When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I read up on it. I went to LLL meetings. I talked to so many new and older moms. And I tried to prepare myself for the worst. But I also told myself that if I was miserable, I would quit. I wasn't going to make life with a newborn harder than it needed to be.
And then after an unexpected birth story that ended in a c-section, my 8lb. 4 oz. baby girl came out and I wasn't able to have immediate skin to skin like I had hoped for, but when I finally got my hands on her, that sweet babe went to town and the beginning of our nursing journey together began.
I'd be lying if I said it was always easy and painless. I had a great deal of pain in the beginning, but as others encouraged me, I pushed through it, and by seven or eight weeks, I quickly noticed that the pain had begun to go away and I wasn't curling my toes and yelping each time she latched on. We dealt with an oversupply issue for the first 2.5 months, but we powered through it, got advice from experienced moms and the lactation consultant, and by three months, I was fortunate enough to feel like breastfeeding was the most natural thing about being a new mom.
Grabbing my shirt while she ate at just two weeks old. This little hand! It still melts me.
As the time went on, we really fell into our rhythm. We went from hours and hours of nursing on the couch in front of the television, to a pretty good routine of five feedings during the day in the glider, and occasionally a night time or early morning feeding. Our glider became my best friend, and many a mornings I spent watching the sun come up out her window while she nursed and we rocked, and many a nights I read books and blogs on my phone or Nook as I fed her for 30-45 minutes before bed. I thought about this day (the "end") and even when she was just a few months old, the thought of it made me want to cry. I have always loved our nursing times together.
After a 4am feeding...am I crazy for sort of missing this?
Taking a break to nurse was a break from the other busy demands, and it never felt like a burden to me. When we'd be traveling, it was the one thing that seemed easy. I didn't need to bring a hundred things to feed her (although I did bring a million things to bathe, clothe, and soothe her!). Around 4 months, I remember nursing her and her pulling off and grinning at me for just a second before latching back on, and those were the moments that will stick with me forever.
Once she became mobile and got teeth, well, it changed a bit and there was a learning curve for both of us. I had to work a little harder to keep her there and to break the biting habit, but again, we survived. And as she became more and more mobile, those few minutes in our glider through out the day became a time to just stop and hold her. I wouldn't trade them for the world.
A conked out baby (14ish months) one evening after a bed time nursing session
When M turned a year, I knew we were no where stopping, but I also knew I wanted to be done around 18 months. We slowly dropped feedings. One at a time. First the middle of the day. Then the one after her morning nap, and then the one after her afternoon nap. And by February, she was only nursing twice a day, morning and night. On February 27, J was out for the evening so I was doing her bedtime routine all on my own. I read her her nightly books, and got ready to nurse her, but realized she wasn't asking for it. So, I stopped. Instead we rocked some more, I sang to her. She rubbed her lovey on her face like she did every other night while I fed her, and then I put her to bed. And that was that. She was done with her bed time feeding. And while it made me super sad, it also felt good knowing that she was dropping it on her own. It wasn't going to be a battle that upset her.
And then that takes us to last week. She turned 17 months old last Tuesday, and I had decided ahead of time that this would be it. So like every other day, I went in when she woke. She gave me her big grin from her crib and yelled, "HI!," we opened her blinds and snuggled into the glider, and we had our last nursing session. And while it was sad in the moment, I'm glad I knew it was our last time. I soaked it in. I gave her a big kiss. And that was that. Since that morning, J has gone in when she woken up with a cup of milk and "naks" (cheerios), and she's been happy as a lark. She hasn't skipped a beat, and well, I couldn't be happier or more proud to see how big and independent she has become.
I think every mom, no matter how she feeds her babies, has those moments where she feels so proud to see her baby growing and changing, but it's still so tough to have them grow so fast! I am so so thankful for such a successful breastfeeding journey. (And on the flip side, I am so glad I can take Excedrin and Mucinex again, plus I get to go shopping for new bras now!) The end of this road has me feeling a little sad but super grateful. Breastfeeding was a surprisingly sweet benefit to the first 17 months of motherhood for me. It has left me with so many moments with my baby girl that I will treasure forever.
Last Tuesday with my big girl