Monday, May 11, 2015

The Unbearable Process of Weaning

I've been a bit of a mess lately...

Ok, let's rephrase.  I've been a bit MORE of a mess lately than I usually am.

Ben was 21 months old on the 5th of May, and he has boisterously decided that he is done nursing. The problem with that is that I had a PLAN!  A PLAN!  One of the very first things I learned about babies with Down syndrome is how vital breastfeeding can be in helping them form the oral motor skills needed for eating, drinking, and talking later on.  Benny's specialist told us, "There is absolutely nothing our speech therapists can do for him later that will help build those muscles up as much as nursing him will do, and I highly suggest you nurse until he is at least 24 months."

Mind you, this was told to me as I was feeding my little love a bottle of expressed breastmilk because he wouldn't latch on.  I was slightly less than devastated because of my, in my own mind, failure. You see, Benny HAD latched on right after birth.  My little man latched on and drank to his heart's content as soon as I was able to hold him to the awe of the doctors and nurses.  I was told that breastfeeding would be difficult for him due to that lovely extra chromosome, and probably unlikely, but he slurped in the face of negativity and drank on.  However, he then began having complications and was taken to the NICU where he spent the next 7 days on a bottle.  They tried to have me breastfeed him, but he was bottle spoiled and I was exhausted, and clumsy, and uncomfortable in this room full of anxious parents and their beautiful warrior babies.  So, I learned how to pump and pump I did.

Back to the oral motor skills...

Being that this tidbit about breastfeeding and how important it was for speech development was stuck in my head, I became a Mama with a mission.  I was absolutely determined to get Benny to latch again and give him this little extra boost, no matter how small, to help with those mouth muscles.  I became obsessed.  I tried EVERY SINGLE DAY to get him to latch.  I tried nipple shields, different positions, and anything else that was suggested to me.  Looking back, I think there was a bigger meaning here.  Looking back, I think that at this point when very few people still even knew about Ben having Down syndrome, this was the one thing that gave me the slightest bit of presumed control.  In my post-natal, hormonal brain, getting him to latch again was the first battle in the war of Jamie vs. Down syndrome.  It was the first battle, and damn it I would WIN it!

I won.  Exactly 8 weeks to the day Ben was born, Benny latched on and drank a full meal and never looked back.  I was victorious!  I had beaten the odds!  My child, who was bottle spoiled in the NICU AND had Down syndrome, was latched on and drinking like a champ!  It was beautiful, it was amazing, and it was ... was ... freaking painful!  HOLY CRAP!  What in God's name was going on! I was in so much pain, it was ridiculous.  It literally took me until Benny was almost six months old before I, along with a LOT of help from lactation consultants, my OB, and some APNO, finally found our groove.  He was happy, I was happy, and suddenly nursing became easy.

Ever since then nursing him has been not only my own personal little triumph, but it has become something I look forward to.  It is OUR time.  I work full-time outside of the home, and I have an amazing Nanny that Benny loves, so coming home and nursing him feels like the ONE thing that I get, that is just me.  Nursing him is what reminds me that I am his Mama, and he has decided he doesn't want to do it anymore.

About a month ago, Ben has started going through a lot of changes.  He has become very mobile all of a sudden.  He's still not crawling, but he will and SOON.  He's butt scooting all over the place, trying like hell to pull himself up on anything and everything he can get his hands on, and generally just into everything.  He's starting to show likes and dislikes for things such as foods, drinks, and toys, and he has developed this wonderful little personality out of nowhere.  However, with all of these beautiful, amazing milestones, has come a strong frustration.  He has begun hitting himself in the head, pulling hair, scratching and pinching to the point of drawing blood on us, and biting. Oh...the biting.

I, to put it mildly, have been having a difficult time with this.  I have shed more tears than him i'm sure.  Rationally, I understand exactly where he is.  He's frustrated, he knows what he wants, but he doesn't know how to communicate it.  Emotionally, I am a mess.  I take every scratch, pinch, and bite personally.  I can't help it, it's just so upsetting.  Sometimes, he does it because he thinks it's funny, and that I can handle.  It's when he is upset with me that hurts the most.  My problem is that i'm scared to death and, first of all, am learning as I go here.  I don't know what parts of this are normal toddler behavior, and what parts are Down syndrome.  I don't know if this is nothing to worry about because all kids do it, and if this is the beginning of what could be my child wearing a helmet into his teenage years because i've never been able to break him of hitting himself in the head.  Yes, I know i'm crazy and am probably worrying myself over nothing, but I just can't help it.

So, this brings us to this past week.  On Monday, Benny decided that he was done nursing.  He decided to tell me this with two straight days of drawing blood on me by biting me, scratching me and pinching my face.  He went from this sweet baby that was cuddling and nursing his Mama on Sunday, to a Holy terror for the next two days.  I had a plan.  I was going to nurse him til he was 24 months old like the doctor said because that is what would help him.  He had another plan, and he was pulling rank.  I. Was. Devastated.

I was over the top stressed out, anxious, and just plain sad.  I cried so much this week, I had to blame allergy season on my puffy eyes.  My baby didn't want me anymore.  The ONE thing I have that makes me special, that makes me his Mama, was done.  It's over.  I no longer have anything that differentiates me from anyone else.  I will no longer have sweet baby cuddles with just him and I that make me feel like the luckiest Mama on the planet.

Those were my thoughts this week.  Yes, please, laugh your ass off at me.  I am well aware of how melodramatic that is, but unfortunately it's honest.  I went there, and I was wrong.

On Saturday morning, the beginning of Mother's Day weekend, I woke up to a sick baby and an even sicker husband.  All our plans for the weekend were cancelled and I went into nurse mode.  I gave Mark meds and a sippy cup filled with pineapple juice in bed.  Yes, Mark is my husband and, yes, I did give him a sippy was just convenient considering he couldn't sit up.  Don't Judge...  Side note: I so badly wanted to take a picture of this but didn't out of fear of retaliation.  Anyhow,  I cleaned out Ben's sinuses and loaded him up with Elderberry syrup and as many fluids as he would take. happened.

I was lying in bed with my sick baby, and he began to play with my hair so sweetly.  He started giggling as I nuzzled his neck.  He was running his tiny, chubby, little hand up and down my face with no pinching or scratching at all.  He laid like this for hours while a movie played and just loved on me.  It was exactly what I needed.  In the midst of what seemed to be a horrible ending to an even worse week, my almost 2 year old gave me the best Mother's Day present I could have ever asked for. He reminded me that nursing him is not what makes me his Mama.  He reminded me that giving birth to him is not what made me his Mama.  He showed me that all the battles I win and the battles I lose are not what make me his Mama.  Ben reminded ME
that the unending love that I have for him, and that he has for me, even when things are so difficult I don't want to get out of bed, are exactly what makes me special.  Unconditional love is what makes me his Mama, and nothing will take that away.

On Mother's Day, I hope that each and every one of you remembers that.  It's not whether or not you gave birth, or nursing, or choice of formula that makes you a Mama.  It's not your choice to stay home, your choice to go back to work, or how long you pumped for that validates you as a Mama. It's not your wins or your losses.  It's not your guilt or your feelings of inadequacy that define you as a Mama.

It's just LOVE.  Love is what makes you special to them, because the love between a mother and child is the most magical thing on this earth.

Happy Mother's Day


  1. I have a 6 month old who has DS as well, and have already experienced so many similar emotions! Love your blog! I'm going to add your blog to my list of fave blogs at!


Would love to hear your thought, comments, advice, or emotional outbursts!

-xoxo Jamie