This past weekend, I packed up all but a few of my breastfeeding supplies including my pump and stored it all away for the next baby. Mason was no longer interested in breastfeeding and I was barely producing any milk when I pumped at work, so after agonizing over this decision for a few weeks, (and experiencing any and all forms of mom guilt during that time) I decided it was time to just stop pumping during the day. I will continue to breastfeed in the morning for another month or so (I am not quite ready to give up our mornings together just yet) but at this point my breastfeeding journey is coming to an end.
He is almost 11 months old and is now obsessed with real food and essentially weaned himself over the past three months. Everything I read recommends breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months while some recommend 2 years. But 11 months was our number and I just have to accept that.
I just can't believe that breastfeeding, something that was so tough and brought on so much heartache and anxiety would be so painful to let go of. I was devastated all day putting the pump and bottles away, not devastated to be done with breastfeeding or pumping (definitely won't miss pumping) but that my baby was no longer a baby.
Where did the past year go? Was I a good enough mom? Did I spend enough time with him when he was a newborn? Is he ready to be a toddler? I am so nervous that it all went so fast and I didn’t take the time to take it all in…I just can’t believe I will be the mom to a one year in 6 short weeks.
I can honestly say that if it was not for the NICU I may not have breastfed Mason. But once I was told that he could go home sooner if I pumped and supplied him breast milk, I bought a mini fridge for the bedroom and woke up every 3 hours to pump during the night and never looked back. When he came home from the NICU drinking bottles of breastmilk and breastfeeding for maybe 10 minutes each feeding before falling asleep, I still pumped, and still tried to breastfeed at each feeding. And I really don't know why, it’s just what I thought I needed to do. I cried and cried during the first 3 weeks after he came home. Every attempt at breastfeeding felt like a failed attempt. He barely latched on and I was quickly heating up a bottle then pumping. The entire process - attempt at breastfeeding, feeding him a bottle, then pumping took about 1 1/2 hours each feeding and was extremely frustrating because most days it felt like that was all I was doing. I dreaded when people came to visit because the stress of the next feeding was only an hour or two away which made it hard to schedule any visits or outings those first few weeks.
I remember in the NICU one of the nurses telling me that he would go home once he was breastfeeding, which would probably take until he was full term in 6 weeks (we brought him home on bottles of breast milk instead to get him home). And she was right, on the date he was supposed to be born, six weeks later, something clicked and he latched on and never looked back - he was a rock star at breastfeeding from that day on - it was incredible. But up until that point I wanted to give up a million times but was too deep into the struggle and had logged to many hours to do so.
What I wish I knew about breastfeeding when I was pregnant:
- Breastfeeding is difficult at first and is extremely stressful. This extremely natural, century old practice did in no way come naturally (at least for me).
- It may not be easy at first and it is ok to supplement with formula as you get the hang of it.
- It DOES get easier as time goes on. I have found that almost everything with babies is a phase that they grow out of. At first you will nurse for over an hour and wonder when things will move faster then before you know it they will only need to nurse for 15 minutes.
- It is hard to keep you milk supply up when you go back to work and are pumping. Not near your baby = less milk. Just do your best.
- You will always feel like your baby maybe didn’t get enough milk.
- When you are breastfeeding you have to plan for where to breastfeed in public or where to pump if you can't breastfeed. If you are a mom who is ok breastfeeding in public you will be fine. If you are like me and are not (I wish I was), it will be pretty hard to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. Try to pump whenever you can to build up some back up supply to make things a little easier and take off some of the stress.
Let me also include that I in no way pick a side here, breast milk or formula - whatever works best for you, I support.