I did it.
A whole year is about to pass, and I managed to keep a little human alive somehow. This experience has been quite a rollercoaster ride.
PJ has been successfully weaned and is now able to take whole milk in place of breast milk. She’s eating what we eat now for the most part, and the mushy baby food is now a thing of the past. I can’t believe she’s about to be one year old.
As I was packing away all of the breast pumps, parts, and equipment, I was excited to reclaim an entire section of my kitchen cabinet where these things had made a home. That feeling was fleeting and was quickly replaced with sorrow. Sure, I was happy to have my entire body to myself again, but I was also realizing how quickly PJ has grown since she came home with us for the first time.
Looking back, the first few months were rough.
I was battling postpartum depression, struggling to get PJ to latch correctly, and to top it all off, I got laid off from my job at the 6-month mark. What should have been a happy and joyous time for me ended up being dark and full of anxiety and dread. Once we finally got breastfeeding down, I looked forward to those moments where I could nurse and just be away from the rest of the world with my baby. Sometimes, those moments felt isolating and frustrating. Thankfully, I kept reminding myself to cherish PJ and hold her close, even as I was fighting with my own demons in my head, because I knew these moments wouldn’t last forever.
Those moments kept me going through the hardships our family faced. When everything around me seemed to be falling apart, I felt like I could do nothing right. When PJ would look up at me with grateful eyes and fall asleep in my arms after getting her fill of milk, it made me feel like I was able to do something important after all, and that I was here for a reason. Thank God that she was able to keep reminding me of this during some of my darker days.
Pumping and nursing consumed a lot of my time. There were many times where I would be on the road, and I would have to pump either while driving (not fun) or be hidden in the backseat trying to discreetly take care of business. I did travel and work quite a bit still after being laid off from my full-time job, but both of the pumps I had still saw plenty of action. I had to be dedicated to pumping while away to make breastfeeding work when I got home.
That being said, I highly recommend both the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and the Spectra S2 breast pumps. I was able to buy adapters and other interchangeable parts for both pumps on Amazon, and I definitely got my money’s worth out of both of these hard-working pumps.
I eventually got used to how often I would have to pump to keep my supply stable, and I really didn’t realize just how much time this ate up until I began the weaning process. All of a sudden, I felt like I could get so much done! I would even have some extra time to myself occasionally to treat myself to a few Netflix shows or some Stardew Valley in the evenings. It was an amazing feeling to get that time back.
Still, our weaning had to be done gradually over a period of time to avoid things like breast engorgement and mastitis, but also to keep my sanity as I was going through a rough period of my life. During the last few months, I nursed with absolutely no distractions. No phone, no Facebook, nothing. Just me and PJ. I did my best to remember every detail – from her unique and creative ways to nurse sideways or even upside-down while playing or watching the TV, to how peaceful her face looked as she slowly fell asleep on my chest. I didn’t do any weird tricks to get PJ to come off the breast. She just adjusted to the bottle and fewer nursing sessions with little to no fuss.
The last nursing session we had was uneventful. It was peaceful, and I was blissfully unaware that PJ would no longer need to nurse soon. I’m glad that I didn’t make a big deal out of it and allowed things to take place naturally. It was the first thing that I had to “let go” of and the first loss of babyhood I had to grieve.
It was the first sense of loss that I have felt as a parent.
Don’t get me wrong, both of us were ready to end breastfeeding. PJ is becoming more curious by the day and is eager to move and explore the world around her. (Not to mention she has a mouth full of teeth now – another big motivator to wean at this time.) I need to get back to work, and despite the progress made with breastfeeding in the white-collar workplace, it would not be attractive to many employers in the US to hire an employee that is still nursing a child past one year.
Maybe it has something to with the hormonal shift I have to endure now that the milk factory is shutting down, but the emotional aftermath of weaning is pretty intense and can leave me feeling excited to be done one moment, and then sad and wistful the next. Fortunately, I’ve managed to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t ruminate on the things that I should have/would have/could have done during this entire journey.
But despite all of the challenges we faced this first year, I am ready to take on the next year with renewed grit and energy.
As I packed up the pumps for storage, not to be used again until the next kid comes along, I got excited thinking about what the future has in store for us. I’m looking forward to the new experiences we will have together.