breastfeeding |

The End of Our Breastfeeding Journey

DenaDecember 12, 2014

breastfeeding |
nursing Roman, two-months-old, in the park

The spectrum of emotions that I went through while breastfeeding was amazing. Early on, I decided that breastfeeding was the most difficult thing that I’d ever done in my life. For me, the difficulty wasn’t physical. (Roman latched immediately and nursed happily round-the-clock.) The difficulty was emotional. Nursing a newborn is a sacrifice, and a gift, unlike anything else in the world. For what seemed like an eternity, I was the only one that could help him; the only one that could soothe him; the only one that could nourish him. He was entirely dependent on me and no one could help me through it.

Often, during those hazy, sleep-deprived first weeks, I thought that I couldn’t go on. I was tired — mind, body & soul — and I just wanted help. I wanted someone else to be able to help him, to help me. But no one could.

I constantly told myself: Just get through this night. Just get through this day. Just get through this week. I was forever bargaining with myself to hold on a little bit longer. It’s hard to explain exactly why it was so hard, but it was. I suppose that it’s a combination of many things, but mostly — exhaustion, isolation, and hormones. In the early months of exclusively breastfeeding an infant, you are alone. There is no such thing as freedom, not even a tiny glimpse of it.

There were so many times that I wanted to give up. Gratefully, my husband is an enormous breastfeeding advocate and he encouraged me every day and deep into those sleepless nights. If it weren’t for him, I’m not sure that I would have made it. There were many people in my life who encouraged me to: Just give that baby a bottle of formula. But M. kept pushing me to stay true to my goal, even when I absolutely hated him for it.

And then one day, it just got easier. There were always highs and lows. Eventually, there were times when breastfeeding seemed like the easier option. But then, there were many others, when it got hard again — mostly because of society’s perception of it. I found myself nursing him in a hot car or a cold car or struggling to keep a blanket over his head and those times were frustration. But generally, we found a rhythm and it worked.

Once he had started solids and had begin sleeping through the night (around 7 months) things went smoothly. I actually enjoyed nursing him. It was our special time together. It was my gift to him — and his to me. I often thought that I would happily nurse him forever. It brought us so close together, and when he started interacting with the world and other people finally could take care of him, it was still our special thing that no one else could replicate or take away.

I never intended to breastfeed much past one year. Yet, when his one-year birthday came and went, he showed no signs of weaning and I wasn’t even close to being ready emotionally. I talked to family & friends who had come through the process and I was puzzled by their simple replies: You just stop. You wean slowly. And so on. But it didn’t make sense to me, sure Roman wasn’t nursing nearly as much as he used to, but I didn’t see how we could ever let go of those few times a day that he did nurse — especially bedtime!

When I got pregnant in July, Roman was about a year-and-a-half-old. Things stayed the same for a little while, but once hyperemesis gravidarum kicked in, nursing became too much for me. Roman, however, wasn’t ready to let go. Still, I slowly started to cut back. First, I cut out his morning session when he woke up. That was easy enough because there is so much excitement at the start of the day to provide distraction. It was just as easy to cut out mid-day sessions. I realized that a lot of what had been holding me back from weaning was my emotional attachment to breastfeeding. The bedtime sessions were more difficult though — Roman needed (wanted?) to nurse to fall asleep.

It was during M.’s hospital stay that Roman finally gave up his bedtime sessions. I can’t be sure what exactly caused it, but I think maybe I dried up. There was a tremendous amount of physical and emotional stress on my body from driving back & forth to the hospital every day, managing the house alone, being pregnant, and so on. And one night, Roman just didn’t want to nurse. We sat down in the rocking chair next to his crib as usual, but when I went to nurse him he pulled away. I was surprised, but I put him in his crib, and just like that, he fell asleep and it was over.

I cried writing that last sentence. I thought I was passed the emotional tear of it. In fact, I waited two months to write this post. But I don’t think that I ever will be passed it completely. It’s a terribly difficult thing to let go of; something so special, pure, and true; a tremendous piece of our lives together & of my journey as a mother. Even in the hardest times, I knew that I would miss it someday — and I already do.

Motherhood is the hardest thing. We raise our babies up, only to let them go — piece by piece, until they’re on their own. What a curse. What a blessing. ♥

(( Click here for my other posts about our breastfeeding journey. ))

Comments (12)

  • Tina

    December 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    This was so beautiful. You’re such an amazing mom and your children (yes, two now!!) are so lucky to have you 🙂

    1. Dena

      December 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

      thank you so much, tina!! that means so much. <3

  • dragonfly

    December 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    And now you’ve made me cry. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Dena

      December 13, 2014 at 10:45 am

      aw, sorry to have made you cry. i hope they are mostly happy tears. <3

  • roberta

    December 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    dena i just love reading your writings…that just touched my heart and made me want to cry its happy but yet sad…..and that last statement how true…what a curse what a blessing…couldnt of said that better…parenthood… beautiful and what a wonderful story….thank you for sharing with us…

  • The Baby Maven

    March 23, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Your breastfeeding journey brought a smile to my face. It’s always wonderful to read shared stories of that special time.

  • Anonymous

    July 31, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Thanks for this.. This helped me, reading this today as I believe we are also done on our journey today.

    1. Dena

      July 31, 2017 at 7:40 am

      It’s such a bittersweet thing. It’s been a year since the last time I nursed either of my babies. It still makes me a weepy mess to think about it, yet a relief at the same time in some ways. Bless you on the next leg of your journey. ❤️

  • Lauren

    January 6, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    I’m ending my breastfeeding journey after 13 months and am having a hard time with it emotionally. Thank you for these words! I know I’m not alone.

    1. Dena

      January 10, 2018 at 8:05 pm


  • Danielle Powell

    April 3, 2018 at 6:15 am

    This says a lot of what I’m feeling. It made me cry, so beautiful. My little one is 18 months old and I had started to wean him slowly and then last week he caught hand, foot and mouth and it hurt him to feed. Although he really wanted to, the physical pain was too much for him and it’s been a full week since he last fed. He still shouts and cries for boo boo (his word for it) but it’s as if he’s forgotten how to latch, or he’s scared to, he just snuggles next to them now. Although I was starting the weaning process I feel the end to our journey wasn’t as we (I) hoped it would be and I’m really struggling emotionally. Thanks for your words!!

    1. Dena

      April 3, 2018 at 6:45 am

      I am so sorry, love. Prayers that you will find peace with your journey. Big hugs. xo

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