It happened without warning. It happened so fast, like a band-aid being ripped off.
Just hours after my baby exactly turned one.
– The Incident –
It was a typical morning at my in-laws’. Soon after breakfast, we were watching TV when my baby started getting fussy. Instinctively, I offered to nurse her.
But she turned away.
It was a bit odd, I thought. She hardly refuses to nurse. If she wasn’t that hungry, she would at least clung on for a little while before deciding she had enough.
Never mind, I thought. I can’t force her. She’s probably still really full from all the overnight sessions.
But it was nearing noon and she still did not want to nurse. The last time she nursed was at 7am. I was getting really worried.
Then it started. My baby got really cranky. She cried incessantly, coupled with screams. I thought maybe she was finding it hard to fall back to sleep, as it sometimes happened.
“Let’s take her out in Atok’s new ride,” my husband suggested. That was just a cover-up for his craving for rojak. Hehe. The quick joyride led us to a nearby restaurant with the most awesome rojak.
We had hoped with all the distractions the outside world had to offer, she would eventually get tired and return to her slumber. We thought it was just one of those situations where her body was tired but her mind was fighting against the need to sleep. Normal kids’ antics, right?
But when we got back home, she was still cranky. She did eventually, decided to rest her eyes and fell asleep in front of the TV.
I was relieved. She’ll be back to normal once she wakes up, I told myself.
But no. She woke up and her waking up witnessed more inconsolable crying, more screams. What’s going on??
She was still refusing to nurse.
– Nursing Strike? –
A few days prior, I had learned of something called a ‘nursing strike’. Since being a mom, I have learned so many new terms. A nursing strike can occur due to discomfort caused by various reasons like an ear infection or teething. This discomfort could also be caused by ulcers/sores in the mouth, which would be a nightmare because this would be a tell-tale sign of the HFMD. I ruled that virus out, because my baby did not show any other indications of HFMD – no fever, no red spots, etc.
In fact, she was her usual active self except for the fact she did not want to nurse. And that made her very fussy.
So is my baby on a nursing strike? Why though? The only logical explanation that founded my suspicion as to the reason why, was that she teething.
There was a container full of oranges in the kitchen. I knew my baby liked the taste of oranges and decided to squeeze some juice out to feed her. I used a spoon and she was having a field day sipping on the juice. So teething couldn’t have had a role to play – she still ate/drank like how she usually does except that she refused direct feeding.
It was getting later in the day and I was being as attentive as I could to her to steer her away from further moodiness. Her young uncle was doing all he could to entertain her. She still didn’t want to nurse.
Next, we gave her water. She drank like a pro. With a spoon, of course. She was thirsty, no doubt. My MIL and aunt were baffled. My husband, too. What was going on?
We rushed home. I needed to pump badly. My breasts were getting engorged and sore.
– All She Wanted Was a Bottle –
At this time in my Mommy Journal, I had exclusively breastfed my baby for one year. It was mostly direct feeding and via bottle when I had to work. So my baby was no stranger to bottles. Before the age of one, she had already taught herself how to hold the bottle without assistance.
I pumped and immediately bottle-fed my poor, thirsty baby. After one day of non-nursing, supply was good. LOL.
She took the bottle as if she wanted to say, “Well it’s about time, Mommy!”
No hesitation. She once again, drank like a pro.
I felt sad and rejected.
Did I do something wrong?
Is something still wrong with my baby?
Why won’t she want me?
I didn’t do anything differently, so why?
How long will this last?
– The Questioning –
Next, I conducted an inquiry, a mother’s (delayed) due diligence. I sought advice from my sister who is medically trained, from my cousin who had worked in pediatrics, from my sister’s friend’s sister who is a paediatrician, from my SILs, other moms — anyone who could shed some light. I frantically did research and read articles. At this point, my research revolved around two words: nursing strike.
They told me not to worry too much, since my baby was her normal self, minus the nursing bit. That this could be due to several reasons, and to wait it out.
From the information I gathered, it was stated in multiple articles that a nursing strike could last for a couple of days to two weeks. Sometimes, the reasons remain unknown. It also stated that for a baby under the age of one to self-wean, was very rare. Was my baby self-weaning?
I kept on offering later in the night and the next day. Result? Negatory.
Afraid something was still wrong, I wanted to bring her in to the clinic or Emergency. On the outset, she was perfectly fine though. With some monitoring from my sister, I waited until the next day of which coincidentally, my baby was due for her next doctor’s appointment. Very timely.
– At the Doctor’s –
“There has been an interesting development,” I told my baby’s paed. I told him what had happened.
Dr. C didn’t seem surprised. He explained this could be self-weaning but I’ll have to see in a few days. Other than that, he and the nurses did their routine check-ups and nothing raised a red flag.
The doctor told me as my baby had already hit the one-year mark, she can now eat what we eat. Save for those with bones, spices, etc. of course. My baby had never been a big fan of baby food anyway. She was excited about homemade puree at first, but gradually became nonchalant because she wanted more. She wanted something to bite on, with more taste. Since she already has those cute teeth, we’ve started giving her baby biscuits, which she loves.
