When Mila was born, I set out a goal for myself to make it nine months with breastfeeding, mainly to get her through influenza and RSV season with my immunity. Plus, being an ER nurse, I have some slight PTSD and a skewed perception of what to expect going into the winter months with a fresh newborn who hasn’t built up her own immune system yet. My mind always goes to the worst case scenario. Plus, I cannot even fathom the amount of germs I unintentionally bring home, which had me overly paranoid as a new mom. The silver lining to that is I’m sure I have an equally abundant supply of antibodies and immunity from being exposed to so much on a daily basis, so passing that along to Mila via breast milk was a huge motivator for me.
Other than the obvious immune boosting benefits, another super plus to breastfeeding has been the amount of calories it (almost) effortlessly burns! I am back to pre-baby weight without trying AT ALL. Like… eating pints of ice cream, chocolate, carbs-on-carbs, and candy on the REGULAR. Coming from someone who used to religiously workout five to six days a week, eat like a health fanatic, and have a six pack (of abs) just prior getting pregnant. I think I have worked out maaaybe once in the last year. I am by no means proud of this, because despite what the scale says, my body is nowhere near where it was when I was this same weight pre-baby. Not even close. I have zero muscle mass at this point, and would love to get back into a fitness routine, mostly for my sanity, but that’s a story for another time!
Fast forward 13 months, one common cold, and one double ear infection later, I think we are doing pretty darn well. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. We left the hospital syringe feeding pumped milk, which then graduated to a tiny catheter attached to the syringe that I put into her mouth along side a nipple shield, to encourage her suck and latch. I actually ended up using nipple shields for about three or four months before she finally was able to latch effectively and not cause extreme pain. Almost immediately after I started the ‘mini-pill’ for birth control, my milk supply tanked and it became extremely painful to nurse (again), to the point that I would be trembling in pain, and my nipples would turn bright white during and for a while after nursing. This was almost my breastfeeding breaking point. I was ready to give up. After doing some of my own research, a prophylactic treatment of thrush, and a lactation consult, I decided to take myself off the birth control to see if that was causing a vasospasm (blanching) in my nipples. I do have Reynaud’s Disease in my fingers/toes, so it made sense. Sure enough my milk supply came back up and the pain resolved within a week of it being out of my system. Phew. So to say the first four or so months of our breastfeeding journey was on the difficult side is an understatement, but I stuck it out and I am so proud that I did.
I have been slowing tapering Mila off breastfeeding for the last month or so, eliminating her day time feedings, and until a week ago she was down to just one feeding in the early morning, and one feeding at bedtime. It was around that time I started realizing just how much of a blessing breastfeeding has been for me despite our rocky start. I was finally actually enjoying it. It has helped me slow down, and be mindful during otherwise stressful and chaotic times. It has helped me to notice and cherish the little things, you know… the things that matter most in this life. Like the way she stops eating to look up at me and smile, crosses her cute little chubby feet at every feeding, holds onto my back, grabs my nose, or signs for “milk”. And once I’ve finally made it home from a crazy 14 hour rat race of a day at work, it has helped me slow my mind, take a few deep breaths, and just be present.
One week ago Mila randomly decided to self wean from her bed time feeding, coincidentally the same day she finally took off with walking. Five days later, she self weaned from breastfeeding all together, and wants nothing to do with breastfeeding anymore. Mind. Blown. I for one, had no idea that this was even a thing?! Being a first time mom, I just assumed I would have to rip my breast away from her at some point, whenever I decided I was done. For something that I longed to be done with for months, I am finding it so difficult to let go of. Maybe it was because it caught me off guard, or maybe because it was on her terms and not mine. I never thought I’d be one to struggle with letting this go, but I am a bit of an emotional mess over it, and I’m usually not a crier. I’m sure that is partially the hormones talking, but man, this is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. I think more than anything, it’s the realization and symbolization that my baby isn’t a baby anymore, and never will be again. She is officially entering toddler-hood, which is just breaking my heart. As bittersweet as this breastfeeding journey has been, I am over the moon that my baby girl is the strong, independent, and determined little human that she is, and I am so excited to continue watching her learn, grow, and find her way in this world. While breastfeeding has literally helped her little body grow, it has given me so much personal growth as well, and for that I am eternally grateful.