When I count it up, I’ve nursed for two and a half years so far. It’s one of the hardest commitments I’ve ever made, and I made it twice. At times I fantasized about quitting multiple times a day — like desperately wanted to, mostly in the first few weeks and months. And now I’m having the hardest time giving it up.
Like a lot of moms, I have a contentious relationship with feeding my children. Or maybe it’s been a contentious relationship with myself. With my first, in the haze of postpartum hormones, new mom expectations, and pure ignorance, I managed to get it in my head that I was somehow failing my squishy newborn if I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding. Craziness! I consider myself a reasonable and educated person. And STILL, that message infiltrated my first experience of motherhood. This seems to be the cultural expectation that many American moms have placed on them these days, and it hurts my heart now thinking about it. Many aren’t able to breastfeed, and for many others and their families, it isn’t a good fit.
As a huge believer that the best baby is a fed one, I can see now how my early expectation was total hogwash. But if I’m being honest, it took me a while to disentangle my self-worth as a mom from the amount of milk I was producing (or not producing) each day.
Luckily, second children are the chance to do it all over again and be kind to yourself!
I ended up nursing, pumping, and supplementing with formula for both kiddos due to undiagnosed lip and tongue ties, poor supply, and the preservation of my sanity. A true smorgasbord of feeding experiences. But the one I’m personally most attached to is nursing.
My daughter enjoys it, but she seems to enjoy exploring about 100 times more. I will absolutely miss the special times snuggling up with this girl, nursing before bed. But I know I can still have those nighttime snuggles without regularly flashing my family. I also won’t miss considering how easily accessible my boobs are when getting dressed each day. And the complicated nursing bras? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Sure, I may have initially stuck with it out of a sense of obligation, but I stuck with it. And I think that’s the main reason I’m having the hardest time letting it go. It means so much to me because I made a commitment to myself. I chose to do something that was really hard and painful for me to do. And I did it. I didn’t give up. And that feels great.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention all the support I had along the way: the breastfeeding support group at the hospital (a.k.a. “boob club”) and all the wonderful mamas I met there, lots of nurses and lactation consultants, and my family and friends who didn’t always understand the reasoning behind my commitment.
So as I approach the end of my breastfeeding journey, I’m reminded that this feeling of accomplishment actually isn’t exclusive to breastfeeding. In fact, I’d be surprised if my kids ever ask if they were breastfed. So I’m coping by finding the next challenge. I can commit myself to anything so long as it’s valuable to me. In fact, it’s something I hope to pass along to my kiddos even more than whatever breastmilk immunity was supposed to trickle down . . . and didn’t (so many sick days).
I want my kids to know they can do scary and painful things and not quit. They can set a goal and reach it. They can find support from family, friends, and even new people to get where they want to go. And their mom will be proud of them, even if I don’t always understand the reasoning behind their commitment.
Oh yeah, and why am I weaning now? Because my husband and I are going on vacation alone for the first time in five years, and ain’t nobody got time for pumping at the beach!