The Emotional End of My Breastfeeding Journey

emotional breastfeeding weaning

I knew this time was coming, and I have been desperately working to delay it as long as possible. I expected it would be hard but couldn’t imagine quite how emotional it would actually be. Typing “end” in this blog post title produces a heavy feeling. I don’t want this to be the end of my breastfeeding journey. If I had it my way, we wouldn’t be done.

If Layla would have it her way, we wouldn’t be done either. So why are we? I’ve found it difficult to not get frustrated with my body in the last couple of months as my supply has dipped below Layla’s needs.

The good fight

But man, I fought hard. It wasn’t totally unlike my experience with Ellie; different circumstances but the same give-it-all-I’ve-got kind of fight. Ironically, with Layla, I started with an oversupply of milk but it slowed way down once I was nursing her on one side at a time. It also didn’t help that she was a serious snacker and distracted eater!

At 4 ½ months and 6 ½ months I hit dips that I thought I wouldn’t bounce back from. Then between months 8 and 10, it was a constant struggle, like an all-consuming constant effort to keep my supply steady. There wasn’t anything I didn’t try: supplements, teas, oils, cookies, increased calories, visualization, affirmations, energy work. I even tried not trying, truly letting go and thanking my body for what it had provided my baby this far and letting be what would be.

It’s funny, after my challenges breastfeeding Ellie – we barely squeaked past 7 months – I remember thinking that if I had it my way I’d nurse my next baby until 9 months. Not too short, not too long, just right. As if, I knew then what would be best for me now.

“I don’t feel done”

This time around, 9 months felt nowhere near long enough. So even though I was not producing much milk, I still nursed, and pumped, and fought for it. Layla would get frustrated when there wasn’t enough milk and yet she still wanted the comfort of the boob. So I would nurse her and then offer her a bottle, which she would take almost every time. She would sometimes bite me and I would cry, adding to the sadness and frustration I was already feeling. For two months Chris would look at me like, “why are you doing this to yourself?” and my answer was always the same: “because I don’t feel done.” Rational or not, it’s how I felt.

Don’t get me wrong; there are countless positives to weaning. To name a few:

  • No more pumping!!
  • Freedom to wear whatever I want – like a dress! Can’t really nurse in a dress!
  • Can eat (and drink) what I want. More wine and sushi please.
  • More counter space freed up by the pump and all the parts
  • A schedule not ruled by when the next feeding is
  • Can kick up the exercise and cut back on calories, should I choose to 😉
  • Detoxifying products are no longer off limits
  • Can pack away my nursing covers, clothes and nursing pads too
  • No more stressing over milk supply!

And yet I’m stuck in the sadness of the moment. I know it will pass, but here I am, sitting on my bedroom floor sobbing while none of the above offers me comfort. Getting my body back to myself is a pretty exciting freedom and yet I guess I just didn’t mind sharing it with her that much.

Just Sad.

The end of our breastfeeding journey has been gradual. First I stopped pumping. Then I cut out the two daytime feeds and for awhile we just did morning and nighttime, which I have to admit was really nice. I wish my supply would have stayed strong enough to carry on that schedule for awhile longer. Having it end gradually has been nice; gentle you could say. And yet there have been that many more “lasts” to get upset about – the last nighttime feed, the last nurse on the right side, etc.

I have been crying, a lot, but mostly keeping it to myself because it feels so painfully personal and sacred. Plus, I don’t want to feel (or be looked at as) overdramatic as I explain that what I am feeling is grief.

The sadness reminds me of the baby blues I felt after the girls were born. It feels so real and so deep and yet it can seem irrational and hard to put into words. Logically I know how fortunate I am to have breastfed my child for 10 months, let alone at all. Rationally I know that I need to pat myself on the back for how far we’ve come. But emotionally I’m heartbroken that we’re not continuing this journey together. There have GOT to be hormones at play here.

Because I knew the end was coming, I spent the last days committing all the little details to memory:

The way her body fits perfectly in the nook of mine

The opening and closing of her fists around my finger

The push and pull of her little hands kneading on my chest like a little kitten

The sweet sounds of her grunts and deep breathing

The way she makes eye contact with me like I’m the most important person in her world

I don’t want to risk forgetting any of it. Well, maybe the biting.

