This is the stuff they don’t talk about at the support group unless you ask!
I find there’s so many articles to guide us through beginning to breastfeed and maintaining a supply and even pitfalls, but what about when it’s time to be done? The following gems are opinions and discoveries I’ve come to learn in my two breastfeeding journeys that have past and ended.
1. There’s never really a right or perfect time to stop breastfeeding.
It’s up to you, not what others think. Don’t feel you have to prolong it, and don’t feel like you’ve failed if your milk just dried up.
You have to just go with your gut and what you feel is right for you and your baby. Do your best. If your milk never comes in despite your efforts, if it just dries up eventually at some point, if you have an amazing milk supply but it’s too much for you in some way, do not feel judged. We are all in different situations at the given time we breastfeed and breastfeeding is different with each pregnancy. It does not matter what the average span for breastfeeding is world-wide or even what time frame your friend made it to, know that it’s going to be unique to you and your baby. I really think the La Leche League should mail out medals to anyone who attempts to breastfeed, (please keep in mind I totally support formula feeding as well, both of my kids received formula supplements). No matter the length, an hour, a day, a week, a month, 6 months, 4 years! I have a pediatrician I’d like to show my medal to, while giving him a wink, (you know the one that said “You need a medal” when he told you there’s no point to continue breastfeeding after one year). We all end our breastfeeding journeys at different times for different reasons but embrace yours, you rock Momma. I had to tell myself this while my first go around came to an end. My milk started to dry up at 10 months, even with diligent pumping and feeding whenever possible, I found myself adding together tiny ounces and less than and ounce of milk at a time. Then a co-worker boldly said “I think you’ve done a great job and maybe it’s time to stop now.” Ok maybe I added in “I think you’ve done a great job.” I think her saying that would have made it easier for me to hear at the time, but looking back I needed to hear that. I was lucky to make it to 10 months, but at the time it was just so hard for me to come to terms with.
2. Don’t let anyone’s advice or comments, solicited or not make you feel sad for any of your decisions when realizing or deciding your lactating days are over for this round.
Seriously don’t dwell on something someone told you! (Unless it’s actually something you needed to hear or seems helpful and right for you.) I’ve spent so much time reflecting on comments from friends, family, caregivers, co-workers, pediatricians, heck even strangers who needed to give their two cents. Although, sometimes they actually do give good advice! Some of those wise comments I still hold onto today thinking wow that saved my breastfeeding! But looking back there’s some of it that I dwelt too much on and perhaps maybe it even set me or my milk back. It seems silly now, but not at the time. Women can be sensitive about this subject at times. Even our friends and family, with our best interests at heart, might say the wrong thing at times, but ultimately mean well. I think I’m at fault for this on an occasion. That said, reach out to all your resources and support and take some of the comments with a grain of salt. Embrace and use the ones that help and call to you. Just leave and forget the rest, it will save you lots of ugly tears.
3. It’s ok to feel sad and unsure during this time, and it’s also ok to feel excited to get your body back! Or maybe even a little of both!
It can be hard to let go of something you worked so hard to maintain. If you are struggling to hold on to a milk supply, don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a supportive pediatrician and or a certified lactation consultant. God knows I’ve seen 3 different lactation specialists, 2 support groups and rotated pediatricians to maintain one of my tours de Leche! There’s help and supplements out there to look into to know you’ve given it your all. But just know that at some point it will end and we have all been there. It’s ok to have bittersweet feelings and feelings of joy too! Power to you, if you make it to the toddler and beyond round of milk making. I’ve experienced both milk drying up before I was ready to quit and having adequate milk at the 3 year mark, but deciding to wean. I have to say that both were tough to go though, perhaps slightly harder to wean. When little voices say “Mamma Milk,” it’s hard to deny.
4. If you have to wean, find a way to maintain a special bond.
As we slowly dropped feedings I would add in special cuddle times with my little one. We would read a book and cuddle close and drink almond milk from our big girl sippy cups. My husband stepped up and did these cuddle times with my daughter too. He enjoyed his turn to provide the milk and oxytocin cuddles a bit. I have to add it was so damn cute when my daughter asked “When will mommy’s milk come back?” Also at times bittersweet and heartbreaking for sure. But it was sweet when my daughter exclaimed she drank all of mommy’s milk! It’s all gone now! Stay focused Momma! You’ve done amazing! You just get to a point where you feel it’s best for you both to move on now to the next stage. It’s not easy, but I promise you it will work out.
5. Breastmilk really is a miracle, liquid gold! Get a special keepsake made to commemorate your journey!
This is by no means necessary to remember your journey, it will always be a part of your heart, but I thought it was amazing! I got a charm made of my Breastmilk. It only took a very small amount of milk I had in the freezer! I have to tell you that a lot of my friends and family seemed grossed out by this, but some thought it was so special. Keep in mind that no one would know what the charm is made out of unless you tell them. The website I ordered from even has discrete little charms, kind of like Pandora bracelet charm replicas. There is even little charms they can make that fit in those Oragami owl charm story necklaces. I’ve seen a few of these sites on the web. Here’s the link to the one I used and a photo of my Breastmilk pendant I ordered! http://www.hollydaydesigns.com/
6. If you find yourself with some extra time while not nursing around the clock now…. You should enjoy some YOU time, have extra cuddles or do something fun with your little one. Or you can whip up a batch of fresh lactation cookies for a friend in need!
That was seriously one of the best gifts I got while at home with my newborn…those fresh baked lactation cookies gave me happy tears! Shout out to my friend Val! And all the amazing support I’ve gotten from those around me.
Onward Mommas… Latch you later! ~ Kim