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Breast-Feeding Adieu

I'm sitting up in my bed. Crying. The type of crying that you can’t predict or prevent from happening. The kind with the big, heavy tears that spill out of your eyeballs and race down your cheeks like they’re trying to escape. And it’s come on so suddenly that I’m sitting here trying to decide if it’s because I’m happy or because I’m sad. Or because I’m neither one of those, but just generally overwhelmed.

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The tears, I’m now realizing, are a culmination of the general funk I’ve been in for the past two days. I’ve been feeling tired, generally unwell. I’ve been feeling down. The reason for this tearful release? It’s something that I never thought would bring me to this state of heavy emotion. It’s because I’ve stopped breast-feeding my almost one-year-old daughter. It’s because I’m hanging up the boobs.

I honestly can’t believe I’ve managed to keep up breast-feeding for this long. It was a tough start, a slow go, filled with lots of challenges. My milk didn’t manage to come in for over two weeks. And with feeding and pumping around the clock, fenugreek and even creative visualization, I still only got about 1 ounce of milk out of each of these bad girls. And then, when my milk supply finally increased, about three months into the game, I spent the following three months battling mastitis, every other week, it seemed.

So why did I keep going? I can tell you it wasn’t because I was hell-bent on only giving baby the boob. Sure, I wanted my daughter to receive all the health benefits of breast milk, but I had a very flexible attitude about breast-feeding. After the fifth bout of mastitis, I was A-OK with giving it up. But, because I was so susceptible to infection, I was instructed by my doctor to wean slowly. And slowly I did wean. I was not going to let the milk back up and start a war inside my boob again.

I dropped one feeding a week over the next few weeks. And then I was only feeding her at night, and when she woke up in the morning. That’s when I finally got into the groove of breast-feeding.

I am crying because I’m not sure if I’ll have another, and this may have been my breast-feeding “last hurrah.”

I loved having that alone time with her every night and early in the morning. Loved having that unique bonding experience that breast-feeding provides, without having to pump when I was working or out during the day. Loved the ease and convenience of just bringing her into bed for that early morning feeding. Loved having big milk jugs. I continued to feed her like that for the next four months.

But then she started to bite.

We don’t need to go into the specifics of how mother-effing painful it is when a baby with new, jagged, un-grinded-down teeth bites down on your tender nipples, which were just getting over the post-traumatic mastitis stress, as it was. Just know that it hurts enough to send one (which is me) into breast-feeding retirement.

And so I sit—on my bed, tears streaming, with my milkless breasts in my hands. I break into a new set of sobs every time I squeeze them. There’s still a little bit of active milk gland in there, I can feel it. But, its milky guests are heading out the door as they’ve gotten the hint that the party’s over. I have a frantic thought to change my mind. To keep going for another month or two. To go and swoop up my daughter, and have her nurse back a milk supply. But it’s too late. It’s past the point of no return. I’m done breast-feeding.

I’m sure some of my tears are generated from the switch-up in hormones, yet again. But the weight of my tears are coming from that sentimental place—that nurturing, maternal place. I am crying because I had really grown to love breast-feeding. I am crying because the baby phase is over. I am crying because I’m not sure if I’ll have another, and this may have been my breast-feeding “last hurrah.” I am crying because it’s times like these that make us realize how it all goes by so quickly and that, before I know it, she’ll be grown-up and trying to date and wear my clothes (I flatter myself; I’ll be much older then, and probably shopping at Chico’s).

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I never thought I’d be so sad to say goodbye to lactating. Something that was such a nightmare for me in the beginning turned out to be a positive experience in the end. And I feel like I’ve gained good perspective about it all. I now understand why women decide to nurse their babies well into toddlerhood just as much as I understand why women go to the bottle within baby’s first week. It has been a good ride full of tears, wincing, punching my bed in pain while saying the "F" word, as well as one full of smiles, quiet, sweet baby moments, and big-ass knockers. And now, as I play a dramatic, slow motion, nursing montage in my mind’s eye to the soundtrack of St. Elmo’s Fire, with my boobs in my hands, I bid you farewell, breast-feeding. La Leche Love Forever...

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