Now.

It’s been almost two weeks since I breastfed Layla for the last time and I’m still getting used to it. I’m not as emotionally distraught and yet, I can still be brought to tears thinking about it. I’m starting to see the silver lining though; I was away for work for a few days and was SO grateful to not have to pump. I still cuddle Layla close when I give her the bottle. It helps to see how excited she gets for her “baba,” even making a clicking noise with her mouth when she wants it. I’m relieved that she’s getting everything she needs.

And she seems to be just as in love with me as before so that’s a good thing too.

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “The Emotional End of My Breastfeeding Journey

  1. Thank you for sharing. I have been googling “emotional end of my breastfeeding journey” in hopes of finding someone with similar experiences so I feel somewhat normal. My baby is 5 months. So young, I know. It literally has been a fight to get her to latch for the last month and a half. Since me returning to work, she became very inpatient with mommy. She’s always had nipple confusion since day one, so we’ve had to give it a couples tries before she suckled correctly. Now she doesn’t try and gets angry when i try to latch her. My supply diminished. I’ve tried everything because i feel she’s just too young. I gave it a good 3 weeks until she was 5 months. I stopped “making” her latch when I accidentally scratched her little nose with my nail trying. I felt horrible. Today is my first day at work without my pump. I have’t felt my boobs fill to an uncomfortable state in about two weeks. My supply is gone I think. Feeling that the milk is not there makes me soooo sad for some reason. I mean, I’m glad it doesn’t hurt but boy i would give it all up if I could breastfeed her until she was 1 year old. Thanks again for sharing. This post and others are definitely helping me see that I am not alone in this process.

    1. Oh Laura!!! I got teary reading your comment. I want to send you a huge hug. I just KNOW how hard you’ve tried, because I’ve been there and because I feel it through your words. You’d give anything, and really you have – you’ve literally tried everything. If there was something else to do, you would have done it. At some point that alone will bring you peace. For now it’s extremely emotional, and hard to even convey to someone who hasn’t had a similar experience. I remember the first day I didn’t pump. It was probably the hardest of all the days. I felt like I was doing something awful, that I was betraying my child, even though rationally I knew that was the farthest thing from the truth. I wish you the best especially in these next few days, as its the hardest. And then, enjoy feeding your child stress free and watching her grow and flourish all while your bond only gets stronger. The 5 months of breastmilk you gave her is a huge gift that many aren’t able to give. Bravo to you Mama!!! XOOX

  2. Although I’m not one for social media, I enjoy your Instagram and your blog. You have a sweet family.
    This post touched me as I had to quit nursing quite early. I stopped just short of 6 months.
    From almost the beginning I supplemented with my milk in the bottle. My little one would not drink enough. He latched fine, I had plenty of milk, and I made sure there were no distractions. He would either nurse lazily, taking little in, or doze off. He liked the bottle much better, so after a great fight I gave in and weaned him, but continued to pump and give him my milk till he was a year old. He is now a little over 2, and baby 2 is due any day. We’ll see if he/she is a better nurser.
    I felt so bad, that I had to bottle feed him. But I held him close and gave him my full attention. And, in spite of my depression, I realized how lucky I was to have a good, healthy milk supply, and that he would take the bottle. And, like you, Jessie, I feel strongly that a great deal of my sadness was due to crazy hormones.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings, and giving all of us not-so-perfect breastfeeding moms a voice.

    1. Thank you for reading, Bree! And how incredible that he got your breastmilk his entire first year! Major accomplishment. With Ellie, my first, she quickly preferred the bottle over the boob and even when she finally learned to latch at like 8 weeks, she still didn’t extract enough to keep her full – we called her a lazy sucker. It was emotional as I REALLY wanted the bonding part of the experience. With Layla, my second, she latched well but eventually it was my supply that became the issue. Interesting how there are so many ways it can go. And we always do our best, sacrificing whatever is necessary.. and it can be disappointing when it doesn’t work out the way we hoped! I have a feeling you’ll have a great breastfeeding experience with your second, is he or she here yet???? Tell me how its going! OXOXO

  3. My baby boy will be one year old on July 6. Oh, and I forgot to add…happy birthday dear Layla!
    This post was such an intimate and personal sharing. I hope it helped you vent a little; I know it did me. Best, Jenna

  4. My baby boy will be one year old on July 6. Oh, and I forgot to add…happy birthday dear Layla!
    This post was such an intimate and personal sharing. I hope it helped you vent a little; I know it did me.

