An excerpt recounting the emotions that come with ending breastfeeding.
The unrelenting commitment, the connection and the joy — breastfeeding my daughter was a bond like no other. An invisible string, tying us together.
It was the way she twirled her warm soft hands and played with the fabric of my clothing as I held her against my chest. It was clear it gave her such comfort. Sometimes I’d squeeze her adorable chubby thighs and she’d side eye me and start cracking up with giggly laughter.
There are so many emotions that come with ending breastfeeding. The thought of stopping was hard for me to accept. I didn’t want to lose those daily precious moments with her. I set a date for myself because I knew that’s what we both needed. It was 15 months from the day we started. It sounds so crazy to me when I write this and then think about what it is I’m actually talking about — ending nursing my child. It’s just so hard and it’s emotional. It is so bittersweet.
She has been such a dream to nurse. It’s been what I always hoped it would be — natural, comforting, peaceful, gentle, quiet. How did we do this?! We made it to 15 months! Me and you, baby girl! We did it!!
The previous me never would have believed those words. With my first, my son, we made it to 9 months of breastfeeding and that was with combo feeding with formula from the start. I put in so much effort into nursing him, but still struggled with fully feeding him with breastmilk, so combo feeding was best for him, and best for us.
This time, I exclusively nursed. As special and beautiful as the connection was, having now done such a thing, I’m in absolute awe of the commitment that it takes. There is such immense sacrifice in it. I don’t mean the physical sacrifice like the bleeding nipples, engorged breasts, clogged ducts, middle of the night pumping sessions that still must be done even once the baby is sleeping through, ravenous appetite and so on. I’m talking about social sacrifice; having to leave whatever store, restaurant, party, conversation, or moment I was in to feed my baby. My babies always struggled nursing well unless it was in an undistracted, perfectly calm environment. I’d occasionally get away with it, but most often not. That would mean if we were hosting or attending something, I’d have to remove myself for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to feed the babies in a quiet, dark room. I remember in those early months really dreading that, and other times loving it. When I dreaded it I felt lonely and sad, like I was missing out. When I loved it, I felt like it was the closest thing to alone time I’d ever feel again.
Forbes explains that “a year of breastfeeding equates to a conservative estimate of 1,800 hours in a year.” That’s 21% of the year, solely allocated to breastfeeding. I feel grateful to have had the chance to spend that kind of time with my daughter.
In my life, I find that when things are going well, it is hard to intentionally turn the page. I just want to reread the good parts over and over again. I dream of the impossible, freezing time. Maybe that’s it! Because this has been a season that’s been so sweet and so beautiful, I’m really sad for it to end.
Thoughts ran through my head like, “Will she be my last baby?!” In my heart I don’t think so, but maybe she is. And if she is, that was a beautiful time. But it’s over and I am struggling with the idea that something so beautiful and wonderful is over. I know how fast these moments disappear because I’ve lived it before. I look at my son and think back to him at my daughter’s age. I think, wow how much you’ve grown from yesterday to today, from last year to this year. Old memories will get filled with new memories. The love and friendship we share in this chapter will transition to a new type of relationship. Understanding all of that still doesn’t seem to ease my sadness.
She smirks at me and then continues to eat. She kicks up at my face with her cutesy little toes and then continues to eat. She even makes a joke. She’ll clap her hand against my chest, and then again, and again, making eye contact, crack up laughing, and then continue to eat. It was the last feed – the last time I’d nurse my daughter.
I love her so much. I love that time we had together. I will miss the closeness and the specialness of that bond.
Cover photo credit: Kathie Dacey Photography