It’s very fitting that today kicks off World Breastfeeding Week because I had planned on writing about breastfeeding (or rather breastmilk I guess) anyway.
On Friday, at 16 months 2 weeks old, Mason enjoyed his last bottle of breastmilk before bed. 5 weeks earlier, he had had his last breastfeeding session one morning. And just like that, there are no more nursing sessions or bottles to clean. And no more breastmlk that he so loved and depended on for the last 16 months. I never imagined I’d be half as sad as I am about this all coming to an end. Had you told me I would be sad about this 15 months ago, I would have laughed hysterically at you.
For those who know nothing about our journey, I started out with the goal of breastfeeding for one year, imagining it would be blissful and by the time he was 53 weeks old, we would be all done. Little did I know, it was nothing like that.
The first weeks were hard. Oh so hard. Starting with the hospital telling me that I wasn’t good enough and feeding him formula while I sat in my hospital room with their pump and celebrated every cc that I pumped. After we went home from the hospital, there was no more forumula, but I felt like I could do absolutely nothing but breastfeed all day and all night. We were suppose to wake him every two hours to feed him and I felt like by the time we got done, I was feeding him again. In the first few weeks, my motivation to breastfeed was 90% about the amount of money we’d save and I’m glad that was enough to get me to keep going through the struggles. And amazed that it became about everything but money. After two weeks, I mentally told my pediatrician to shove it and stopped waking Mason up every 2 hours so we both could sleep longer. I set my sights on making it three weeks and then 6 weeks and then 2 months….
Other than the beginning chapped nipples, random milk blisters, and other somewhat “normal” struggles those new to breastfeeding have, we had another. Mason never latched well on the left side and I ended up basically exlusively feeding him from the right. Since I didn’t want to be horribly lopsided, I ended up exclusively feeding from one side and pumping from the other. I know now that this refusal was from his tort (which ended up causing his plagio) but back then, I just thought it was him being unique. So even after I would feed him for 45 minutes, I’d then have to turn around and pump for another 20. I kept reading again and again that there was no way to keep “exclusive pumping” past the 3 or 4 month mark, but we ended up proving that tidbit to be quite wrong.
At 8 weeks, I went back to work full time and pumped twice a day, twenty minutes a time, at work. My boss and coworkers were wonderful about the distruption to my day, but I felt guilty about all the work I was missing and the hinderance to everyone’s day if my partner was not there to cover me or if my “pumping office” was being occupied by people from our corporate office.
Somewhere around the 4 month mark, things got easier. Having pumped so much from day one, we had quite the stash built up and I was able to take a break from breastfeeding non-stop while at home while SuperDad fed him instead or we went out to eat and someone else watched Mason. I was still pumping 8 times a day along with feeding Mason 4 times a day, but everything was going much better. He was drinking three five ounce bottles of breastmilk a day at daycare and the occasional one at home, but the freezer stash grew and grew.
I slowly started dropping pumps around 8 months, including the middle of the night pump (Yep, I was still getting up between 3-4 am every night to pump as Mason slept…. By the time Mason turned a year old, I had stopped pumping except if I was away from him overnight and we were down to the morning and the bedtime breastfeeding sessions. That combined with 15 ounces of breastmilk a day at daycare meant he was definitely not lacking for milk!
Two months later, we tapered down to two bottles a day at dayare and changed to morning breastfeeding and an evening bottle. And then in June, two bottles at daycare became just one. Our morning breastfeeding session started being touch and go around 14 months – some days he’d want to hop off my lap after a few sucks and other days he’d stay on for ten minutes. Soon he was pushing away and crawling out of my lap more often than not. A week after he turned 15 months old, he miseed three mornings in a row and I stopped offering. He never thought twice about it.
And then came Saturday night. The end of the stash. His last bottle of breastmilk. The last run to the freezer to get a bag of milk. The last time I have to heat water for 3 minutes in the microwave and wait seven minutes for the milk to unthaw. The last time I rock my baby in my lap as he drinks from a bottle filled with the milk I worked diligently to produce for him for 15 months.
As with any of these bittersweet milestones, I’m left sad while he’s oblivious. But I’m pretty sure it’s better that way.
Some people are going to frown on me making a post about breastfeeding and showing my son drinking out of a bottle, and to that, I say – oh well! There is breastmilk in that bottle and that breastmilk was my son’s main form of nutrients for a year and a huge part of his diet up until this weekend. Does it really matter if it came out of a bottle or if he took it directly from the breast? My vote is obviously no and frankly, I don’t care about any other vote. Breastmilk is breastmilk is breastmilk.
Here’s to my body being able to to feed my son for SIXTEEN months. Self, you’ve done good.