One Year of Breastfeeding
When I first had Caleb, I committed to 6 months of breastfeeding. If I wanted to go longer, great! But if I was hating it, I wanted to give myself a less intimidating goal than an entire year. After one year + 18 days, my season of breastfeeding came to an end, and it ended up being both longer and shorter than I thought it would be.
There were definitely ups and downs to nursing for a year, so I wanted to reflect on a few of them to close out this season as well as share how I managed weaning.
The special bonding time and extra cuddles are just the best. Your brain gets a nice dose of oxytocin every time you nurse, and despite the isolation I sometimes felt from nursing, it can occasionally be a welcomed retreat when feeling overwhelmed.
Once your baby starts nursing faster, it’s a breeze. Instead of 20 or 30 minutes of being trapped under the baby, you can do a quick 3-5 minutes on either side and get back to your day. And the baby can get back to playing, which they are typically much more interested in than nursing at some ages.
Finally, it’s just freaking cool that your body can make food for the human you also grew with your body.
Definitely the biggest low was getting mastitis 6-7 weeks in. I wondered multiple times if I was going to die (dramatic), and had to get a second course of antibiotics when the first round didn’t work.
Breastfeeding can also feel really isolating. Especially when the baby is young and takes 20-30 minutes to eat, you just sit alone in a room with the baby for large parts of your day. Any time we took a trip, the first thing I would need to do upon arrival would be feed the baby, so off I would go to a room by myself where everyone chatted and caught up without me.
Babies can also be super impatient and picky! I never had a full blown nursing strike, but I definitely had segments of time where he would rather scream than nurse, and there was probably an entire month this summer where he wouldn’t nurse in the recliner but would in the bed. The worst was always when slow letdown frustrated him.
I started adding a gradually increasing amount of milk to Caleb’s daycare bottles for the 2 weeks leading up to his birthday, and they were still coming home empty, so he didn’t seem to have any trouble with the change to cows milk. My original plan was just to wean him off daytime feedings (no more pumping!) and keep the wake up and bedtime nursing sessions for another month or two, but then I started having trouble with the bedtime session letdown, and I just felt like my body was ready to be done. I wrote out a plan to drop one feeding at a time every 5 days and that was that.
The emotional process to accept weaning was rough. I kept crying in anticipation of nursing being over and very tearfully explained to Josh that it is time, I am ready, and Caleb will be fine, but it’s still the end of a very specific season of life, and I felt like I needed to mourn that season.
I Googled the phrase “mourning the end of breastfeeding” and found quite a few articles about dealing with the hormonal roller coaster that can accompany such a life change. But then I saw an additional Google question: “how to celebrate the end of breastfeeding?”
That’s what I needed. I needed to flip the script on myself and celebrate the 380+ days that I nursed.
One of the suggestions was to get a tattoo which I was very into for about 10 minutes. Then I fell into the rabbit hole of breastfeeding jewelry before deciding it was quite expensive and carries the risk of yellowing over time not to mention super shy me having to explain what it was to anyone who asked.
From there, I searched pearl rings on Etsy since a lot of the breastfeeding jewelry I looked at sort of resembled a pearl. Opal rings were a recommended suggestion based on pearl rings, and what do you know, opal is the birthstone for October! So now I have an opal ring for my October baby to commemorate the end of this breastfeeding season.
Also, I picked this ring that has Celtic love knots on either side of the opal because Josh gave me a Celtic love knot ring when we were in college, so it seemed like the perfect fit for me. 🙂
Getting myself a present to look forward to really helped with the emotional turmoil I was feeling (which I find hilarious, to be honest). And as I dropped feedings, neither Caleb nor I had meltdowns, which further confirmed that everything was going to be ok.
As for the physical effects of weaning, that was rougher than expected. If I do this again in the future, I will likely wean off the baby first and off the pump second rather than vice versa to have more control of the production slowdown. I also really don’t recommend going on a work retreat at the beginning of the weaning process where you don’t have access to ice packs or the ability to take 45-minute showers.
And now a couple of weeks removed, everyone survived. My baby is a toddler and asserting his independence and growing up!