Breastfeeding coming to a hault before I was ready
I'm really not sure moms talk about this subject so I felt compelled to share my store. This is what I've learned over the course of the past 9 1/2 months as a mom to a baby girl. Now, I promise I will back up and talk though the last 9 months post baby but since I've hit this major, emotional milestone I wanted to talk about it while the emotions were still fresh. Here's my own experience with breastfeeding and the moment it stopped. How I dealt with it, what I was feeling and how I learned to find joy in other bonding moments.
Breastfeeding for me was something I was determined to do. Before I got pregnant I would have dreams and worry if I would be able to nurse. To me this seemed like such a natural form of mother and baby bonding time. What if I couldn't get milk? What if she didn't latch? All of these things crossed my mind like I think they do most mothers. However, much to my surprise and extreme joy - most of the time - I was overwhelmed with the emotions and bond that came with breastfeeding.
Ever since she arrived, from that very first feed only an hour after delivery she latched right away and it was probably the most incredible experience I had ever encountered. Her eyes looking up at mine like she was studying my face. I couldn't stop staring at her. I was so in love with this little human and just as she entered the world through my body, she was using my body once again to nourish her. It was magical in that sense.
It took about 3-4 feeds and one night in the hospital for me to realize very quickly from there that this was actually quite painful. It wasn't the first couple feeds, it was the every hour on the hour feed, all through the night where my nipples felt like they were going to fall off. Red, cracked, and it felt like nothing was coming out the other end. I would curl my toes at every feed and every time she cried I would start to cringe knowing that the pain wasn't going away and they didn't have time to heal, it was going to get worse, and worse and worse, until it finally got better 2 weeks later. I would apply lubrication to them after every feed, use nipple shields, pads, cooling pads you name it. It was just temporary relief until the babe was ready to eat again. In the beginning, it was a LOT. More than I thought I could handle not for only the physical pain but just the sheer exhaustion I felt 24/7.
I exclusively breast feed her - no bottle with breast milk - for the first 4-6 weeks. Then I decided it was enough and I needed my sanity. So I opted to use the milk I was pumping for my in-laws to use as my husband and I would go out in the city for a date. We needed a night away. I needed a night away! And so it began, I continued using both breastfeeding and bottle with exclusively breast milk for about 4 1/2 months. Until we went to Florida for Thanksgiving to see family.
Once we were down in Florida my husband and I had planned a getaway just a few hours a way while the baby would stay with his family. That meant she needed breast milk and we decided to take the plunge and get the ever dreaded - formula! I never thought I would give my baby formula but with all of the pumping and breastfeeding my excess milk supply took a dramatic DROP around that time as I had gotten sick. I desperately tried to hold out as long as possible, using every method I could think of or read about to increase my supply from oats, flax, fennel seeds, you name it! I tired it all but nothing was helping so formula it was. Now this was originally intended as a backup but as we were away my family decided she was hungry and needed more milk at bedtime. Then her every 2-3 hour feed was upped by 1 ounce and her night feeds were upped by 2 ounces. While it did help for a bit, she still wasn't sleeping though the night and I still continued to nurse here through the night until 9 months! I know that seems crazy to some but she would still get up between 3-5 am and I would nurse her about 2 ounces and then she would blissfully drift back off to sleep.
It wasn't easy keeping up the night feeds and 3 pumps a day! Especially with 3 moves in that time period, yes 3! We moved 2 times in New York and yet another time to Denver in March. I also had quit my job and started a new career in health and fitness in March! Yes a lot was happening! In addition, I was teaching yoga, spin, bootcamps and my milk supply started to drop yet again and it was VERY hard to maintain my supply. So I started pumping 2x a day and breastfeeding 2x. Formula the other 2 feeds. Until the day she straight up denied me. Yup, 9 months almost to the day she decided, "No thanks mom, I'm good", and turned her head as I tried to nurse her in the night. I thought maybe this was just a fluke, but no I tried again, and again, and again and yes she was done. I took it very personally and a little piece of me was lost as I didn't know how we would have our bond back and would it be the same? Well I'm here to tell you after that moment of disappointment it does come back. Consequently, the next couple of weeks I feel like she has been needier than ever. Always wanting me to hold her. Sometimes, wanting to nap or sleep with me at night. In fact, if she's at daycare too long on days that I'm working all day she is very fussy and extra needy and only mama's love get her back in her chipper spirits again:)
Now what's my point in all of this? Nature has a way of phasing out and we go though this natural process. Just as we grew a human in our body, just like she latched at the beginning, she naturally phased out of needing me in one way into needing me in other ways. I'll take it. I'm happy for it. I feel like I have my life back. So long for now are the days of pumping in sketchy closets, gross bathrooms, work closets and hauling my backpack and milk everywhere we went! I'm glad to have it behind me and look forward to better and brighter moments to come with her.
As far as the phase out process, I was looking this up and researching because I had no idea how to do it and I couldn't really find much about it. So, I just started gradually phasing out. I would go from pumping 2x a day for 2 weeks, then drop to 1x a day for 2 weeks until my milk supply gradually decreased and then eventually just stopped. It was mildly painful for about 4-5 days but after that, all is good and I'm happy to report we all survived!
If you're currently going though this or are worried about going through this, I promise you it will be ok. It's hard at first but you start to see joy in other moments where you bond in other ways and it fills that void you once had. I'm not saying its easy. This took me until now to be able to write about it and its been about a month. However, its temporary and if you look for the good and other ways to bond, you will get though it, I promise you! If your're struggling with this or want someone to listen or ask questions, feel free to message me or comment below!