  5. I enjoy your blog and Instagram of your beautiful family in your gorgeous city!
    When I read this post I was touched and also felt many similarities.
    My little boy will be 1 soon, too. We stopped nursing just at 11 months. He had been a disinterested feeder from the beginning, though i managed to feed him well for almost 7 months. I supplemented with bottles of breast milk, and he just seemed more interested in the bottle. My pediatrician said that even with “natural” bottles, it’s much easier to get the milk for baby; he doesn’t have to work as hard. So I was supplementing more as he became less interested.
    Then, with the addition of solid foods, we were down to 1 morning and 1 night feeding. That became 1 night feeding, then we were done.
    I, like you, gave it a good fight. At least we got in 7 pretty good months. Now, he gets water or organic formula in the bottle. Plus solids.
    I just don’t feel like it was long enough. I miss the closeness… emotionally and physically. I do cuddle him when he has a bottle, but to me it isn’t quite the same. I guess what it comes down to is, I’m mourning the stage of babyhood my baby has left behind. He’s growing and “moving on”….and I want to slow it down.
    I am happy to be free of leaking breasts, nursing-oriented clothes, and pumping. I guess I should be grateful, as you are, that I was able to nurse my baby as long as I did. We are trying for baby 2, and looking forward to more love. I do plan to nurse, and will be happy and thankful if the next baby nurses as long as his/her big brother did.
    Thank you for sharing this information and emotional part of your motherhood journey. It helps to know there are others out there that share our feelings and experiences….good as well as difficult.

    1. SO similar to my story! Layla was ALWAYS distracted, whether it was being done after one side or pulling off at the sound of any little noise to check things out. I too felt like she eventually preferred the bottle when she was hungry, maybe the breast when wanting comfort. And the end was obviously really sad, much sadder than I was expecting so you’re not alone :). The silver lining is all the things you mentioned – I get to wear what I want and can pack away the pump, hallelujah!! Happy almost birthday to your babe! When is his birthday?

  6. I just replied to the meltdown, then I read this. I, too, had an emotional attachment to nursing my boys. With the first, my goal was 1 year, and longer if possible. Boy 1 was a good nurser, and we made it through 14 months. After about 9 months, the feedings were gradually reduced, with the addition of solid foods, teething, and him losing interest a little.
    By the time we were at a year, it was twice a day, then once, then gradual weaning. I was a little sad to stop, but he was ready. Also, we were preparing for child # 2, and I and my body needed a break. It was bittersweet, but also good to put away (although temporarily) all the accoutrements that accompany nursing. And no more pumping on weekend escapes with hubby!
    With boy 2, stopping was a little less emotional. He wasn’t as interested in nursing as boy 1, and I was supplementing much earlier. I had a good milk supply with both; so that wasn’t a problem. But by 7 months, boy 2 was down to 3 nursings a day. It stayed like that for 2 months, then I gradually weaned him, and we were done just after 11 months. I felt a little sad, but with both boys, I cuddled them closely when I bottle fed, and tried to look at the positives.
    You and I got our babies to a good age with mother’s milk, so we can be proud and grateful. And it’s ok to feel sad at the end of any passage. It’s part of life.

    1. Wow, you did great! And you’re so right, and I do feel proud and grateful for the time I had nursing both girls. This time around it just ended before I emotionally was ready, no matter how hard I fought. I realize now that it was just meant to be this way, this was our course, and I’m better with it now. But boy, those hormones threw me for a couple weeks there! Yikes, I was so sad. Now I see that I get to cuddle just as much with Layla when I give her her bottle, and it’s without the stress that I felt those last months of struggling. So much to be grateful for. Thanks Mama!!!!

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