Though I've been quite reluctant to admit it, for the past week Beatrice Kate has slowly started to wean herself from breastfeeding. I say reluctant because I really, really don't want her to be doing this. However, at the same time, I realize that it is something I knew she would eventually do; I just didn't want it to happen so soon. I feel like breastfeeding has become part of my identity and I'm not sure what happens next.
I'm sure you're probably saying "so soon? Really??" Yes, it has been over a year that we've shared the breastfeeding experience and (judge me all you want) I really thought I would be That Mom who nursed her
But, that's not how it's playing out. It started as her just wanting to nurse down before each nap or bedtime, when she had been nursing before and after. Then it became only nursing once in the morning and once at night before bed. Now, I'm lucky if I can get her to nurse at all before she goes to bed. I offer her a chance each night and each morning and only about 40% of the time does she accept the boob. Sigh.
Look, I realize that most people think I'm am a complete crazy person for getting depressed about this- but you have to understand... Breastfeeding and Breastmilk are the ONLY THINGS that have gone right or according to plan (no, really. Remember?) So, I guess I just want to maintain control over something in this whole "child rearing" debacle.
Has breastfeeding been easy? Hell. No. It's been hard. Very, very, very hard. For nearly 5 weeks after she was born, Beatrice Kate was fed milk through a tube in her nose. She didn't even see a nipple for a while after she was born.
So for all of that time, I exclusively pumped milk. And if you've never had the pleasure of experiencing that little treat... Thank the Lord now. 'Cause it ain't fun. It's impersonal, it can be painful and it's a pain in the butt to wash and sanitize everything eight times a day around the clock. But, it was the only thing I could do for a while to contribute to my daughter's health and showcase my status as "Mother".
Then, when she finally was introduced to the concept of nursing, my boob and her head were grossly outmatched. So, thus began our year-long dependence on The Nipple Shield. Because of that and a severe case of preemie-typical reflux, Beatrice Kate and I never developed the "typical" convenience-nursing that most mothers enjoy.
I would even venture to say that I should probably become a Lactation Consultant after all the problems and issues, nursing strikes and such that we experienced.
Breastfeeding for us was a giant production every time she fed, with pillows, a nursing stool, a Boppy and a quiet place; both in and out of the hospital. She had to be propped up at a near 90 degree angle, left upright after feeding for thirty minutes; and then, I had to pump out what she didn't eat (oversupply was painful!), wash it all, and then 30 minutes later, it was time to repeat it all. I remember so clearly, standing in the kitchen one night, after a particularly troubling feeding session, sobbing to Casey that I just couldn't do it. It was SO HARD.
As she got older, she became more efficient and we treated the reflux with medication, so while it still wasn't easy, breastfeeding became at least tolerable. Then, she became aware. Aware that there were other things going on in the world while she was stuck, attached to the boob. So, we then became unable to nurse in public. Then, we weren't able to nurse anywhere but in my bedroom, in the dark, with no distractions in the house.
See... it hasn't been easy. But it was what was best for her. Breastmilk is amazing stuff. It helped contribute to her health and saved her life in the NICU.
And as the relationship is winding down, yes... I am very sad. But, as one wise Stroller Striding' Momma told me today, "It's better she decides when to stop than you making her". Ah, very smart indeed. It would break my heart 1,000 times more I had to pull her away.
As bittersweet as it is to see her weaning, I can see the "light" at the end of the nursing tunnel. We can go out in public more now and not have to obsess over getting back home in time to nurse. I can actually go out and do things alone (not that I want to do this that often) and not worry about her getting enough milk by a bottle.
Of course, I'll still night-nurse her as long as she wants, but I realistically don't see it continuing for much longer. I just hope she will still let me rock and cuddle her to sleep each night!
We'll continue to use up the (over abundance) of milk in our outside freezer until it's gone and then slowly make the transition to cow's milk. I think Casey and I calculated a rough estimate of the amount of milk I've made over the last year and it's somehwere in the range of 100 gallons. No kidding. So, she may have a month or two left of the Good Stuff.
PS: I gave her a little bit of Whole Cow's Milk last night in her cup just to gauge her reaction to it and she didn't even give it two blinks before she guzzled it down. Talk about feeling betrayed!!