Friday, April 1, 2011

i miss her sweet milk breath.

image via marvelous kiddo via A CUP OF JO via the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia
Alice decided she was done breastfeeding. She just wasn't interested anymore. We were pretty much down to AM feedings only, right when she woke up, with occasional PM feedings. And then she just stopped. I kept offering, but she was just done.

I knew this was coming, it had been winding down over the last month or two. A few weeks ago, I was agonizing over whether I should just pull the plug or keep dragging it out as long as I possibly could. My supply had fallen off to practically nothing, and it was becoming increasingly tedious to expend so much effort for almost no reward. But I wanted her to get the maximum benefit. I'd hoped to breastfeed her for the recommended year, for maximum benefit to us both. I just wasn't ready to call it quits simply because it was tedious. Frankly, I just wasn't ready to quit.

I was tired of visiting the lactation room four times a day, but I wasn't tired of the special bonding time with Alice. Unfortunately, even those precious moments we shared were getting shorter and shorter and less and less enjoyable for both of us. I was getting ready to end it but just couldn't bring myself to do it. When I asked Jon for his opinion, I accidentally opened the emotional floodgates that I'd been holding back during my own internal debates. I cried and cried and cried, so sad that this phase of her babyhood was coming to an end.

My cryfest helped clear all the emotions that were clouding my ability to make a decision. I let myself mourn the obviously imminent end and decided to follow Alice's lead. I had about a week to come to terms with the inevitability before she ended it. I could have continued pumping as long as I was able, but I just couldn't see the point when I was only getting half an ounce during the work day and Alice wouldn't nurse to help with her end of the supply and demand equation. 

So it's over. This is the first full week that I've been a free woman, I haven't had my body to myself for over 20 months. I'm still getting used to the freedom, I feel a little panicky when I think I've missed a pumping time and then a little choked up when I remember that I don't need to worry about it any more. Though I am sad that this stage has ended, I'm also glad for my physical independence. It means I can eat cheese again (since Alice couldn't tolerate the dairy), or even ice cream, if I feel like it - and I do. It also means I can run during my lunch breaks again instead of hanging out in the exclusive mom lounge. Which is great because I'll really need to run off the extra calories if I'm going to binge on cheese and ice cream. The magical metabolic effects of breastfeeding have ended just as suddenly as the magical mother/child bonding moments. 

I'm also very glad that this happened naturally, and at Alice's direction. I'm grateful that I won't have the heartbreak of withholding that comfort from her. I'm glad, for her sake, that she no longer needed or wanted that comfort. She wasn't asking for it at all in the end and doesn't seem to miss the act or the byproduct whatsoever. She doesn't even notice. At our last visit six or so weeks ago, the doctor said that Alice would be OK without breast milk or formula whenever she was weaned, as long as she was getting plenty of liquid with her solid meals, having plenty of wet diapers, and taking an iron vitamin. It would have been great if we made it a year, but ten months (six months exclusive) is still far better than the national average - only 43% are still breastfeeding at 6 months, and only 13% are exclusively breastfed up to that point. So she's in fine shape, it's just me that is still adjusting.

I remember how much it hurt at first, how hard it was to figure out if we were doing it right, or she was getting enough, when and how often to feed her. Once we got the hang of it, I remember feeling like I was going to spend 40-60 minutes of every 120-180 minutes for the rest of my life trapped, immobilized by a snuffling, hungry animal. I remember falling asleep on the couch in the nursery (more than a few times), waking up with Alice still nursing, hours after we began. I remember feeding her in bed, dozing in the early mornings when we were still fooling ourselves about sleeping in. Those were some of my favorite times. I remember people laughing at the very satisfied moaning she indulged in during meal times. I remember how specifically cute and perfect her little face looked, peeking up at me, and when she learned to smile without losing her grip, which made her look so mischievous, like she was about to say something hilarious. Whenever she slept in my arms, I would always breathe in her sweet, sweet milk breath. 

This isn't the first or last stage of her growing up, growing farther away from me, but breastfeeding was the last physical connection between our bodies. She's her own complete being now. One of the biggest changes? She doesn't have sweet, milk breath any more. And I miss it.


  1. Well gosh, this makes me sad too. But you know that even though that physical connection may not be a part of your lives anymore, the emotional one will keep growing more profound every day for the rest of your lives.

    Maybe you should have a cheese + ice cream party in recognition of this milestone :)

    Love you!

  2. You're such a great writer, Erin. You put into words all sorts of things that are hard to say.

    This is tough - the connection that you have with the baby while nursing is so magical. But there are all sorts of fun and amazing connections to come...

  3. Oh gosh. We're getting so close to this point. She still eats, I still pump, but it's coming. I will so miss her milk breath!


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