The End of the Road…

Credit: Flickr, user Vincent Brassinne

I recently stopped breastfeeding.  Stopped.  As in no longer nursing my little one.  It wasn’t really my choosing.  It was the result of a long decline in my milk production shortly after I returned to work post-maternity leave.

I enjoyed a very abundant supply of milk for many months, for which I am very thankful.  I know of many women who wished that they could have breastfed, but were not able to produce milk or had other issues.

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9 oz of milk in one pumping session. The glory of the early days! Credit: Instagram, livingfortwoplus

I had a pretty uneventful and easy breastfeeding journey, comparatively speaking.  Though I did have a rough start.
Post nursing session. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Post nursing session in the hospital.  I was so lucky that my hospital was so supportive to breastfeeding mothers.  Every single nursing session (think: every two hours), there was a lactation consultant there to help me.  I will be forever thankful to my hospital and lactation consultants. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Ava needed to eat constantly and I was always sore (which is common for almost all breastfeeding mothers–> see my previous post on helpful nursing items HERE ).  I was also engorged (click to see what “engorged” means). A lot. This caused a lot of discomfort.  More than discomfort.  These clogged ducts were PAINFUL.  But after a rough first couple of weeks, I came to really enjoy breastfeeding.  I looked forward to it.  I loved cuddling up with Ava and being her source of comfort.
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First weeks home post-nursing session.

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Breastfeeding was not always “glamorous” or as romanticized as the books may make it: real life, it was exhausting early on and I fell asleep many times with Ava still latched on.

I loved being able to rock her to sleep or to watch her get “milk drunk” after a feeding.  And although sometimes I felt like people didn’t quite understand why I was working so hard to feed Ava when a simple formula bottle would do just fine, there were just too many benefits to breastfeeding for me to give up.  
Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

Ava at about 2.5 months old; Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

When I went back to work, Ava was about 3 months old (almost 4).  My supply dipped tremendously.  There was never a convenient time to pump at school.  I was always rushing.  Always afraid that someone would walk into whatever room I was in.  I had people unlock my LOCKED classroom door.  It was awful.  Signs didn’t help.  My school didn’t foster a culture of support for post partum mothers.  Although there were people on the staff who were supportive, the overall structure of my day made it overwhelmingly hard to pump when I needed to.  I would have needed to be able to have someone cover probably two 20-30 minute segments of my classes.  And of course, this was impossible.
Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave.  This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave. This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Combined with recently returning after a very long maternity leave and feeling like I was drowning in responsibility, I began missing pumping sessions.  There was just no time.  I was constantly engorged.
But everyday I would look forward to 4:45pm, when I would get home and nurse Ava.
As the weeks went on, my supply dropped and dropped and dropped.  I felt so guilty.  I made tons of lactation cookies and drank lactation teas, but nothing could take the place of what actual nursing or pumping sessions can do to sustain or boost milk supply.  By the end of the school year, I was pumping maybe 6 oz all day at school and needed to supplement while at home. (Some info about pumping:  First, my pump was free through my insurance plan, which is a pretty common practice nowadays.  Here is the pump I used.  I really loved the company.  They replaced my pump free of charge when it broke.  I hated pumping though….just being honest!)
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Pumping every free moment I had. This was earlier on, when I could make about 4 ounces in one sitting.

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. :(

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. 😦

I vowed to get my supply up while at home during the summer.  I did skin to skin, tried new cookie recipes (awesome cookie recipes HERE and HERE), and herbal supplements.  And it helped for a little, but my body was definitely nearing the end.
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I ate tons of delicious cookies that did help out a lot.

I then took a month long trip to NY.  Ava and I were out almost every day, making it so difficult to nurse but so convenient to give bottles.  And I started noticing that I could go the whole day without the urge to nurse.
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Such a great trip to my hometown. But it was definitely the nail in my nursing “coffin”.

Now we are here.  I’ve now gone several days without nursing.  And while I know that this day had to come at some point, it still saddens me that this stage in our relationship is over.  I’m not depressed.  Just in awe at how quickly everything is going.  I really loved nursing and am so glad that I was able to go almost eight months! But I’m trying to get over my guilt of feeling like a bad mom—maybe if I tried harder, I could have gone longer.  But honestly, maybe it was a blessing.  The same week I stopped nursing was ironically the same week two teeth sprouted in Ava’s mouth.  Maybe I escaped by the skin of my teeth the dreaded biting while nursing.  But I was willing to risk it, just to nourish my little girl.

Now we are in a different chapter! Having fun with solids!

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