Monday, June 15, 2009

The Time Has Come

Breastfeeding did not begin as a wonderful experience for me. I completely understand why so many women quit early on. It can be painful and frustrating. No one tells you that part before. So while your hormones are going crazy, you're dealing with no sleep, painful lady parts AND you have to stick a baby on your boob a dozen times a day for, in my case, mind numbingly painful breastfeeding sessions. But I got help from a lactation consultant and with time, we found our groove.

I have given my body to my daughter for the last 20 months, not counting pregnancy. I have not drank, I have minimized my caffeine, I have not worn bras with underwire. But those days are numbered. In the single digits. Because I am now officially and absolutely weaning her.

I had painful engorgement for the entire first six months of Sophie's life. Every penny I saved in tampons and pads from not having my period until she was eight months old were more than spent in the mountain of nursing pads I had to use. Not to mention a very unpleasant case of mastitis somewhere in the middle there. So I am doing it right. Over the course of several weeks, I have cut from four to three to two and now one session a day. Only at night before I put her to bed.

Each of the last three nights, I have said to myself that this could be the last time. Psychologically preparing myself for the end. I am a stereotypical first child, resistant to change. However, as many times as I have said that I am ready to have my body back, the truth is that I am equally as sad to be losing my baby.

I have nursed longer than anyone I know in real life. Every single one of my friends say how wonderful they think it is that I've gone so long but I can't help but wonder if deep down they think it is weird. I must confess that a tiny part of me does. I always said that I didn't want to still be doing it when she was big enough to walk up and ask for it, but I am pretty much there. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't even be stopping now if it weren't for one thing: Blogher. In a little over a month I am leaving my child at home with her father while I go to Chicago for a long weekend and I refuse to be tied to a pump for my first solo vacation in two years.

Providing my daughter with sustenance from my own body has given me such a sense of purpose. For the only time in my life, other than when I was pregnant, my body is doing what it was meant to do. Once I wean her, I'll just go back to being plain ole me. I won't have that something special that only I can give. My husband and I will be interchangeable. And while on some levels this makes me happy, on others it makes me deeply sad. I want to be special.

Is this when you get the baby urge? Because I am SO not ready for another baby, but I can totally see how once they stop needing you so entirely, you crave it.

So here's my question to all my mom peeps: How do you navigate this transition without sinking into a funk or getting yourself knocked up? Is wine the answer? And if so, what do you recommend because I'm a little out of practice?


  1. Oh girl I am so with you on this one. It was so hard to make it final with my last one...and I confess...she was over 20 months..shh don't tell! But the good news is, when you do it gradually you don't have the same urge as when you stop cold turkey like I did with my first 2, at least I didn't. Maybe it was actually myself I was weaning.......

  2. AWW I'm sorry you're having a hard time weaning. Way to go for going 20 months. Thats impressive to me.
    I have no advice to offer as I weaned at 3 months.
    It was very hard for me to give up J's bottle tho. Those early morning and bedtime feedings were special, our bonding time and I didn't want to give them up.

    Maybe wine is the answer?

  3. I weaned Xander a couple of months ago, and I felt really sad too. It's bittersweet, the whole baby-growing-to-kid thing. I think it's perfectly okay to mourn the loss of official babyhood, just as long as you don't forget to celebrate and ultimately focus on the beauty and wonder of a growing, learning, developing child. I know--WAY easier said than done! The bad news is, weaning is only the first in a long line of "lasts." The good news is, there are still a LOT of "firsts" and wonderful experiences to be had. =) Good luck, Lady. I'm not a wine drinker, but chocolate has always lifted my mood...=)

  4. Cara.
    I'm impressed you went this long so ... be proud of how long you went because some can't, don't or won't.... I'm trying this time to do it for a year last time it was 6 monthes and I don't even remember why I stopped? so congrats to you!

  5. Good for you for nursing for as long as you have! I stopped breastfeeding my first born at 6 months... I actually remember the last time, too - he was in the hospital with a UTI and I nursed him to sleep. I knew we were done with nursing because I was just not producing much milk anymore and he was happily eating solids (cereal, veggies) and drinking formula. I stopped nursing my second son at around 6 or 7 months, too. I nursed him Florida when he was 6 months old and I remember we stopped shortly thereafter. Again, I wasn't making hardly any milk, and he was drinking formula, too, and eating solids, so it was a good time to stop. I was very sad both times when I stopped - I think most moms feel that, a bit of depression when you stop. That alone did not make me want to have another child; seeing how fast they grow is what makes me want a 3rd baby, because I miss the newborn stage!

  6. Well, you know me...the nursing nazi. Ahem.

    Both of mine self-weaned mere days before their 1st birthdays. But by 11 months I was only doing that 1 feeding at the milk was running out, I know.

    I loved nursing. LOVED LOVED LOVED. With Libbey it was miserable...I had fungal yeast in both nipples...and that is a pain I can only describe as 10 times worse than recovering from a c-section. True story. But I made it through, even when the entire world (and La Leche, even!) was telling me to quit...quit so that my nipples no longer looked like raw ground beef...quit so that I can stop taking Diflucan, the 1 dose yeast pill--twice a day for 5 weeks. Quit so she would gain weight faster.

