Saturday, February 14, 2009

It is finished.

Tonight was my last night to ever nurse little C. Before I had a child, I always told myself I wanted to breastfeed for the first nine months, if at all possible. I think it was because on one occasion, my doctor had mentioned that she started weaning her son around the 9 month mark. Maybe it was because it was coming from the mouth of a medical professional, or because the number just sounded good, but from then on it stuck out in my mind as the ideal amount of time to nurse a baby.

Well, when I found out I was pregnant, breastfeeding research was at the top of my to-do list. As I started reading about all the benefits, I got it in my head that I wanted to try for a year. They say the benefits last as long as you are nursing, but toddler nursing was never something I was willing to consider, so I decided the 1 year mark would be my new goal. Much like the '9 month' figure, it was just another arbitrary number I got stuck in my head.

Once our little guy arrived, it became very clear that if I wanted to nurse him for a week, let alone 12 months, I had my work cut out. I'll save the gory details for another post, but needless to say nursing was anything but 'natural' or 'rewarding' or 'convenient' in those early weeks/months. None-the-less, we eventually got the hang of it, and somewhere between 2 months and four months it dawned on me that I really enjoyed nursing my son. It was turning out to be all those things the books said!! Then he got sick. Then sick again, and then sick a third time. All three viruses came back-to-back and as a result the little guy spent about five weeks in-a-row congested.

When a baby gets sick and/or congested and eats less for a while, it's usally not a big deal because they will just start eating more again once they feel better. Only trouble with that picture is, when you are breastfeeding you only make as much milk as the baby eats. So it's not like formula feeding where you can just toss the left over milk while they are sick, then provide more from the handy supply of Similac in the pantry when they feel better. Your milk supply dips, and after it dips, it takes a lot of time and effort to get it going again.

I didn't care, though. I was determined to get my supply back up, even if it meant I had to pump and take the fenugreek and all that jazz. The tricky part about pumping, though, is your hands are completely tied up for 20 minutes. That doesn't work so well when you have a curious crawler constantly looking for entertainment and/or trouble. Still, I tried.

Despite my best efforts, my supply has been waining ever since Christmas, and so the 9 month mark started looking better and better. Plus the little guy just got sick AGAIN and without some serious pumping, my supply is not going to make it through this virus. Also, I've mentally been in "mommy mode" for almost two years now and I'm extremely burned out. (Mommy mode is what I call that pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and post pregnancy/nursing period where you have to watch what you eat and no caffeine and no alcohol.

I'll admit, I have been pretty lazy about my eating and drinking habits. I'm ready to pick up some unhealthy habits again and I'm also very tired of feeling guilty about not providing the little guy with good breast milk on those days I don't make time to eat perfectly balance meals....and that's almost every day these days. In fact one day last week, around bedtime I realized the only thing I had eaten all day was a bowl of cheerios, an apple and 2 ice cream sandwiches.

I realize the ideal way to wean is subbing formula at one feeding for a few days, then adding another feeding and so on. But my little guy doesn't like formula or bottles and has a tendency to just 'hold out' till he gets his way even if it means going hungry for a while (a long while). So the slow and steady method wouldn't work with our little man, and Mr. C and I knew from the get-go that when it ended, it would have to be cold turkey.

Tonight was the night. Kinda sad that that our last feeding had to be on Valentine's Day, but it needed to be tonight...we're going out of town next week, and I was faced with either pumping like crazy to get my supply back up to get us through the trip, or just saying, 'that's it.' I opted for the latter. If he hadn't gotten sick, I would have done it when we got back, but as things stand, it makes the most sense...although I'm worried he's going to be lost in transition while we are out of town, but it's a risk I'm just going to have to take.

Anyway, all logic aside, it's been a really hard night. I cried...scratch that...SOBBED after our last feeding. I just think I took that special time for granted. I read over and over again that "it will be over before you know it" and to "enjoy the special time while it lasts", but when you are in the throws of sore nipples and sleep deprivation, sentiments like that make you want to cut someone. Yet here I stand, thinking, "I can't believe it's over!" I have to keep reminding myself that whether it's the nine month mark or the 1 year mark or whenever, nursing is a finite relationship you have with your child. It can't last forever, and it has to end someday. Much like pregnancy, it's hard to see that chapter end, but it's all part of the journey.

I have no doubt that anyone reading this that has never nursed a baby is thinking I am some crazy hippy that can't cut the cord. In fact, I would have agreed with you 110% before my son, but it really is a special thing that you just can't understand until you understand. I know that being a good mother is about SO much more than breastfeeding, and I'm not trying to make anyone feel badly for choosing what's best for their baby. I am just saying that the time you share with your baby while you are nursing is really intimate and hard to just kinda have to do it to understand.

Anyway, I love you little man. I enjoyed our special time and I'm so glad I stuck it out. I am sad tonight, but I'm trying hard to stay focused on your bright future. I can't wait to see you take off and thrive, as I know you will - just don't get too independent too fast, ok? Happy Valentine's day my love. Love, Mommy.


Allison said...

Congrats on sticking it out so long! :)

Jennifer said...

Making it to 9 months is great! I read a statistic that 70% of moms stop nursing by 6 months. I hope little C makes the transition smoothly.

The Riddells said...

That is awesome you lasted so long! I hope to nurse for 9 months with the next one too. But it will be so nice once you stop, just you see!