Thursday, June 18, 2015

Our Weaning Story

If you don't care about breastfeeding you may just want to skip this one! 

irrelevant picture for cuteness! :)

Grayson has been fully weaned for a week now! Does that make me enough of an expert to write this post? I'm going with, yes! 

It still feels weird saying that Grayson is weaned or that I no longer breastfeed. It happened so gradually and painlessly that it almost doesn't seem real. Where was that stretch of really hard days/nights while we transitioned? They simply did not happen! It was easier than I ever imagined.

Some of my fellow breastfeeding friends have asked me questions about it. How did I do it? Why now? Did it hurt? Did he cry? So, I hope to answer some of those questions here!

First of all, why now?

Despite uncertainties prior to being pregnant, by the time I had Grayson, I was 100% committed to exclusively breastfeeding him! At the time, I was praying for at least a 6-month journey, but ideally 12-months. I wasn't convinced that I would be weaning right at a year, but I also felt like he would be so much bigger and older by 12 months that I might feel like he was ready.

Well, babies are still babies when they turn 1. The pressure to wean at that age is just baffling to me. I continued nursing on demand and pumping at work until Grayson was almost 15 months. At that point, I stopped pumping at work and switched him to whole milk during the day at school. I continued to nurse on demand when I was with him on evenings and weekends. At that point, weaning was not even on my radar. I didn't see the point and I definitely didn't feel like he was ready.

I'm so thankful that we hadn't weaned yet because when he was so sick in February, there were days when he wouldn't eat or drink anything other than nursing. It saved us all a lot of stress and concern because I knew he was getting enough nutrients and hydration, while also getting the comfort he needed while he felt miserable.

Around 17-18 months, I started thinking about when I wanted to wean. I didn't necessarily feel ready, but I was contemplating when the time might come. I was fully prepared to continue nursing until he turned 2. That was the cut-off point in my mind.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the calendar and realized just how many big things we have coming up as a family this year! Scott and I are going to Vegas for a work conference the week that Grayson turns 2 in October, and Grayson will be staying for 4 nights with Scott's parents (I can't even think about that yet!!). I knew I wanted to wean him at least a month before then so that his time away from me wasn't anymore stressful than it already will be.

Not knowing how weaning would go, particularly the nighttime feedings, I wanted to make sure I weaned during a time when Scott would be available to help out with night wakings and bedtime routine. I figured it would be easier to transition Grayson away from nursing if I stepped out of the picture for a while during the most temping times to nurse. I realized, if that is the case, then the time to wean was ideally now! Scott officially begins training for his marathon in July and will be frequently getting up around 4 am to run. I didn't want to ask him to help with sleepless nights if he would be getting up that early. We also have a week-long vacation coming up 2 weeks from now, and I didn't want to be transitioning during a week away from home when other things will likely be thrown off schedule.

So, that's how I decided to go ahead and wean when I did! But how did I do it?

One thing I knew for sure was that I did not want this to be a stressful and traumatic experience for either of us! I didn't want to do something that would involve a lot of crying (for me or him!). I didn't want him to feel rejected. And I didn't want to look back on this years and years from now and remember it with pain and sadness. Our breastfeeding journey has been so special and wonderful; I wanted it to end peacefully as well.

My biggest piece of advice for weaning is to wait until you think you're both ready for it, and don't just do it because you think it's when you should. Yes, I decided based on the time frame of certain events, but I also was already contemplating it and thinking that we were nearing the time of both being ready. The only reason I was looking at the calendar was because I was contemplating weaning!

Grayson was only nursing a few times a day anyway. He was used to not nursing during the day when I'm at work. He always nursed first thing in the morning and when we got home from work/daycare. Then, if it were my turn to put him to bed, he would always nurse to sleep, and if it were my turn to handle any wake-ups (assuming he actually woke up), then I would nurse in the middle of the night. So, at most, it was 4 times a day. Usually it was only 2-3. I imagine it would take longer and be a little more difficult to wean a baby or toddler who was still nursing several times a day.

To make this process gradual and as painless as possible, I drafted a 5 week weaning plan, having Grayson fully weaned by the time he was just over 20 months old. It looked something like this:

Week 1: cut all nursing session to 5 minutes or less
Week 2: cut the feeding when we get home from work/daycare
Week 3: cut the morning feed
Week 4: cut bedtime feed
Week 5: cut middle of the night feed

It was really more like a 6-7 week plan because I actually had a week in between 4-5 that was to limit to only one night feeding (since some nights he would nurse twice in the middle of the night--by the time we got to that week he was only waking up once anyway) and there was a buffer week in case I needed to hang out in one week a little longer than the others. The goal was to be weaned before our beach trip. Ideally, at least one week prior.

