I know you’re sad right now. I can feel the tears dripping down your face and know the weight on your heart. You’re out of sorts – no more wondering when it’s going to happen. It has happened. It’s been a week now since Vivienne last breastfed. Some people don’t know what to do with their hands when they’re antsy. You currently don’t know what to do with your boobs!
It’s normal if your hormones soar to new heights and sink to new lows this month as your body and mind adjust. This is the first time since December 2011 that you haven’t been pregnant, breastfeeding or both. That’s beyond amazing, though right now it feels utterly (udderly, haha) weird. It’s going to take some time for it to fully sink in. That’s OK.
In the meantime, there’s a lot you can celebrate about you right now.
Your intense dedication to breastfeeding. That your kids’ painful-for-you lip and tongue ties were only roadblocks and not stop signs during your nursing journeys. And most important to you, that you achieved your goal of nursing both kids for the same duration. 19 months for Evangeline. 20 months for Vivienne.
You were always grateful to have a voluminous milk supply. Except for the time when you didn’t. Vivienne’s weight plummeted because she was sleeping so much and breastfeeding so little, diminishing your milk. During that high stress time, you gave up leaving the house in order to nurse and pump around the clock; eat lactogenic foods that made your stomach revolt; and wake a baby who was sleeping through the night to nurse. Your supply resumed and her weight went up.
You breastfed for another year, and now here you are.
There are many freedoms to be gained, like: traveling sans kids; happy hour; and no more nursing bras! You’ll appreciate these more as this month turns to next. In the meantime, it’s OK to lament the no mores and never agains. Knowing you like I do, in order to move forward, you first need time to remember, to reflect.
There will be no more moments where the only thing in the world that can help your daughters feel better is your boob. The days of a tiny hand playing with your face while slurping your milk, or popping off the boob to laugh or chat, are over. Never again will you sit in the glider breastfeeding Vivienne with Evangeline angelically sitting behind you, holding her sister’s hand.
Was Vivienne one hundred percent ready to wean? Were you? No and no. Is it for the best? You’re mostly sure. The pros outweighed the cons, and it was on your mind so much. So while you weren’t completely ready, I do think it was right. You haven’t been feeling well, and if weaning helps you even a tiny bit, it’s worth it. If weaning now when it’s mostly mutual and Vivienne isn’t nursing as much anyway, compared to a few months from now when your “passionate” child (aka fiery tempered), is even more mature and might fight harder to continue, it’s right.
Since you take comfort in counting things, let’s take the stats you knew you would calculate once Vivienne weaned…but first let’s cry for a few minutes more…OK, nose wiped and bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie eaten. Here are your stats:
+5 years straight of being pregnant, breastfeeding, or both
+19 months Evangeline + 20 months Vivienne = 39 months of breastfeeding
= Well over 20,000 ounces of milk produced by your body! (Using KellyMom‘s guidelines.)
Your milk was good to the last drop. Its benefits will serve your daughters well for the rest of their lives. You have beautiful breastfeeding stories to share with them, as well as many other fantastic memories. You’re still their mother, and you know you’re a great one. It’s OK to be sad. In fact, I’d be peeved if you weren’t. What a momentous thing weaning your final child is for you. I can’t wait to figure out what your next triumphs will be in motherhood and otherwise. This was a much-needed cry. Now I’ll remind you what you regularly tell your daughters, “Love yourself, first.” This letter shows that you do.
P.S. You will forever be grateful to the following, without whom you would not have been able to breastfeed your lip/tongue-tied babies for even half as long:
-Courtney King Gonsulin, MS CCC SLP at LSU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic; Jamie Findley, RN, IBCLC in Baton Rouge; the Louisiana Tongue Tie Support Group; and Amy Drew, La Leche League, New Orleans for your words of wisdom and support.
–Dr. Stacy Cole, DDS (Dallas, TX) and Dr. Michael Juban, DDS (Baton Rouge, LA) for confidently performing laser lip/tongue tie surgeries on wiggly babies.
-Susie Amick, RN, IBCLC, RLC, LCCE, East Jefferson General Hospital, for your passion and goodness, and for the warmth I felt and confidence I found each time I was in your office working on my babies’ latches.
-The greatest of admiration for “lactation conference junkie,” “always has one more trick up her sleeve,” “won’t stop until you’re breastfeeding well,” Susan Howard, RN, IBCLC of Arlington Lactation. You diagnosed Evangeline’s lip and tongue ties online when no one I consulted in person could explain the awful gash in my boob. You also helped me every step of the way with Vivienne’s weight crisis. Without you, there would have been thousands fewer ounces.
What a beautiful tribute to “normal” feeding.
Thank you so much, Susan, that means a lot.
I am so determined to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for being an inspiration to me and moms everywhere!
Those words make me feel so good! New motherhood looks SO good on you, my amazing yogini friend!
I find myself sniffling a little. Okay, a lot. I guess I needed to read this. Getting ready to wean my first baby off her last feeding of the day … because the new baby is arriving in very short order. And I can’t really bring myself to feel anything other than guilty. Guilty because maybe I breastfed her “too long,” guilty because she loves it so much and I’m about to take it away, guilty because her life is about to change, and she’s not going to love every single change. Guilty because I can’t for the life of me feel confident about when the “right” time will be or should have been. Whew. Long day. Thank you for sharing this, is what I’m trying to say.
Oh guilt, why are you such a part of being a mom?! First, wow, you’ve made it almost an entire pregnancy with nursing that beautiful toddler of yours. That’s not for the faint of heart! I guess there’s no right time/best time, just like there’s often not one for getting pregnant in the first place. For whatever she might feel about having her mama milk taken away and all the changes that are to come, it’s my belief (as an only child who still wonders when her sister/brother is coming) that you’re giving her the very best gift you can: a sibling/partner in crime/someone to roll eyes with when your parents annoy you. Hugs and Ben & Jerry’s to you, my dear friend!
Weaned my fourth and last recently at 25 months. I sobbed while reading this. Good to know others have similar feelings.
Michelle, even though it’s now been two weeks since our last feed, Vivienne woke up today and asked for mama milk. It’s heartbreaking to say, “It’s all gone.” What a special experience breastfeeding has been, and how nice to share that feeling with other moms.