Posted by: Lisa | June 20, 2011

Breastfeeding: A Reflection on the Past 25 Months

It’s official. The breastfeeding relationship Jacob & I had is now over.

Am I sad? Absolutely. Do I have any regrets? Not a one.

When I was pregnant I heard all the well-known facts about how breast is best and blah, blah, blah. I knew it was cheaper. I knew it was healthier for Jacob. I knew it could help me lose weight & decrease my chances of breast cancer.

I also knew it would be more complicated than formula-feeding, thanks to the fact that only I could produce the milk. And it’s generally considered a little less appropriate to nurse a baby, say, in church or in a restaurant, than it is to whip out a bottle. (I am NOT saying I agree with that – just that it’s a fact society views boobs with a bit more scrutiny than they do plastic cups with rubber tops on them).

So my goal was to nurse for 3 months. I knew that would be better than nothing and it seemed like a reasonable goal. It wasn’t the easiest thing. I was sore. It hurt to sleep on my stomach & I leaked. It was sometimes inconvenient or awkward. I was surrounded by some wonderfully supportive & special girlfriends in a coffee shop the first time I ever breastfed in public. They cheered me on & after that hurdle it got yet a little more doable. But by the time the 3-month mark approached, I realized it had gotten a lot easier and the sessions were shorter & less frequent, so I told myself I’d push ahead until Jacob was 6 months old, since that was halfway to the recommended time set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. So I kept going.

Six months came and went. Jacob was nursing much less often now, making it more convenient for me. I was actually really kind of enjoying our moments together.  It was fun knowing that I was the only person on Earth who could share that experience with him!  He easily went between nursing and drinking bottles of pumped breastmilk, so that helped me be able to enjoy some child-free time. I participated in church activities & occasionally even had some quality date time with my husband! Jacob still nursed during the night at least once every night & I got to hear well-meaning parents & non-parents alike tell me that he would sleep through the night if only I’d give him formula or rice cereal in a bottle at bedtime. I politely declined & kept chugging away as I was. Over the course of the next few months, I began pumping and storing milk that I intended to donate to a milk bank. It seemed like a great cause since I’d been blessed with the ability to breastfeed my baby & was passionate about it. The piles of milk bags in our deep freezer continued to grow, just as Jacob’s round little belly did! I kept going.

I began having some painful problems. I’ll spare you the details, but at one point my mom even suggested that it might be time to switch to formula & that I could rest easy knowing I’d done my best & could be a good mom in other ways than just breastfeeding. I knew, however, that I wouldn’t believe I’d done my best if I gave up. Jon stood by my side & said he’d support me with whatever decision I made. He knew how important this had become to me but assured me I was a wonderful mom no matter what happened. I went to a La Leche League meeting, met with lactation specialists & doctors, & began taking a natural supplement that was supposed to help with my issue. It helped a little, but the problem was still there. Even still, I kept going.

I started giving myself really small goals. Through the pain, I told myself I would just get through the week (I’m anal retentive & felt the need to end on an even day or something). When I reached my goal, I figured I might as well finish off the month. You know, so I could tell myself I went x-number of months.  My little goals piled up & I made it to Jacob’s 1st birthday. I gave away all the samples of formula we’d received – Jacob never had a drop of it! I was SO proud of us but also simultaneously crushed to learn that the milk bank wouldn’t accept my milk because I’d been taking Zyrtec for my allergies.  The lactation specialist had said it was fine, so I thought I was clear, but apparently milk banks have to be much more careful than the mother of a full-term, healthy baby needs to be). I immediately & happily tossed my breast pump in the attic…and the problems I’d had went away just as quickly. Hmmm…coincidence? Then at 13 months Jacob suddenly began sleeping through the night – all on his own, when he was ready, just like that…and not because I gave him formula! Now I easily kept going!

Nursing was now a piece of cake. I very slowly & gently weaned Jacob down to just four sessions a day – morning, night, and before each nap. I had lots of milk stored in the freezer, so he gained all the benefits of that through sippy cups during the day. As Jacob dropped his morning nap, our nursing sessions dropped to three. By now I was so thrilled we’d made it the full year & it was easier than ever. I was in no pain, all of our sessions were done at home, and the 45-minute feedings of newborn days were gladly replaced by 5-10 minute long feedings. People kept asking me if that baby was still hooked on my boob.  I was even told he was too big to still be nursing.  I ignored those people.  I told myself we’d go until 15 months. Then 18 months. Aw, heck, we made it that far. Might as well keep going.  I figured, why not just go the full two years like the World Health Organization recommends?

I cut out the naptime nursing session so we were only doing it twice a day. Then it got to the point where Jacob just nursed once a day, either morning or night, depending on our schedule. If we were rushing out the door in the morning I didn’t bother & Jacob was fine with it. If I had plans to be gone in the evening I just nursed in the morning instead. I quit offering Jacob the breast & only nursed at his request. (Ironically, I once said I’d never breastfeed after my child was old enough to ask for it, and I ended up just beaming when my child asked so sweetly for “mama nuk!”) Eventually I realized our breastfeeding routine wasn’t really a routine anymore. It was sporadic, but still a special & important part of our lives.

As 24 months loomed ahead, I started having mixed feelings about it all. Having another baby wasn’t a very strong possibility for the near future anymore, so I was terrified I’d never have this experience again. I didn’t want to let it go…but I didn’t want to be the mom in “The Hangover” who still had a 4-year-old attached to her chest either! I felt incredibly thankful for my body’s ability to do something so incredibly amazing & proud that I had stuck with it for so long & that I’d done something so beneficial for my son. My pediatrician made me feel good when he told me breastfeeding had most likely contributed to Jacob’s very few illnesses during his first two years. A couple times I balked & asked Jacob if he wanted to nurse – and felt a twinge of sadness when he’d think about it & then say, “no,” and keep playing instead. I knew our time was coming to an end. I quit scrolling through my iPhone while nursing as I’d often done during the past two years & instead stared into my son’s eyes, stroked his hair, rocked him in the chair, & tried to soak up the limited number of moments I had left of that special act. I wanted to etch that feeling into my memory forever.

A few days ago I realized Jacob hadn’t nursed in over a week. Although I still have a very tiny bit of milk left, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s time to close this chapter in the book of Jacob’s & my lives. We made it for 25 incredible months. No one can ever erase that. I am THRILLED that I have had this experience. I am thrilled that I surpassed the goals of not just the American Academy of Pediatrics & the World Health Organization, but even breastfed 8 times longer than my own original goal. I am thrilled that Jacob is a wonderful eater – willing to try many new, varied, healthy foods. I am thrilled that I stuck with breastfeeding even when it was tough, because it certainly got easier & more rewarding with each passing month. I’m thrilled so much that now I sometimes ponder becoming a lactation specialist or working for La Leche League or something so I can share my experiences & knowledge with other moms. I’m a huge breastfeeding advocate now, if anyone is still wondering that about me!  🙂  I hope & pray that someday God will bless me again with another child & that I’ll be able enjoy this journey again. But for now, I simply get down on my knees and praise Him for every single day I have with my absolutely beautiful, healthy, precious child.

And now, on to the next chapter in this book called Motherhood!

international breastfeeding symbol

Advertisements

Responses

  1. just beautiful. We won’t make it as long as you guys, and that’s tough for me – but weaning has started with us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: