I have known this moment was coming for a while.
Not only did I know it was coming, but I had been eagerly waiting for it. I was done with breastfeeding. I wanted my body back. I wanted my flexibility back. I no longer wanted to be solely responsible for providing nourishment for my daughter.
Today I breastfed my daughter for the last time. Today I said goodbye to a closeness unlike any other.
And I am sad.
Why is this so hard to accept?
When my daughter was born, I never expected I would make it this long breastfeeding her. She was my second child so I assumed things would develop in a similar pattern as they had previously. With my first, I had not felt connected to breastfeeding at all. It was not this magical bonding experience I had always hoped it would be.
I still felt it was important to give him breast milk so I started pumping, thinking that would be easier. Now not only was my body required to provide full nourishment to this little person, but I had to do so by being connected to a machine. While I loved being able to feed my son, pumping was so time-consuming. I set this arbitrary goal to get to six months and I did it. I was able to wean easily, and we moved on. That was it.
When my daughter was born, she had a different plan. She loved breastfeeding and hated the bottle. She would nurse easily and quickly, and we got into a good rhythm almost immediately.
Breastfeeding soothed her and helped her fall asleep. She seemed to be thriving, so we just kept with it. The months kept going and I kept breastfeeding and before I knew it, the six-month mark had come and gone and I had no plan or intention to stop. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding for the first year, so I started to think this would be our next milestone.
As she got older, and I started working outside of our home more, she got more bottles. It was great that someone else could help feed her, but it also meant I needed to pump.
I started to resent it. I still really enjoyed nursing her but struggled with being connected to a machine once again.
I know it is the right time for us. I know that this is a good time to end this phase of her life. And I know I am ready. Except I didn’t expect to feel this way.
Since I knew the end of breastfeeding was coming, I focused on enjoying each time we nursed and savoring the feelings I had. But in doing this, I was getting more and more upset about stopping.
So I tried to also look towards the future and what I would be gaining after this journey came to an end. I started to get excited about all the clothes I could wear that were not options currently because my boobs were not accessible. I thought about the freedom of going to work without having to make sure I had a pump session scheduled.
Looking back, I know this journey taught me a lot. It taught me how strong I am. It provided proof of how amazing a woman’s body really is. My body may not look exactly like I want it to as a result, but I grew and fed two amazing humans. Having spent my career helping others develop more positive body acceptance, I have had to dig deep and listen to some of my own advice. It has not been easy but I am getting there.
This journey has also taught me how remarkably different the same experience can be with two different babies. Allowing each experience to play out on its own allows for satisfaction and enjoyment with it, regardless of how it may or may not meet our expectations.
As with anything in life, this ending marks a chance for a new beginning. A new relationship with my daughter and a new type of freedom for both of us. But it’s still not easy. One of the things I’m having the hardest time with is thinking that these newborn milestones are behind me. That I will possibly never have this experience with another baby ever again.
Whether you breastfed for a full year (or two), one day, or not at all, whether you chose to end the relationship or your baby makes this decision for you, we are all rock stars. Being a mother is like no other job in the world, and requires a level of responsibility and commitment that is unmatched. This breastfeeding journey taught me that.
I am proud of myself for what I accomplished, and also proud of myself for knowing when it was time for me to stop. Motherhood brings with it countless chances to learn about yourself and what you are capable of. So here’s to the next journey (and the one after that!)