My daughter Nora and I have been breastfeeding for a little over sixteen months. We nursed exclusively for the first six months, then through the crucial first twelve months, and then we’ve just kept going.
I know, deep in my bones, that it has been a privilege to nurse for this long. Not every nursing dyad makes it this long (if they want to). And I know that I will always treasure these first months, as we’ve developed our relationship, and spent (many) minutes bound together.
We’ve adapted together, as she’s grown and her needs changed, and we’ve overcome our share of challenges. We’ve made it through a rocky first few weeks, where we had to supplement with formula. We made it through a maternity leave where I got a new bleb (painful milk blisters on my nipples) every few days. We’ve made it through cluster feeding and hundreds of late night feedings. We made it through weeks (weeks!) of biting during the early teething months. We’ve made it through colds, Nora not being able to breathe through her nose long enough to get milk.
But mostly, we’ve made it through my role as the primary working parent for the last thirteen months. in other words, I’ve been pumping for thirteen months. (Longer, if you count waiting for my milk to come in and building up my freezer stash before I started work.) In my first few months, I blew out three defective pumps and finally found one that works (Medela FTW). At my earliest point, I was pumping six times a day, for 15 minutes each. Now, I’m thankfully down to just two sessions.
Pumping is about as glamorous as it sounds. It is my least favorite part of breastfeeding, and also my most necessary. I would never have been able to make it this long without my pump(s). I’ve had to rearrange meetings, skip lunch breaks, stay late and rise early, all to pump. I have been tethered to this whirring, cold machine for way too long.
Now, Nora is drinking whole cow’s milk during then week days and she barely nurses during her waking hours when I am home. (Yet still nurses to sleep and 2-ish times during the night.) I’ve made the decision to wean off my pump during the day. Next week, I’ll decrease to one session, and then the next week to every other day, and then I’ll stop. I’ve done my research and I’ve learned at this stage, my night and weekend nursing should maintain enough milk supply for Nora’s needs.
I should be happy. And I mostly am. I cannot wait to have my free time back, to stop lugging my heavy bag, to stop worrying about my milk production. My life is going to be so much easier now.
But I also know that this is one step closer to fully weaning. Now that I’ve made it past my personal goal of 12 months, the next goal of 24 months seems so far away. As I take this step, am I leading us towards the end of our breastfeeding relationship earlier? Logically, I know it doesn’t make sense for me to pump anymore. But, since Nora will be my only child, this step brings me one step closer to no longer being a nursing mom ever again. And that makes me almost more sad than knowing I won’t be pregnant again or give birth again.
I feel like I need a sense of closure on this part of my life, like I need to put my pump to rest. (Viking funeral? Internment? Cremation?) So, I’m asking the world:
How did you mark the weaning transitions in your nursing life?