It only ended up taking those 5 weeks, though. So, how did it go? Was it hard/painful? Did he cry?

There have been some tears, but very few. The first week was basically nothing because it turns out he was only nursing 5 minutes or less already. I had just never paid attention to the time before. It was more just a week of me preparing myself, mentally, for what was coming. Week 2 was probably the hardest for Grayson. Two days he actually cried about wanting milk and asked for it like a broken record, but it lasted less than 3 minutes each time. It made me sad to tell him no, but I snuggled him and told him I loved him, and then I distracted him. Yes, that week we had a few more snacks and watched a little more TV to help get us through! Fortunately, he also started drinking from a real cup around that time, so that was an easy distraction because he was always eager to try out his new skills with ice water!

Week 3 was surprisingly not hard at all. He shares my breakfast smoothie with me every morning, so instead of nursing first, we just jump straight to that. He still asks for milk afterward sometimes, but now I just offer to get him some in a cup or just snuggle instead. He usually just lays his head on me and snuggles. No tears or begging. He just asks and then moves on quickly.

Week 4 was easy because I just eliminated the temptation. Scott put Grayson to bed every night that week. When I started alternating with him again during Week 5, Grayson easily accepted no milk, just snuggling. I also offer water in a sippy, and sometimes he'll take a few long sips of that.

Week 5 had only one night with real tears, but again, they only lasted maybe 2-3 minutes. He still asks for milk in the middle of the night, but I just say, "no milk...let's just snuggle." And he doesn't cry or get upset. He may ask a few more times, but it passes quickly.

The hardest thing for me was the night before Week 4. My last time nursing Grayson for bedtime. That is such a precious time for us. We rock, nurse, snuggle...I sing to him, pray over him, and sometimes whisper him a story. It's one of my favorite things. So, it was a little hard to let that go. I feared it meant I would lose all of it if I couldn't nurse him. I cried after putting him to bed. But I'm pleased and relieved to say, we still share all the special aspects of bedtime, just minus the nursing.

And there was no physical pain for me. The gradual approach meant no painful engorgement or leaking and no drastic hormonal shifts. It also helped that my body was already used to nursing only a few times a day. I can still feel that there is milk---one side more than the other! But I know things will go fully back to day! I'm just glad there was no pain or risk of plugged ducts or mastitis. If you're weaning earlier or more quickly, you really have to be careful about that! 

Weaning looks different for everyone. Every mom and every baby is different. What worked for me may not work for you. Follow your mommy instincts. Do what is best for you and your baby. Don't let your decisions be made for you by anyone or anything. If you wait until you think you're both ready for it, you should be fine. There are various approaches, but this gradual and gentle approach worked wonderfully for us. I highly recommend it, or something similar.

Feel free to email or comment with any questions! I would love to help or offer any suggestions! :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

20 Months!!

I don't think I've posted a monthly Grayson update since 17 months!! Oops! :/

With Daddy in downtown Columbia, SC.

Ready for the beach!

Ready for the beach!

he found his newborn hat from the hospital and then wore it for about 30 minutes! ha!

Loves music!

And reading! :)

And going for walks at the park!

And snuggling while watching movies! (Clearly I am the one always taking the pictures since they're mostly all with Scott!!)

Playing with his bubble gun!

Water fun at a friend's house

Checking out the monkeys at the Riverbanks Zoo in SC

I guess I just don't know what to say anymore! He's like a full-fledged little kid now! Or at least that's how it feels to me. Let's see...

New Moves
+ Still dancing, but with more rhythm! He loves music and will dance all around the room!
+ Running at full speed!
+ jumping/bouncing! He doesn't quite get his feet off the ground, but he is trying!

