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I am sad to end our breastfeeding journey—but so ready, too

Starting to wean my last child from breastfeeding feels like the end of an era.

I am sad to end our breastfeeding journey—but so ready, too

I have dedicated my body to another human life for the past six years. Trying to conceive, being pregnant, recovering from birth, breastfeeding. Then right back at it again for the second time. This intense and amazing process has blessed me with the two most beautiful boys this world has to offer. (I am biased, I know).


But it has taken a toll on me. On my body. On my self-confidence.

Starting to wean my last child from breastfeeding feels like the end of an era. I am very emotional about it. It's hard to fathom that this is something I will never, ever, have the opportunity to do again. Because it has truly been one of the greatest honors of my life.

But even though it's sad and a bit overwhelming, I am ready. Really ready.

Lately, as I sit in the dark, in the middle of the night, I let my mind wander. Utterly exhausted, nursing my baby to sleep, I think of all the things I will gain back...

I am ready to claim my body back as mine.

I am ready to go braless, even if it's just to sleep at night.

I am ready to no longer leak through every bra, shirt and sheet I own.

I am ready to get back to the gym, without two sports bras and leak preventing pads.

I am ready to be able to leave the house for more than 3-hour increments.

I am ready to have someone else take on some of the middle of the night feedings (sorry, darling).

I am ready to go to my closet and pick out anything I want to wear, without having to consider whether or not it will be easy enough to nurse in public in.

I am ready to no longer be attached to my breast pump (literally and figuratively).

I am ready to never, ever, ever wash another pumping part again.

I am ready to not feel like I am constantly hunched over.

I am ready to no longer feel the pain of engorgement.

I am ready to no longer feel like a 24/7 milk-only diner.

I am ready to no longer have to whip out my breast at a moment's notice in a restaurant, on an airplane, in the middle of a crowded farmers market.

But, with each newfound freedom, or return to my old self, comes a sense of loss for each of the beautiful memories this part of my motherhood journey has given me.

Never again will I be the sole lifeline for my boys.

Never again will I be able to produce food from my body.

Never again will I be part of the strong squad of breastfeeding mamas.

Never again will I feel the way my son fits perfectly across my lap, all curled up as he eats.

Never again will I glance down and see his tiny yet chubby hand holding the top of my shirt.

Never again will I see him pop off my breast, still sucking mid-air, as he drifts off to sleep.

Never again will I be able to soothe him as he wakes from a night terror, just by nursing.

I know with each day that passes, it's one day closer to my "freedom." But at the same time, one less day that I will get to share this type of bond with my son.

So instead of daydreaming in the middle of a feeding, I now take pictures—both with my phone and with my mind. Of all the tiny details. Of his sweet lips, long eyelashes, his chubby hands.

I am trying to sear into my brain this remarkable experience. Because in a flash, it will be over. And so goes motherhood... From one stage, you go right onto the next. Each is equally beautiful and difficult in its own right.

But this part of the journey? This stage has been pretty special, and one I will never forget.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But, a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4 year old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year...

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keeping an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Following children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

"You should see his room at home!" or, "I ask him to put his toys away every day, and it's a battle every single time" were frequent comments.

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