Tuesday, October 5, 2010

nursing no more

It is with mixed emotions that I say goodbye to breastfeeding. Part of me is feeling relief (elation!) at having my body back to myself and no longer having to worry about scheduling pumping sessions, and another part of me feels great sadness that this incredible bonding time with Natalie is ending. There's also quite a bit of guilt in there, too. Guilt over choosing what is easiest for me over what is considered best for Natalie's health. Guilt about adding another expense to our limited household income by switching to formula. Guilt over taking away what is a source of great comfort and contentment to my baby.

But, as I've wrestled with all of these emotions, I've made the decision to make the switch, and we've been sloooooowly weaning Natalie for a few weeks. Actually, the transition has gone quite seamlessly, and Natalie has handled it all with general ambivalence. We followed the suggestion of our pediatrician and friends with similarly-weaned babies, and gradually started replacing the breast milk in Natalie's bottles with formula, one ounce at a time. It's taken about a full month to get her up to bottles entirely made up of formula, and a bit longer to cut out nursing altogether.

Switching Natalie to bottles-only during the day meant that I could ease up on pumping and diminish my milk supply slowly. I feel very fortunate that I've had such a positive breastfeeding experience, and that weaning has gone with the same flying colors--no pain & little engorgement or leaking. Such a relief.

Nighttime nursing has been the last to go. Natalie's bedtime routine has always included essentially nursing to sleep, which has been convenient and effective, and also provided me with my favorite breastfeeding experience of them all. There has been nothing so sweet as rocking her each night while she is held close to my body, her skin on my skin, her smell in my nose, as she drifts off to sleep eating contentedly. Letting go of that perfect moment has been the toughest on me, emotionally. I know I will look back on those evenings with all kinds of weepy nostalgia for the rest of my life.

Another toughie to figure out is her middle-of-the-night-feeding. She's down to one late night/early morning (generally between 2 and 4am) feeding, and while it is never easy to wake up at that unholy hour to feed her, it's definitely less painful to just tuck her into bed with us and nurse her than deal with the hassle of making a bottle. Ugh, my eyes burn just thinking about needing to be that awake so early. We're slowly adjusting, though, and I think soon Natalie will be saying goodbye to that feeding anyway. As it is, she sleeps from about 6pm until her 4am feeding before getting up for the day at 6am, so it seems like another couple of hours between feedings is certainly achievable for her soon.

This isn't meant to be a pity-post, though. I am confident in my decision, and feel proud of myself for following the AAP recommendation to breastfeed for the first 6 months of a baby's life (we cheated a bit by adding rice cereal at 4 mos, so I can't say we did it exclusively, but it was close!). I think that when all is said and done I'll be able to look back on the decision to stop breastfeeding now without any regrets.

Although I do feel I've had great support and acceptance at work when it comes to taking breaks to pump (and have even been lucky enough to run home midday to nurse), my professional life will certainly be made easier by eliminating pumping. It will be a relief to get dressed for work without thinking about what clothes will be easiest to maneuver a pump around, or what top will be least likely to show moisture if I end up leaking between pumping sessions. My "getting ready" time will be reduced because I won't have to deal with the hassle of packing up the pump, cooler with ice packs, and enough bottles to keep up with my pumping schedule.

Additionally, the super-selfish part of me is feeling awfully excited to be able to have a drink (or several) whenever I get the urge, and not just in sync with when I'll be feeding Natalie. Cold medicines will no longer be off-limits, and I'll be able to use whatever body lotions I darn well please. All pretty sweet benefits of finishing up with breastfeeding.

It's a mixed bag, to be sure, but I'm adjusting to the idea of the big switch, and I think it will make our lives easier in the long run. All you mamas who stick it out for the first year and beyond, I am fully in awe of your selflessness, persistence, and dedication to breastfeeding! I'm envious of your determination, but am also so happy to be saying goodbye to nursing on my own terms.


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