When Breastfeeding is Over
Weaning from breastfeeding at the breast and/or pumping is a very personal decision. When I first starting breastfeeding it was a struggle. I encountered many bumps in the road and didn’t have a great support system. However, as I sit here today and find my breastfeeding journey over I have very mixed emotions.
Weaning from breastfeeding was something that crossed my mind many times through our breastfeeding journey.
I started breastfeeding over 8 years ago (yes 8 wow right?!) when my first son was born and in the beginning, it was not an easy journey. I didn’t have enough information, there were so many hurdles and my support circle was really nonexistent and I give credit to the local La Leche League for our success and leading me to where I am today.
I thought about weaning often. When I first started my goal was to make it another week. I had painful nipples, my pediatrician was giving me misinformation about the length of time between feedings. She wanted my baby to wait 2-3 hours and one 3-4 hour stretch daily. I was under a lot of stress, didn’t have the support I needed and my baby nursed constantly which made me think I was starving him. I later learned that it was normal newborn behavior & he was gaining weight well. Thank God for the internet and the LLL!
I went on to nurse 4 children all together, just over 8 years straight and it has truly been a journey. Everything from learning to nurse in public, constantly wondering if I was doing a good job and conquering my fear of criticism from onlookers, taking my breast pump to work to pump milk and even to conceiving my other children while breastfeeding.
Oh what a journey it has been.
It went by fast, sometimes furious &, in the end, truly has all been worth it.
I have so many overwhelming emotions. I feel proud, sad and overjoyed to have my boobs back to myself all together!
No more nursing bras, wearing tops based on how easily I can get my breast out and more freedom to eat and drink what I want and more sleep!
How I made it to 8 years!
When I started, I initially planned on nursing to 1 year as the pediatrician recommended. However, when 1 year approached I couldn’t see weaning my baby just because it was his birthday and switching to cow’s milk. Nursing an older baby is much easier than nursing a newborn. They can sit up, sleep longer stretches and are also starting on foods.
After that, it was natural for me to keep going. Even when I became pregnant with son #2. As someone without pregnancy complications, I was also given the okay to continue to nurse through my pregnancies. Even when my milk supply really dropped, my son kept going and I learned to tandem breastfeed.
Turns out, having a toddler to help with engorgement after giving birth to a newborn is an amazing relationship! My children held hands and nursed tandem style and also if I had a painfully engorged breast I was able to offer for my toddler to nurse instead of turning to the pump to relieve an ounce or two of pressure. I just kept going! My 4 sons were all born within 2 years or less (the closest 17 months) apart and it’s been quite the marathon.
So here I am at 8 years.
Setting a breastfeeding weaning date
I realized with my 4th son that I would have to pick a date. My other children just outgrew nursing and/or decided they didn’t want to compete with their younger brother and they just really weaned on their own. Two around 2.5 years and my child with Ollier’s Disease just over 3 which, as a side note, I was so thankful for especially as he started having major surgeries. However, with my last baby, there was no competition. No newborn brother to share my milk with and all the attention that comes with being the youngest child.
I decided to set a date and started weaning down. First I stopped nighttime feedings. This was a combination of him learning to sleep longer on his own and me pretending to be asleep when he woke up and started looking to dream feed. Next the daytime feedings went one by one and the last one to go was nursing before bed. As he approached 3 and became able to understand more and more…I told him my boobies were already asleep and most recently I told him they retired. Because they, in fact, are in retirement!
Don’t offer, don’t refuse.
This was a phrase I learned at a LLL meeting. It’s a gentle method of weaning where you don’t offer to nurse but also don’t refuse.
I did a lot of standing. A lot of standing.
Sitting down has always been a cue to my kids that I’m available for nursing. So, I simply stood a lot. Comfortable shoes help with this!
However, eventually, I had to start refusing on some level. Telling my son that my boobs were asleep, and it’s been almost a month since weaning!
All of the pros.
There were a lot of tears. To be honest, I’m crying now. BUT there have been so many amazing things too. I am drinking a bit of wine and enjoying the dietary freedoms I didn’t have when I worried what would pass onto my baby.
My boobs have shrunk back down to their pre-pregnancy size from over 9 years ago and I am not disappointed!
I am so proud of my boobs. And I say boobs because that’s what my kids call my girls. Growing up I was horribly self-conscious about my breast size. I remember being called flat chested and always wished they were bigger. However, looking back…I ran track and cross country and my body fat was low. I should have been proud then too. Now, looking at them back to a much smaller size…I am so proud. You go boobs. You go.
A Celebration fit for my boobs.
I want to celebrate! I’m thinking bras that don’t have snaps, possibly a cake and maybe even a party! Definitely a party.
So, to issue an official and public thank you, to my boobs. Thank you. For all you’ve done for my babies, for teaching me that I am more amazing than I ever gave myself and my body credit for. Thank you.
Whether you have nursed one day, one month, one year or longer. Please thank your breasts too. If you have received donor milk, you can always thank the donating breast as well!
A must-have memento.
While this has been both a very happy and a very sad time for me I am very thankful to have breastmilk jewelry. When I got it initially I thought I would appreciate it when breastfeeding came to an end and I was right! I cherish it now more than ever.
(Pinterest image below)