The doctor also recommended giving my baby fresh milk as she’s big and ready enough to consume it at this juncture.
I had to accept reality that soon, I will not be able to fully rely on breast milk like I used to. Even if it was my goal to exclusively breastfeed my baby until she reaches the age of two, it’s not a practical way to go anymore, now that I am on a daily pumping regime.
– The Pressure to Breastfeed –
Sometimes, I do believe there’s too much unnecessary pressure from society for mothers to breastfeed. Of course, mom’s milk is the best, but mothers who resort to formula do have legitimate and valid reasons. At times, it’s not even a choice. It’s the only way. We should not punish them but instead give them more credit. Frankly, breastfeeding makes life a lot easier. Easy access to milk – any where, any time. Preparing formula milk requires more work…and the need to actually get up in the middle of the night.
With the alternatives of fresh milk and formula milk, I was facing a bigger problem. Will my breast milk-fed baby (who now has developed better taste buds) accept these substitutes?
A week went by and she still refused to be nursed. I had tried offering on a daily basis but the moment I put her in a nursing position, either she turned away or found it amusing.
“Sombongnyaaaa,” I told her. :’-(
– The Acceptance –
By then, I accepted the fact that my one-year-old had self-weaned.
Wow. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. I thought it would happen gradually. But no, my baby went cold turkey.
As I’ve mentioned, the way this incident went down was like having a band-aid ripped off. Quick with short-lived pain, and rewarded handsomely. I now need not worry about weaning her off, a process that could have become very difficult.
I was fueled with different emotions.
Sad because I missed nursing.
(As much as it was stressful initially.)
Stressed because I was unprepared.
Relieved because it happened so easily.
Tired because of all the pumping.
Happy because this incident shows how independent and intelligent my baby is. 🙂
(Not that a baby isn’t if he/she doesn’t self-wean, though. Hehe.)
Worried because I didn’t how long I can endure the constant pumping. It wasn’t painful at all; it was about the hard work it required.
Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to bond with my daughter anymore. It was quite the contrary. She was in fact, more manja than ever!
Perhaps, it’s a blessing in disguise. 🙂
– Pump It! –
My daily routine now consisted of constant pumping. On top of other mom duties, it’s very exhausting.
You’ve heard of exclusively breastfeeding.
I was exclusively pumping.
I was on a strict pumping schedule i.e. every 3 to 5 hours, 24/7. Yes, round the clock. Each session produced 5 ounces of milk on average, which is sufficient for one feeding. Which meant I had to pump for every single feed.
My baby would drink 5 bottles per day.
5 bottles x 5 ounces = 25 ounces of milk / day
Which is perfect. A one-year-old like her needs 19 to 30 ounces of milk each day; anything above that is oversupply.
It’s amazing how God designed the way our body works and how it caters to our baby.
I was worried that without direct feeding, I would be missing on the needed stimuli to sustain milk supply.
For every situation, there’s always a solution. I read about ways to ensure continuous supply of breast milk while exclusively pumping. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
- Breasts should be emptied out completely.
- Each pumping session should not be too short nor too long. Ideally, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Even after the last few drops, pump just a little more.
- Make sure to eat!
- Fluid intake must be good. Drink plenty of water.
Another recommendation is to pump as frequent as you would nurse. This is quite impossible because the number of times I nursed each day was not fixed. I plonked my baby right on my lap for a nursing session whenever I felt the baby was hungry and when it was convenient. This did not mean that milk intake was more for my baby with breastfeeding, as there was no way of deciphering how much the baby was actually getting.
– Got Milk? –
Although I have grown accustomed to the daily routine of pumping, I am slowly introducing fresh milk to my little girl. It’s at this time I tell myself that I should have listened to my mother. Hehe. Before this self-weaning fiasco, she advised me to start supplementing my baby’s feeds with formula while slowly doing away with breastfeeding. Weaning the baby off was anticipated anyway, so it was crucial for me to start the process gradually. I however, was adamant to sticking to my two-year exclusive breastfeeding, as widely advocated. Again, I did feel pressured to achieve this. When in fact, there was nothing wrong with not being able to take this route.
We must give more support to mothers who are not able to breastfeed. While we take the effort to normalize breastfeeding, we must also normalize vice versa. Sometimes, society is as fault into making mothers feel guilty about giving their babies formula.
It’s not dangerous, it’s not harmful. It’s called…..feeding your child!
Moreover, from a medical perspective, the most crucial period for a baby to receive breast milk is the first six months.
This is where I am – exclusively pumping and on the search for the best fresh milk, that agrees to my baby’s taste buds. She’s beginning to concur with the idea, thank goodness.
I’m grateful that although my baby refuses to be nursed, I am still able to provide her with breast milk. That feeling of being able to pump for a feed – priceless. If you’re not able to, totally OK. Remember that.
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Whatever the situation, never forget to embrace motherhood and
seriously (like, seriously) stay positive!