I set out to breastfeed for a year. Outsiders get on board with a goal like that. I was triumphant at a year, but it became quickly apparent that at 366 days old, my daughter was not aware of any 12 month goal of mine and she didn’t want “Na Na” to go anywhere. So we kept going.
At 14 months, I was feeling a little used. She was big now and much stronger and could yank at my shirt, impatient and demanding. I had a few weekend trips away coming up in the next 2 months and zero desire to lug my pump along, so I figured this would be a good time to stop.
I hopped on kellymom.com and started reading up. It was obvious the Internet wanted me to keep going and I would need help to strategize weaning, so I reached out to the IBCLC who helped me establish breastfeeding at the very beginning, Amanda Ogden, Director of Lactation Services at the Mama’hood.
I went for a private consult because I just didn’t feel right going to support group and whining about wanting to stop when so many moms are doing everything in their power to get breastfeeding going! It seemed ungrateful somehow and I wasn’t ungrateful for what I shared with my daughter, but I was ready for a change.
I vented this and more to Amanda while she observed Lillian playing around her office. She told me I didn’t have to stop on account of my trips. My milk wasn’t going anywhere.
Amanda offered her opinion that quitting right now, based on Lillian’s development and continuing need for connection with me, was going to rock her world and probably result in some crazy tantrums during the adjustment period.
You know what sounded even worse to me than continuing to nurse whenever and wherever she wanted?? Upsetting our whole system and dealing with the fallout.
We came up with some boundaries so I could feel a little more respected while continuing and we had set times now for Na Na, just 3 times a day: wake up, 4 pm when our nanny would leave for the day, and bedtime. Lillian knew Na Na happened at home. I always had other snacks and water with me and our new schedule was working well!
I traveled with just a hand pump. First for three days and came home with 10 oz total. She didn’t have any breastmilk in my absence. And then three weeks later, I traveled again. I only pumped once in three days because my breasts never filled up or got uncomfortable. My partner easily put Lillian to bed with bath, books and a pacifier and after I got back, I learned that I could also put her to bed with the same routine, and without nursing.
The only feed that stayed was the 4 pm transition M-F after being apart all day. It was so crystal clear to me that this was about connection and not food, and it probably had been that way for a long time.
And then, the unexpected happened. It was the beginning of July 4th weekend and I had been with Lillian all day when we were finishing dinner at 6 pm and it dawned on me that we hadn’t nursed at all!
I thought to myself, Hm, let’s see if she’ll go to bed without it. She did.
And then the next day I thought, well let’s see if we can do it again. We did.
The third day, she asked for Na Na and I offered her a snack. We had snuggles with her favorite lovey in the chair where we used to always nurse.
It was over.
My body was used to 3-4 day spells of not nursing. So it took about 7-8 days to get really full and uncomfortable. I reached out to Jen Roth, herbalist and owner of Birds and Bees Teas. I started drinking cup after cup of Milk Be Gone and used cabbage leaves. Finally after 2+ weeks, my deflated boobs seem here to stay.
That’s the physical after effects.
Emotionally, I was unprepared. I had been ready for a few months to be done so when it happened, I thought I would feel relieved. I wasn’t. Lillian didn’t need me in the same way anymore. What would mothering her feel like or look like now?
A few weeks have passed so I can tell you what it’s like now. We have had some clingy moments where Mommy is all she wants. And I’ve had moments where I just want to hold her and stroke the top of her head like I got to do for hours upon hours when we would nurse. Now she’s too busy and on the move to sit still for more than a minute of cuddling, but I take what she’ll give me and close my eyes to drink it in.
It felt like forever those 18 months, but it was just a window of time in our lives. A time where we could both take and give something to the other.
So nursing mamas, here are my thoughts now that it’s over for us:
- Think of what you’re getting from baby while you’re giving to them.
- Put down your phone. I know, it’s the perfect thing to do with your free hand, but the world can wait.
- Celebrate this time of connection. I was honored to participate in the Breastfeeding Project. I encourage you to capture these moments however feels right for you.
- Take a deep breath, close your eyes and send them a thought, an energy, a wish. Send them your peace, your calm, or a wish for a restful night.
You’re giving more than milk. More than food.
You’re comfort. You’re safety. You’re all things.