    I never quit. I'm so glad. It was the hardest/best thing I've ever done.

    And with Caroline, it was such a breeze that I thought I was doing it wrong.

    And lemme tell you this...I LOVED when my girls were weaned. Because that meant I could go on overnight trips with my husband...and drink lots of red wine.


    p.s. Yes, wine is the answer. A wonderful tempernillo/shiraz blend.

  7. Oh yes. I remember the days of sadness the led up to weaning. Especially with my first. I just came to the realization that I was still mama and that my role was just transitioning. I never had a great milk production. Some of my friends could have nursed the neighborhood, but I had just enough for the child that was nursing. It does give you freedom that you wouldn't have otherwise. Just remember, she still needs you. She will always need you. It will just be in different ways.

  8. well, I always want another baby . . so I can't really answer you here in that respect . . . BUT you are so not weird - I just finished nursing my little one a month ago and she will be 3 on Sat! I miss it terribly and this will be the first time I have finished nursing without having one in the oven!

  9. Despite my best efforts, my thyroid condition kept me from nursing as long as I liked. I made it to 11 months with my son, 9with my daughter. And each time, my milk suddenly dried up and I just stopped one day and neither kid seemed to care. It was harder on me. But you know what? The sadness passed quickly. And it was really nice to wear a regular bra and eat and drink what I wanted and take whatever medication I wanted and wear dresses that made it impossible to pop a boob out. And it was nice to be able to leave them with their father without thinking about pumping or leaking in public or anything beyond where I was going.

    Good luck!

  10. Ok, I don't know the 1st thing about this because I only breastfeed my kids until they are 3 months. #1 because I went back to work and #2 I am not a very good "producer".

    I *do* know wine ... Pinot Nior. Talk to your grocer's wine guy, most of them have one. He'll be able to give you a good one. Ask for a local winery if you can :o)

  11. We were blessed to have a lactation counselor work with us as my youngest was 6 weeks early and hadn't developed his sucking reflex. We fed him with expressed milk in a shot glass the first 2 months, and then were able to convince him to nurse with a contraption she figured out (tubing from a bottle liner taped to my nipple- it was crazy but it worked!).

    So I do understand a bit what it is like to work so hard at what is simple for most :) All ten of my thumbs up for having struggled through to do the single most beneficial thing that any mom can do for her baby- the benefits last for a lifetime!

    Can't help on the weaning though-sorry! My son refused to keep nursing when he turned a year old. It was a very hot August so I think it was just too warm to be that close :( It really broke my heart at the time, but he is almost 15 now and the healthiest person I have ever met. Every day you are able to is a bonus!

    good luck! mary jones

  12. I have kind of a long sad breastfeeding saga...but the short version is that I ended up bottle feeding both of my boys.

    I still get a baby urge from time to time, but I knew deep down a long time ago that I would want to jump off a bridge if I got pregnant again. That is how I knew we were done, done, DONE.

    And you are mom, so you are special FOREVER. That is how this whole Mommy thing works! :-D

  13. I just found your blog the other day, and you really hooked me with your touching stories...even if I haven't shared the same experiences, you really moved me with this post.

    I had the opposite problem with my son...I wanted so badly to nurse him (I even looked down on friends who I thought gave up too easily, before I went through it myself). Then I found myself in the hospital after my c-section, with a nurse berating me for not waking up after my son had been taken to the nursery (excuse me for sleeping for 3 consecutive hours the night after giving birth when I hadn't had a decent night's sleep in nearly 4 months). The nurses decided within that short window of time that he needed to be given a bottle because he didn't have enough wet diapers. I don't know if that was to blame, but the boy did not want to work for it after that. I couldn't get my milk production up, he kept losing weight, and all I did was cry every time I knew he needed to eat. I talked to three different lactation consultants, but nothing seemed to help. After five weeks (3 of which included formula supplementation), I knew the grief I was going through was overriding any benefit he was getting from my meager milk supply, so I gave up. For months afterwards, I kicked myself. Every time he got sick, I was convinced that it was because I shortchanged his immune system.

    I've finally comes to terms with it, but it's interesting now to read how women grieve when this process comes to an end, no matter how long they've pursued it. When I read this passage, I got all misty-eyed:

    "I won't have that something special that only I can give. My husband and I will be interchangeable. And while on some levels this makes me happy, on others it makes me deeply sad. I want to be special."

    But remember, you ARE special. You do have something that only you can give, and you are NOT interchangeable with your husband. My son reminds me of that whenever he tells me he has a boo-boo. I kiss it, and he says, "Dada too." When the tables are turned, my husband gets the same thing..."Mama too." We're each a unique puzzle piece to him, and we each fill our own role. Just because you've stopped nursing, your specialness has not diminished one iota. Don't lose sight of that!

  14. Wine is always a good answer.

    Also, making plans like BlogHer is a great way to not get knocked up. "I can't be careless! I want to party at BlogHer!" See? Great birth control.

  15. It wasn't the weaning that got me knocked up. It was the regular, dependable sleeping through the night. I got drunk with sleep.