New Words
+ I'm not even documenting words anymore. He says countless words, phrases, and sentences. 
+ Example: Yesterday he said, "Oh no, elephant! He just fell." Of course not every word is crystal clear all the time, but it's close enough that most people can understand him. And we are well versed in Grayson speech, so it's easier for us to pick out meaning in his sentences. :)

+ 16 teeth
 + Eats fairly well. Let's just say, he's a toddler! 
+ Drinks from a regular cup! Still uses a sippy cup on trips, during the night, and randomly during the day, but usually prefers a regular cup (he likes water with ICE!) 
+ His current favorites are goldfish, "apple crackers" (Kashi nutrigrain bars), "honey" (peanut butter...idk why he thinks it's honey), apples, scrambled eggs, and still the beloved black beans.
+ Grayson is fully weaned from nursing! It's definitely bitter-sweet, but I drafted a 5-week, gradual plan so that it wouldn't be abrupt or traumatic (for either of us!). He still asks for it occasionally, but he doesn't usually get upset when I redirect or tell him no. I only cried about it once, and it was when I cut the bedtime nursing. Thankfully, we are still able to have our same routine without the nursing, so I didn't lose that precious time with him!

+ I'm probably jinxing the crap out of this, but he slept through the night last night! 8 pm - 6:50 am! Woohoo!
+ We removed the front of his crib a couple months ago, so now it's more like a toddler bed. He still has a guard rail, though. 
+ Sleeps with about 6 stuffed animals and two blankets. He still sleeps with his paci, but we'll be weaning from that in the next couple months. One thing at a time!

Favorite Songs:
+ Jesus Loves Me and Jesus Loves the Little Children
+ The Tigger Song
+ Move It, Move It
+ Sesame Street songs
+ Uptown Funk
+ Anything from TSwift's 1989 album!

Favorite Toys/Activities:
+ Books! We try to go to the library once a week to pick out new books. It's become such a fun tradition! And it's nice to have new reading material each week. :)
+ Playing outside, especially with balls, bubbles, and sidewalk chalk
+ Going for runs with Daddy in the jogging stroller
+ watching TV (yes, I'm afraid so. But we do it very sparingly!)
+ Sesame Street and Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals
+ Singing and dancing

Favorite Movies/Shows:
+ Winnie the Pooh!
+ Disney Sing Along Songs (my old VHS tapes from when I was little)
+ Curious George
+ Sesame Street
+ Minions! (clips from Youtube)
+ Finding Nemo
+ The Lion King
+ The Jungle Book
+ Big Bugs Band! We put it on this past weekend to see if he would remember it from when he was a baby. I don't think he did, but he fell in love all over again! There is no plot, just short 1-2 minute little episodes of these cartoon bugs playing different styles of music. But he's obsessed! He dances and sings along. I like it too, but I have to admit, I would rather watch something with a little story behind it! ha!

+ I really don't know! At his 18 month checkup he was 24 pounds and 2 1/2 feet tall
+ size 5-6 shoes
+ clothes...sizes anywhere from 12 months to 2T/24 months. 18 month is the best fit most of the time.
+ Size 5 diapers

+ Beginning the early stages of potty training! He now tells us immediately after (and sometimes before!) he poops and asks for "fresh pants." He often pees in the bathtub and is very interested in the process. We installed a toddler seat on our toilet, which he sat on today for the first time. He was very excited, but didn't do anything. We also purchased a little potty for the floor, which I think will be easier for him in the very beginning stages. For now, we're just following his cues and letting him explore and familiarize himself with the potty. Definitely not pushing him!
+ He can sing along with parts of his favorite songs, which is adorable! 
+ He is more aware of strife, and gets upset easily when he thinks someone is in trouble/danger. Scary parts of movies upset him (like Nemo's mom being killed by a shark or Tigger and Eeyore being chased by honey bees) and he has full-on sobbed after Scott shouted at the cat for scratching on the door frame.
+ He just the best! I know I'm biased, but it's true! He's so sweet, smart, and funny! I just love him like crazy! :)

Here's to many more months with my little bean! :)

Friday, June 12, 2015

You Know You're a Parent When...{Part 5}

{Part 4}
{Part 3}
{Part 2}
{Part 1} 

+ You find raisins in your bed nightly

+ Speaking of raisins, you hear your spouse say, "Did I seriously just brush your teeth while you were still chewing on a raisin?"

+ You talk about George (Curious George), Nemo, Hotdog (Mickey Mouse), Pooh and the gang, and Elmo like they are members of your family.

+ You look back at a picture of yourself from just 2 years ago and wonder what happened to that baby face...without a dark circle or wrinkle in sight!

+ Coffee, coffee, and more coffee!

+ You forget that there are times when talking about poop is not really appropriate.

+ You obsess over Disney plans, particularly the time of your reservation to eat breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and friends! (Okay, you don't have to be a parent to do this. But it helps!)

