Monday, March 31, 2014

Seventeen Months of Breastfeeding

For 517 days, I nursed my baby. That's 17 months. 17 months of never being away from her for more than 2 days (and pumping every 3-4 hours during the 35 hours I was away). I don't even know how many exact feedings, but I am pretty darn sure it would add up to a lot. And after last Tuesday morning, we have come to the end of our journey. And while my emotions are surely getting the best of me, I also know that there are so many mamas out there who have been down this road, and there's no better place to share my feelings than here.

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.

3ish months...

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

20 comments:

  1. Happy 17 months!! You go momma!!

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  2. So proud of you! And I'm so glad that after all that hard work the transition was so smooth. What a happy and healthy girl you've got! :)

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  3. Wow - what an accomplishment for both of you! I'm only almost 5 months in to my breastfeeding journey, and I'm also so thankful to have had a relatively easy experience thus far! Being back at work, I cherish those times when I get to nurse him in the mornings and at night. My goal is one year, and I feel like once summer comes and I'm out of school, there's no stopping us! Congratulations on one happy and healthy little girl! :)

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  4. It is such a bittersweet feeling when this time comes. Your post reminded me of all those sweet moments I had with Jack. Truly something I will treasure forever.

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  5. What an incredible journey and so beautifully recapped for us here.... they're memories you will always cherish, I'm sure!

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  6. I can't believe how much she has grown. Amazing. Amazing you nursed for that long too. That's awesome!!

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  7. What a powerful story and so beautifully told :)

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  8. This is just lovely! My baby girl is eight weeks today and nursing has certainly had its challenges, but it's also been a joy. I'm hoping we can go a year, maybe longer!

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  9. this was so beautiful! we are working on weaning down, but not quite there yet... i can't imagine the ball of emotion i'll be on that day! also.. i didn't realize our stories were so similar! an unexpected c-section and 8lb 4oz gal here too!

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  10. Awww this made me cry! (You know my crazy hormones!) So proud of you for being done (and hello Napa!) but I'm sure it is so bittersweet. I'm sure I'll be a hot mess when E is done breastfeeding!

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  11. I love this. I have been nursing my daughter since birth and she is now six months. It is such a special way to bond and I have no clue when we'll be done but I'm not looking forward to that day, yet. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story!

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  12. I am usually a silent reader, but really wanted to comment on this post. First off, congrats on making it to 17 months! Such a special accomplishment. I actually just read this with a giant lump in my throat. You see, I have a 17 month old little guy who I am trying to wean and it is not going well at all. I was hoping as we got to the end, it would feel really special, but it has been more stressful than anything else. I haven't had a lot of luck dropping sessions and it sends him into a full on panic, crying meltdown when he signs for milk and I offer him cows milk. It's so heartbreaking and I don't want to make it stressful for him, but at the same time I am ready to have my body back for a bit before we try for #2! Anyway, thank you for writing this post. It gives me hope for a happy ending :)

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  13. What an accomplishment, Rachel! And such sweet memories! L stopped at 19 mo when I was 14 weeks pregnant, and I have to admit, I've been having some anxiety about nursing again even though I loved it so much (mostly because I feel likey body hasn't had a break in nearly 3 years between pregnancy and breastfeeding!), but this post makes me excited to have that bond again! That hank you!

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  14. I nursed Elyse up until a year, and while I certainly treasured those moments...being attached to my little girl or a pump (since I had some serious oversupply issues) for 7-8 times a day just became exhasuting. However, reading this post makes me excited for hopefully future children when we can have that bond again!

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  15. Great job Rachel! I completely agree with everything you said about how you have felt about breastfeeding. We're at 13 1/2 months and I'm not sure how/when things will end for us. Right now we're at 3 times a day (or two nursing sessions and one bottle when she's at daycare). I actually am surprised how reluctant I am to stop and thought I'd be dying to be done by now, but I really don't want it to end, even though I feel like physically I'm not producing that much milk anymore and I feel a little ridiculous pumping at work now. I think the evening and morning sessions will last a while longer, but I think the mid day one is going to drop soon. Anyway, glad to hear how it went for you!

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  16. Oh Rachel, I just want to give you a big hug & say "way to go, mama!" What a great accomplishment to be able to breast feed your child for even a couple months or a year, but 17 months? I'm impressed & encouraged! Thank your for sharing your story & experiences!

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  17. Gosh, this made me teary. I am so proud of you for making it 17 months! What an accomplishment and what a blessing.

    Gabe never made any signs for nursing, we've just always gone with our regular routine. When he was hungry, he nursed because it's all we knew. Lately, I started to go by his cues. Some days, it's 2 times, some days it's 3. Never more. He's begun signing "milk" and will get super fussy when he wants to nurse (which, again, had never happened -- we sort of e-mailed about this). Part of me feels like I am hanging on, but when he wants to nurse, it makes me happy because...I'm going to be sad when we are done altogether. I know the day is coming quickly, but I didn't think it would be this tough! Eek.

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  18. awesome job, mama! I breastfed Parker for 16 months. I NEVER thought I would become the passionate BF advocate that I am. Avery is 10 months now, and our journey will likely end sooner, and I am very sad about that.

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  19. This post made me so teary. I'm reading it in the "pump room" at work while pumping, and... ALL the emotions over here. Breastfeeding is such a commitment and I feel like there's such a bond between breastfeeding moms. Well done, mama!

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  20. Love your story, friend! (I'm also catching up on your blog. Ha!) Such a special time! I know this post encouraged lots of moms!

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