    I also avoided the funk by the celebration at not having to pump. The release from the necessary evil of the pump was so worth it to me. Letting my husband do the whole bedtime routine, while I did nothing but watch TV or eat cake or read a book, also helped. The hormones go a little crazy (yet again) with weaning, and I think it's normal to weep a little weep.

    She'll never stop needing you, though what she needs will change. You're her mama, her only mama.

  16. I know how you feel. I nursed for 13 months and loved it but after a year I was truly ready to have my body back. Although it is not the same my son still spends tons of cuddle time with me - the connection has not lessened because the nursing stopped.

    And yes, wine is the answer. I have wine fairly regularly, so nice. If you like zinfandel try Barefoot red zin. Inexpensive and good.

  17. this is a really beautiful post. I am sorry but I don't have any solutions to share with you. I did not breast feed any of my children. I do how ever, wish you well.

  18. I think it is great that you lasted so long! I never could really hang so well with the nursing thing too good. The longest child I did was Matty till 8 months at night time only.
    Each milestone is so sad and happy isn't it? I don't really have any advice, but I think your doing great and an awesome mom:)

  19. I wish I could give some good advice. My nipples cracked and bled and I couldn't go on. All of my children were bottle fed from six weeks on. I felt accomplished just doing it for the first six weeks, though. At least I tried.

  20. I'm in your boat, mama. I love nursing my Little Bit, but I'm ready to stop wearing a bra 24 hours a day, ready to share the bedtime duties with my hubby, and ready for my breasts to appear more even in size (due to laziness, I have been only nursing on one side for months now, and it shows). He turns one next week and I'm going to start adding bottles of whole milk and try to get down to one nursing session a day.

    The Bean will continue to need you. It's loving her not nursing her that makes you her mom.

    Start focusing on the fun we're going to have at BlogHer and how much more carefree and relaxed you will feel knowing that Neil can give her anything she needs while you are away. You can do it!!!!

    As for wine, I indulge (but don't overindulge) even while nursing (not during the act, but with dinner or after the kids are in bed). I second the recommendation for red zinfandel. Love, love, love it.

  21. Saw your tweet! :( How is Sophie taking it? Probably better than mommy, huh? Kids are weird that way...

    I have no advice for you. My milk never came in with either of my girls. You'd think with the hoohas I've been "blessed" with, there would have been milk coming out of my ears. But such was not the case. And I stressed over it with Hannah. Felt like a failure as a mom... I couldn't even give my baby milk. (of course, a serious case of postpartum depression played a big part in those feelings...) So she was bottle-fed from about 3 weeks on... and then with Michaela, I didn't even try. We were giving her formula before we even left the hospital!

  22. I set out to nurse my babies for a full year each. I experienced what you are describing with your daughter with my own daughter. She was 13 months and I decided that we'd reached the point of weaning. We were down to night time nursing only at that point, and I had decided as I rocked her to sleep each night that I wouldn't offer to nurse her unless she seemed to want to. Each night that she wanted to I felt secretly relieved. Then that night came that she didn't initiate nursing, so I didn't offer. She fell asleep in my arms while I cried silently and rocked her. I held her extra long that night, and I knew I had turned a corner.

    What helped me is that I couldn't lose all the baby fat until I STOPPED nursing! So I was distracted by the enjoyment of the weight loss and ultimately FINALLY being able to fit in my pre-preg clothes. I think I literally enjoyed two full weeks of wearing my old wardrobe before I turned up pregnant again! I was NOT trying to get pregnant, either! I would have waited another year or so.

    Good luck, and being able to have that glass or two of wine DOES take the edge off. I'd be too embarrassed to make a recommendation, though. I like CHEAP wine.

  23. Maybe you could replace that feeling by substituting something else with her involved. Another bedtime ritual or something maybe?

    Then afterwards, you can have a glass of wine! And not feel quilty!

  24. Wow, 20 months is great. And nursing gives you such a wonderful relationship. I know what you mean about how friends might secretly think it's a little weird to nurse that long -- I had that feeling too. I nursed my son for 27 months (ending about three or four months after I found out I was pregnant), so I am not sure about your baby urge question. It must be different for everybody.

    We weaned in stages over months, and at the beginning I was an emotional mess. But by the end, I was soooo ready because my son would bite me on purpose. I'd had more than enough of that!


  25. Oh, TRUST ME--she will always want Mommy much so that there will be times you want to change your name (if you haven't already!)

    It seems that as moms there's nothing we can attempt to do w/o it being tinged with guilt and uncertainty--I guess it comes with the territory. But believe me when I tell you that as Sophie gets older, how long you breast fed will become a lot less of an issue. You'll wonder why you worried over it. She's had the best start in life thanks to you and you will both be great! :)

  26. I keep saying to my friends and husband, "Please don't let me be that woman who is secretly nursing her 3 year old." But I can see how it can go there. I have no plans for weaning and while I may sometimes complain about nursing, I know that it will be really hard for me to give it up. Sometimes I feel like it's the only thing Edwin likes about me!


Give me some sugar, baby!