One thing no one told me when it came to breastfeeding is how much it would hurt both physically and emotionally when it finally came time to stop. If you were to ask me a couple of years ago, if I would breastfeed my kids after they turned one, I’d probably laugh at you. I had no intention of breastfeeding past a year. It just seemed like it would be so hard, and I couldn’t imagine breastfeeding for an entire year.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my children. Unfortunately, with my two older sons, I had to stop breastfeeding around three to six months for various reasons. With my third son, I decided I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, so I figured it would be easy enough to do so. I initially set a goal to breastfeed until he was six months old, but would definitely begin to wean at a year old. I know many mothers who choose to continue to breastfeed past a year old. However, breastfeeding past a year was not my preference.
Honestly, even if I wanted to give my son formula, I wouldn’t have been able to. My son came at 35 weeks and had some feeding issues. He had a bit of a hard time latching but definitely preferred breastmilk. Due to the latching and some other complications, we tried to give him formula at the hospital. He also struggled with this. He really disliked formula. The doctors suggested combining formula and my breastmilk, but he still struggled. We were able to see a lactation consultant at the hospital that really helped us. It was like magic. My son was able to latch, and breastfeeding was going well.
Fast forward to six months, and we were still going strong with breastfeeding. All was well. I knew my son wasn’t ready to wean, and neither was I. As we neared the one year mark, I started to notice he still wasn’t ready to wean, and shockingly, neither was I.
A couple of months later, I realized now was probably a good time to start weaning. At this time, my son was only breastfeeding at nap time and bedtime. However, he would still wake up in the middle of the night to feed. I knew it was time wean and stop breastfeeding. I discussed my plans, thoughts, and feelings with his pediatrician, and we came up with a plan.
Even though I was ready, I still had mixed feelings. As I said before, I didn’t realize how much it would hurt physically and emotionally. The first few days were absolutely brutal. I was engorged, and getting my son to sleep was really hard. Eventually, he realized he could sleep without needing to breastfeed.
The emotional pain was worse. There were times when I felt like a terrible mom for deciding to wean at eighteen months. I also felt sad I wouldn’t be able to hold and watch my baby fall asleep as he nursed. I wondered if our bond would be broken. To me, weaning is a sign of my baby growing up. My baby is not a baby anymore…he’s a toddler. He’s becoming more independent. I think it hurt so much because he is most likely our last child. Our last baby. He won’t need me as much anymore. And that feeling and realization stung.
Although saying goodbye to breastfeeding has been bittersweet, I am so happy I was able to breastfeed for as long as I did. I am proud I was able to meet my son’s needs despite some bumps along the way. Breastfeeding was amazing, challenging, frightening, and such a gift. I felt so empowered. Yes, I am sad that it has come to an end, but I am incredibly happy to see how far we’ve come.