Saying Good-Bye to Breastfeeding

I remember a conversation I had with one of my friends in my early twenties. She was ready to have her first baby, and we were discussing breastfeeding.

I announced there was NO WAY I was ever doing that! For personal reasons, you know.

Honestly, I couldn't imagine my tiny, non-breasts ever doing something like that. My tiny, non-breasts had never been great, and honestly, I hated them. The thought of some other human being needing them and using them all the time was just . . .weird.

My mom didn't nurse us, and my sister didn't nurse her kids. As far as I knew, none of my sisters-in law had either; at least, not for very long. I knew women did it, but it seemed more like a hippy, Earth mother, granola thing to do.

Bottle was going to be the way to go for me.

Until I was finally pregnant - with twins, no less. And then, I just knew I was going to nurse my babies.

And then my twins arrived five and a half weeks early and were in the NICU, and I didn't even get to see them until about seven hours after they were born.

It wasn't until the next day that anyone suggested that I nurse either one of them. Slim was born with a cleft lip and palate, so we knew nursing was going to be difficult. But with tiny, not-even-five pounds Joey, it just . . .clicked. And it was so wonderful.

My non-breasts were doing it, doing something special, something only a mother could do. And thus began my love affair with breastfeeding.

With the exception of Slim (I really did try with him, but he couldn't get the suction with his wide open palate and lip), all of my boys latched on right away and nursed pretty much exclusively until they were done. For Joey, that was 11 months, for Knox - nine months, for Lil' C - well, I was on a progesterone only birth control pill and my milk started drying up early. We barely squeaked out five months. 

And Edgie, my dear sweet surprise last child . . .he would still be nursing if I would let him. Since he was my last child, it was just so much easier to nurse him - I could get him down for naps faster and asleep at night easier so I could help the older boys. So we kept on, after a year, after 18 months, after 2 years. All of the milestones I marked as ending breastfeeding came and went, and there we still were at naps and night nursing and cuddling. And neither of us minded.

I never thought I would be there. I knew a mom when we lived on Long Island who was still nursing her older child. We'd be in our mother's group, and her daughter would walk over to her mom, lift up her shirt and have a drink. It made me uncomfortable, and I vowed that if one of my children ever asked for it or lifted my shirt, I'd stop.

That was never an issue, until Edgie. And suddenly, one night, it was.

We were cuddling in his rocking chair, and my nipples were sore from his teeth. I decided I was done. So I tried to simply rock him. He got upset and tried to pull up my shirt. "I want to," he said. And that was it for me. I knew I had long since stopped making milk, and he was just using me as a pacifier. And I was using him to hold on to the sweetness of baby days.

But the baby days are over, and I have to face that. Something that was such a good memory for me needs to now be just that - a memory.

So every night we simply rock and cuddle. He fusses at first, but generally, he's so tired from the summer days' activities and the absence of a mid-day nap, he falls right to sleep.

And instead of stroking his soft hair while he nurses, I look down at his sweet toddler face, asleep on my lap.

I can truly say that I enjoyed breastfeeding. Oh sure, as with any love affair, there were some hated moments - mastitis, sore nipples, marathon nursing sessions that never seemed to end, trying to covertly breastfeed in public, and not feeling supported by in-laws. But in all, it was mostly a positive experience for me.

I already miss it, but I also know what I have to look forward to. And fortunately for both Edgie and me, I know what's to come is just as sweet and exciting as the baby moments.

It makes saying good-bye to that part of our lives a little easier.

My good 'ole nursing pillow. Used with five babies,
repaired twice. Nine good years.

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