One of the things I’m most proud of as a mother is nursing my older son for a year. And now one of the other things I am most proud of is weaning my younger son at 6 months.
Nursing my older son Ari wasn’t easy. Like many moms, it took weeks to find our groove. Just as I was getting the hang of things, I had to head back to work when Ari turned 3 months old. From there my love-hate relationship with my breast pump began.
Due to my son’s (amazing) sleep schedule and my work schedule, I would often go days at a time with only one nursing, if even that. It was just me and the pump. At some point, my pumping became only about the milk and not the feeding of my son. I was constantly worried if I was making enough milk. Was there a deep supply in the freezer? Would I have to give him what I thought was a dreaded bottle of formula? I was pretty miserable breastfeeding. I distinctly remember hating nearly every minute of it, but I persisted. I didn’t think I had any other choice.
I swore with my next child that I wouldn’t be all consumed by the milk.
Fast forward two years later. I was planning on nursing my new little guy Micah the same 12 months. I was convinced I had to do what I did for one for the other. But as all parents know, life is rarely as we plan it.
Nursing Micah was somehow even harder. It started with a tongue-tie at birth, but we had a surgery to fix that. Then came a long-lasting cold that invaded our family when he was 10 weeks. He nursed less than normal and my supply tanked, just as my body was figuring out how much to produce. And of course then came my son’s dairy and soy intolerance diagnosis.
But I kept on nursing. I was still convinced I couldn’t quit on Micah because I hadn’t with Ari. I began taking more than 16 pills a day (ordered overseas from a small Pacific island that I can barely pronounce) and three god-awful tasting liquid supplements to make enough milk. I avoided all of my favorite foods from grilled cheese sandwiches to a simple glass of milk. I learned that Oreos were dairy-free and somehow managed to overdose on one of my favorite treats.
It quickly once again became all about the milk. I would throw temper tantrums at my breast pump, screaming at it. I’d cry for no reason. Thinking about breastfeeding became all-consuming. My friends were supportive, but at some point I knew they were tired of listening to me. And then of course I spilled breastmilk all over my work computer, frying it. I’m not going to say that I quit nursing over spilled milk, but the instance only exacerbated my frustration.
My epiphany came when, after another night of crying, my older son asked my husband, “What’s wrong with mommy?”
I realized that as beneficial as breastfeeding is, I was no longer doing what was in the best interest of my son, of my family, and of myself.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety for many years. I was finally in a good place and all of the sudden I felt all of my symptoms return. I realized that I needed to be serious about the saying “Happy Mommy, Happy Baby.”
So even though I was finally making enough milk, I made the agonizing decision, along with my incredibly supportive husband, to wean my son.
I’m sure I will still feel guilty in the upcoming days and weeks. I’ll see moms nursing their kids and wish I was still doing the same. But I also know that I did what was right for us.
Last night was likely the last time I will ever breastfeed. I told my son that I was proud that for the past six months I have nourished him, sustained him, and did everything I could to help him grow up to be a healthy and strong boy.
And with tears in my eyes, I told him that none of that was going to change.