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Oct 15 2013

I Can’t Bring Myself to Throw Away the Breast Milk

By at 10:07 am

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About four months ago, I stopped pumping.

I know. It’s a big deal. I’m a part-time, work-from-home mom, so pumping was something I had to do in order to go out and get in a few hours at the office. Every night, around 9 p.m. I’d get my water, wash my hands, set up the pump, and watch TV. After an hour of being attached to flanges that made an arooga sound as they pulled on my nipples, I’d have a few ounces and I’d know that I could leave the house the next time the babysitter came by.

Oh man, that pump. I know I’m not the first to complain about the noises it made (the TV volume was always up so high so I could hear over the damn thing) or about the way it could hurt or about how my relationship with cow’s milk has changed now that I myself have been like the cow. And yes, I would multitask, working my way through my DVR, sometimes attempting to respond to emails, but still–it was a huge commitment of time and energy, every night. Every night for almost a year.

And then my son turned 1. I pumped for an extra week. Because as much as I hated that damn pump, I was afraid to stop. I was afraid that maybe he’d have a cow’s milk allergy (I had one when I was a baby) and therefore I should keep pumping so that I could continue to feed him breast milk until I was sure it was safe. I was afraid that he wouldn’t like the taste of cow’s milk and that breast milk would be the only way he would get the nutrients and vitamins he needed. But I also was afraid, a little bit, that he’d like cow’s milk more than breast milk. And then maybe he wouldn’t need me anymore.

But I did quit, later that week. I did hate that pump, and I knew I didn’t really need it anymore–the baby didn’t really need it anymore. Upon quitting, I couldn’t get over all of the time I suddenly had. I could do so many things in the evening! I didn’t have to sit in the same place all of the time! I was free!

My son slowly made his way through the milk that was frozen in our freezer while simultaneously being introduced to cow’s milk, and now is fully on cow’s milk. No allergies. No aversions. And he still kept nursing until we were both ready to stop. He’s perfectly happy and thriving.

I was happy, too–until I found some frozen bags of breast milk in the back of the freezer the other day, dated from March. Definitely too old to give to the baby. But I can’t seem to get myself to let it defrost and go down the drain.

What’s my hang up?

When I first started thinking about it, I thought it was the hard work I put in–the time I spent attached to the pump. But that’s not really it. It’s not even the occasional pain I suffered getting that milk out of me and into those bags.

What it’s really about is that my baby is no longer really a baby. He’s rapidly becoming a toddler and I’m just not ready for it quite yet. I still want to smush my face into his little tummy and give him raspberries, and have him snuggle into me with all that special baby smell. That frozen breast milk reminds me of the sweetness of our nursing relationship, of the precious bond that we shared for so long, of how hard I worked to keep my baby nourished, happy, and healthy. Every time I grab an ice cube and see those bags of milk, I am swept back to those special moments.

And I know he’s going to grow, and that’s what I want–a happy, growing, inquisitive toddler. But now and again, it’s nice to remember what it was like at the beginning. So no–I’m not ready to throw out that breast milk. Soon. Just not quite yet.

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