while I was away at work. So, perhaps that could be another reason for her satisfaction in taking the bottle.
Furthermore, one month before she completely quit breastfeeding, my husband and I had to dash away to Malaysia to attend a family funeral. We did not bring Padma along. What I did was express and dump the milk during the trip while she took her usual organic cow’s milk mixed with my remaining stash of breast milk in the freezer. Upon my return, we went back to our nursing relationship but I could tell she was starting to lose interest.
When she did wean it happened quite suddenly. My breasts became sore and engorged because of the missed feedings and I had to express just enough in my warm showers to release the hardened parts of the breasts for a few weeks. It was not a pleasant experience.
When my second daughter Tara was born, I found breastfeeding generally easier than with my first daughter. I had more experience and was more alert to any breastfeeding problems, so I was able to resolve any small problems without too much stress.
When Tara was a baby I was able to make some changes to my work schedule. Although I still worked full time, I cut down the amount of time I was away from the home and almost cut out expressing entirely. This was partly because I did not have as much success in expressing breast milk as I had with my elder daughter. During my lunch break, I went home to nurse Tara. It was much easier than spending time in the office bathroom expressing. In the early months when she needed more frequent feedings, I would go home for an extra feed. I am lucky to be working for my family business, which gives me more flexibility. After the first year, we were still nursing about four times a day until perhaps 18 months when we were down to three times. All along, my little one was taking solid food and Tara enjoyed eating a lot! I think she was well over two years old when we began to cut down another nursing session. I took the cues from my daughter. I did not want her to feel pressured. Breastfeeding is a happy relationship between child and mother. I knew the breast milk was providing her with extra nutrition and also building up her immunity.
My goal was to complete two years of breastfeeding since this was something that I had wanted to accomplish at the time of Padma’s weaning. By about two years two months, I was only nursing Tara once a day. Around this time we moved apartment, so while that was happening I didn‘t make any changes to our breastfeeding routine, as I didn’t want any extra pressure. Once the move was over we started to cut back on the breastfeeding sessions again. From breastfeeding once a day, I cut down to once every twodays. After two weeks, I spaced that pattern even further until I was only nursing her once a week. That took us a good three months until I told myself that I was ready to wind it up. I knew my body was ready and I knew she was.
Then, when she turned two years five months, Tara had an accident. She fell while chasing a balloon at home and the fall caused a broken front tooth. She cried so hard and for many minutes, we couldn’t figure out if the blood was coming from her mouth, her lips, her tooth or what. She was just bloody all over. That incident kind of brought her back to nursing again. I could imagine her gums being very sore; yet, nursing must have provided her with some security and comfort. And in those moments, I was so glad that I hadn’t dried up yet and was able to satisfy her with her emotional and physical needs.
Tara weaned so gradually that by the time she finally stopped my body had adapted and I had no engorgement and no discomfort.
Nursing relationships take two to tango. I count my blessings for having had the opportunity to nurse both my children. I have had asthma since the age of two, I always felt it was particularly important for me to breastfeed my children. So far, I am happy to say that although Padma’s respiratory system is generally weak, but she’s now seven year’s old and has not been diagnosed with asthma. And Tara shows no signs of respiratory problems. I hope things will stay this way! I do feel that thanks to the immunological benefits of breastfeeding their little bodies are now ready to overcome future illnesses.
Close to the Heart Vol. 11, No. 2 (Mid-Year 2010)
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