+ A romantic anniversary getaway involves the zoo and watching HGTV in bed with a glass of wine.

+ You are forever mastering the art of waiting patiently and calmly for a meltdown to end. Real life example...

Grayson: Screaming, wide-mouthed, eyes brimming with tears
Scott: What's wrong?
Me: He got some spaghetti squash on his fork when he was trying to just scoop up the Romano cheese.
--- Moments Later ---
Grayson: Calm, sniffling still
Me: Ready to take a bite now?
Grayson: Happily accepts a bite of spaghetti squash and continues to eat like the world's most tragic thing didn't just happen to him 

+ Every night you explain to your toddler that if he would only look up for 2 seconds, you could wash the shampoo out of his hair without it getting into his eyes. And every night you end up just pouring water on his head and resisting the urge to say, "What did I tell you?" Most nights you fail at that.

~Until next time...happy parenting! :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Our Annivesary Vacation Part 3 - Riverbanks Zoo

If you're just joining me, you can catch up on the not-so-pleasant start of our vacation in Part 1, and exploring downtown Columbia, SC in Part 2.

At long last, we finally made it to the zoo! We really had the best time! We got there right as they opened, so we were able to park right in front of the gates and walk straight into the first exhibit with very few other people. The first exhibit was the aviary, where we walked around and hung out with the birds! This was definitely one of Grayson's favorites! He is obsessed with finding birds, so he was thrilled to see so many just flying around him and within reach! We didn't pay to feed them because I wasn't sure how he would react to having birds land on him/us, but the birds were so active that we were able to get very close to them and they often flew right by our heads! Even now, a few days later, Grayson is still bringing me my phone and asking to watch the bird videos! He loves them! :) It was such a great start to our visit! My heart swelled up and I knew we made the right choice to still go to the zoo on this trip!

Next we saw a tiger, to which Grayson said, "It's Tigger! It's Tigger!" I started singing the Tigger song and he bounced and laughed. Then, we made our way over to the lions, which he was also interested in, but then a regular ol' bird flew by (not part of the zoo!) and he exclaimed, "BIRD!" Everyone around us thought it was pretty funny that he was more excited by the random bird than he was the lions. I told you, he LOVES birds!

We stopped by the monkey exhibit and had some snacks. The monkeys were super noisy and Grayson thought it was all very exciting! He enjoyed imitating them and jumping around!

Next was the petting zoo area, where Scott fed the goats and llamas and Grayson found a "bumbee" (bumble bee) in one of the garden areas and had to spend a few minutes sitting and watching it. It was really so refreshing just going at his pace and trying to see the world from his eyes. Here we are, surrounded by unfamiliar animals, and he is enthralled with a bee!

Grayson wasn't feeling the selfie... LOL!

Checking out the bumbee! :)

We continued through the rest of the exhibits, some he liked more than others. I thought he would love the reptile rooms because he is always searching for lizards in our back yard, but I think all the large lizards and snacks scared him or bored him (or both!). After a while, he would just say, "No!" when we walked up to a new tank.

My favorite part, in general, was hearing Grayson greet each animal! In every exhibit, he said, "Hi, ___" and when he was ready to move on, he would say, "Bye-bye, _______, bye-bye!" For example, "Hi, penguins!" Then a couple minutes later, "Bye-bye, penguins, bye-bye!" He literally did this was almost every animal we saw! It was the sweetest thing!:)

Our other favorite exhibits had to be the elephants and the giraffes! Grayson loves elephants, mainly because of Jungle Book. He also still asks to see the elephant picture on my phone! And he has mastered his own elephant walk, as a result of the zoo and the movie! Too cute!

And definitely the BEST part of the whole day was letting Grayson feed the giraffes! We walked over to the feeding area, Grayson was eating a nutrigrain bar, and the giraffes came right up to us! We were just going to look (I didn't know if he would be scared), but Grayson immediately held out his nutrigrain bar and said, "Some?" offering it to the giraffe! I told Scott we had to pay to feed them since he was so willing! We let Grayson feed them a whole handful of lettuce, piece by piece, and he loved every second of it! I wish I had gotten it on video! :( But we did manage to get several awesome pictures! He would reach for more lettuce saying, "More?" Then he would say, "Oh, giraffe!" When one would come over he would say, "All right..." and then gently hand it a piece of lettuce. Those giraffes are HUGE and have crazy long tongues, and a couple times they put his whole hand in their mouths. I probably would have been terrified when I was his age, but he was in heaven! We still talk about it and he laughs. :)

