My relationship with breastfeeding did not begin easily. I remember being in the hospital, trying to get the Little Monkey to latch. Every nurse had a different explanation for the “right way.” This meant that it had been the “right way” for her, but it wouldn’t necessarily be right for me.
Even after my milk came in and the baby was latching, we had an uphill battle. I had a great deal of pain. This was due to a few things – the Little Monkey had a slight tongue tie, and I had (I’m pretty sure) a bad case of Reynaud’s Syndrome.
The Little Monkey was gaining weight just fine, but for nearly three months, it would hurt every time I nursed. I tried many things – lanolin cream, a heating pad on my breasts before and after nursing, and nearly every pillow in the house to prop myself and the Little Monkey in different ways. But nothing worked well.
I’d say to my husband almost daily that I didn’t know how long I could nurse, and I convinced myself to try just one more every day. After those three months, it started to get better. Maybe I toughened up, or perhaps the warmer weather lessened my Reynaud’s Syndrome, but whatever the reason, we got into a groove, much to my relief. I was nursing like a champ and began to enjoy it.
Around six months, I went back to work and pumped while the Little Monkey was in daycare. I still breastfed in the morning and evening. In the last few months, I’ve begun needing to supplement more and more with formula. My pumping sessions didn’t yield nearly as much milk as they once had, and perhaps having gotten used to the ease of bottle drinking at daycare. The Little Monkey started to refuse the breast more and more.
In the last few weeks, I’ve gradually cut back on nursing and breastfed the Little Monkey for the last time just a few days ago, one week after his first birthday. Nothing would have surprised me more. I can’t believe I am going to miss it.
Of course, when I get sad about the end of this chapter, it’s easier to think about the things I will not miss. I definitely won’t miss pumping. I won’t miss the pressure of being the only person who can provide him with food. I felt terrified to leave him for longer than an hour during those first few weeks, knowing he might be starving when I returned.
I won’t miss wearing nursing bras, feeling starving and thirsty all the time, and being disappointed I couldn’t have a second glass of wine in case he woke up in the middle of the night and needed to eat before the alcohol had worked its way out of my system.
What will I miss? I’ll miss the convenience. I will miss not having to pack bottles or food when we head out the door sure made things easier. There’s much less cleanup and a shower a day is easier than scrubbing bottles. Having a source of nutrition and comfort attached to your own body, available to your baby whenever he or you wants, is pretty remarkable when you think about it.
I’ll miss chronicling our funny nursing stories for my husband and mommy friends, like the day we were in the courtyard area of the mall. He whipped my nursing cover off and unlatched it at the same time, exposing my breast to a group of high school kids, or the times I pulled over and found a quiet parking lot where I could nurse sitting in the back of my car (“tailgating”), and the times when he’d poke at my breast after nursing as if trying to figure out how it “worked.”
I will miss the closeness, the feeling of being able to give the Little Monkey something nobody else can, the quiet moments when we’d have people in the house, and he and I would escape to a back room to nurse, and the feeling of his little hand patting my neck and face while he ate.
Most of all, I will miss my favorite time of day – the last part of our day, when we’d sit in the glider in his dark room, and I would nurse him to sleep. As with every stage, we’ve left, excitement and bittersweetness are associated with my baby growing up.