After the excitement of the giraffes, it was clear that Grayson was getting sleepy, so we transferred him to his stroller. We were planning to leave at that point, so he could take his nap on the drive home, but I really wanted to see the botanical gardens. I knew Grayson wouldn't be too excited by them, but I figured he might nap in his stroller while we checked it out. It was a bit of a hike to get up to the gardens, and Grayson definitely zonked out on the walk! He slept through the whole walk to, around, and from the gardens. It was kind of nice because it allowed Scott and I to have some "alone" grown-up time to celebrate our anniversary! Hey, you take what you can get! :)

By the time we finished with the gardens and made our way back to the zoo exit, Grayson was awake. He stayed awake the whole drive home, but fortunately he didn't fuss at all. We watched Finding Nemo in the car, which is now one of his favorites. We also discovered that he's really aware of what is happening because he started crying at the beginning when Nemo's mom is killed by the shark! We had to skip to the next scene! I think we'll be doing that from now on! Poor little boy! :(

We arrived back home around 4 pm, Scott went grocery shopping, I worked on unpacking, and Grayson hung out with me and ran off some more energy around the house! Thankfully he was as exhausted as we were because he fell asleep by 6:45! Personally, I felt like I had been hit by a bus! I think it was largely from the stress of the previous day, combined with all the walking and early mornings. It was great to end our anniversary weekend with pizza, The Voice, and a beer! Cheers to the start of our 7th year! :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Anniversary Vacation Part 2: Downtown Columbia, SC

If you read Part 1 of this story, you know that my 6-year anniversary vacation didn't start out the way I had hoped. But I'm happy to report that things turned around and we still had a wonderful time!

After arriving to the hotel and bringing in all our bags, we decided to relax for an hour to decompress! We turned on the TV, made some snacks and coffee, and just laid around together. After we felt somewhat refreshed, we decided to head out and explore downtown Columbia, SC. Just a short walk from the hotel was the capitol building, and there is a beautiful park surrounding it, filled with gorgeous landscaping and monuments. We walked around the park and enjoyed taking in the scenery and the history. The only thing that could have made it better was being a little less tired and not quite so hot! Grayson was excited to discover so many birds and squirrels! (again, why are we paying for the zoo?? haha!)

We walked a little further down into the city and then decided to head back because we were all really hot and we wanted to get freshened up before going to dinner. On our way back, we walked through a really old and ornate church cemetery. I know that seems a little weird, but I just love the history you can find in an old cemetery! It was a brief walk-through, but I managed to snap a few pictures. Is it creepy to take pictures of tombstones? 

We made it back to the hotel, took showers, and got ready for dinner. We opted for a more casual dining option, since we were all a little tired and we figured Grayson might not be the best company at a fancier establishment! While he's an awesome kid, he's not great at eating out. Mostly because we so rarely eat out; I don't think he's used to it! We went to Liberty Tap Room and Grill, and shared chicken nachos and a BBQ chicken pizza. Classy! haha! It was tasty food and a fun atmosphere. I loved all the exposed brick on the walls. Even Grayson pointed out the bricks! (He has taken an interest to bricks lately because we recently removed the giant blanket from our fireplace hearth, revealing the bricks underneath.)

After dinner, we walked to a cupcake shop and ordered two cupcakes. We failed to snap a picture of the cupcakes themselves, but Scott was sure to document the joy and excitement on Grayson's face! As soon as we walked up to the counter to choose our cupcakes, he started grabbing for them and saying, "Some? Please??" It would seem the kid is familiar with cupcakes... ha!

We were all pretty tired at that point, so we just went back to the hotel. We gave Grayson a bath, turned off all the lights and closed the curtains until he fell asleep, then Scott and I quietly watched HGTV and drank wine in bed. Yes, this is an anniversary vacation with a toddler! :)

Grayson got his own bed this time! No more pack 'n play for this little bean! (And he had been asleep for about an hour by the time I took this case you were wondering about the time on the clock! ha!)
The next day Grayson woke us up around 6 am. The zoo didn't open until 9, and we were only about 5-10 minutes away, so we had plenty of time to eat breakfast, watch Disney Junior, take showers, and pack up. Then, we finally headed to the zoo! Woohoo!!

Last vacation post tomorrow -- documenting our zoo visit! :)
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