Monday, June 1, 2009

Weaning

Now that we're coming up to Jacob's first birthday, I've been thinking a lot about the weaning thing. I mean, way back when it seemed like wishful thinking that we'd make it through three months of nursing, a year seemed impossible. Once I made it to three months, six seemed doable but still a bit intimidating. Once I hit six it seemed like a year would be fine, but all bets were off when teeth started coming in. Still, through all that, here we are at 11+ months, still going strong. Granted, I only have to feed him 2-3 times per day, and some of those tend to be pretty short feedings, but I do pump twice a day at work as well, so this is still an integral part of my existence.

I had targeted a year to start easing off because it seemed like a good stopping point. A year is pretty average, and Jacob would have gotten a ton of benefit from going that long. I figured he'd be getting into more real food by that point so it would be less important, and I really didn't want to worry about wrestling with a growing toddler past that point. As it is now sometimes he seems so big and hard to control...he flails his arms a lot and gives me some pretty good smacks, pinches and scratches. Though I'll admit, sometimes when he's all curled up and sleepy, he seems just like the little baby he was during that first week in the hospital. And really, pinpointing a year seemed like a good way to avoid becoming one of those moms that thinks it's ok to breastfeed a three year old. I'm not a fan of that, but knew that the longer I went the more my judgment would be clouded and the harder it would be to break Jacob of the habit, so I just figured that having a stopping point would be a good way to plan ahead and avoid that completely.

Now that we're getting close (just over three weeks!), I have mixed feelings. I know that I can't stop cold turkey for a number of reasons, so I'm pretty much at the point of saying that at a year we'll start working down. Maybe we'll start with dropping the morning feeding and replacing another day care feeding with formula or cow's milk. Eventually we'll work into shorter night feedings, then bottle-only night feedings. I'll work down to one pumping a day, then none. Apparently you can maintain a supply for just one feeding a day, which would be nice for a little while. I'm not sure what to do about weekends, though I suppose I'll have to start doing bottle/sippy cup feedings more often. In any event, I know that it's best to do it all gradually, not only for Jacob's security, but for my comfort. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand operation, and the less you need it, the less you make. When Jacob started sleeping through the night, I used to wake up terribly uncomfortable because I was so full in the morning. Nowadays I'm fine because my body has adjusted to that long stretch overnight. I used to get uncomfortable after three hours or so during the day, and now I can go about five or six. So, the more gradual the weaning, the more comfortable it'll be for me.

Still, there are pros and cons. I will miss having the extra 500 calories a day in my diet. I will finally have to get back to really watching what I eat for the first time in over a year and a half. I am wondering if I will start getting the pudge back in my butt, hips and thighs (where it has melted away from over the past 11 months, thanks to breastfeeding physiology), and whether my stomach will stay pudgy or if it was really impacting that too. I'll miss the closeness with Jacob. It's been a nice part of our daily routine for so long, and it will be odd once it's gone. As much as I disliked breastfeeding early on, I really do appreciate those 2-3 feedings each day now because Jacob is so sweet and content most of the time. It's a nice, quiet time when he's just my little baby again. And really, when he's totally freaking out, breastfeeding is the only thing that calms him down. That comes in REALLY handy sometimes. There are moments that I'll miss my enhanced chest (cleavage for the first time ever!), but I think that most of the time I'll be happy to have my small chest back...because not only will my clothes fit better, but I just think it fits my body better in general. I'll also miss not having to spend money for that part of Jacob's diet.

However, there's a whole host of things I won't miss. In addition to getting back into a lot of my clothes, I will look forward to getting back to normal bras. I am so tired of rotating through the same batch of nursing bras that don't have good strap placements for a lot of my shirts. I've also been wearing a sleep bra to bed for a little extra support and leak protection, and I will seriously appreciate not having to do that anymore...it's the last thing I want to worry about when I'm sleepy and getting ready for bed. I will be happy to get my hormone levels back to normal and have my chest (and the rest of me, for that matter) not feel quite so utilitarian. I'm sure Craig will appreciate that change as well. I'm excited to not have to worry as much about what I'm putting into my body and how it will impact Jacob, from the milk protein debacle to peanuts to alcoholic beverages. I am especially looking forward to not viewing my body as some sort of ticking time bomb, that I need to nurse or pump every 4-5 hours in order to stay comfortable and keep my supply up. I won't miss worrying that if Jacob needs a bottle while we're out, that I might go over six hours between emptyings. I won't miss pumping at work, because even though the break is sometimes nice, there are days that I'm so busy that another interruption is the last thing I need. I also won't miss lugging that pump around, whether it's to work or on a trip. I feel like a pack mule walking into work every day. I won't miss washing all of my pump parts and bottles every day, or dealing with the frozen bags of milk in the back of the freezer. On the days that Jacob isn't as cooperative, I won't feel as personally responsible for how little he's eating or feel so frustrated when he won't focus on eating enough to stop wiggling, swatting at me, or biting me (though I will say that the bites have been minimal, and nothing more than a momentary pinch...yet...but those top teeth are still coming in!). I won't miss being on call for feedings most of the time. While it's nice to be the one person in the world that can fill that need in that special way, it will be nice to be able to pass him off to Craig if need be, without worrying about having to pump later for the missed feeding. I won't miss having to cover up when trying to feed him around other people. While it's not horrible, it's awkward and always has you wondering how uncomfortable other people are. I've taken the stance that since I'm not visibly whipping the boob out, I don't so much care if other people are bothered. In a situation like that, where they can't even see anything, it's their issue, not mine.

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, but it seems like there are enough cons at this point that it will be a bit of a relief to be done. It's been quite the wild ride these last 11 months, and I am so happy that I did it and it went well. I just hope next time around things will go as smoothly. Still, it will be odd to be done and I will miss the bonding. But I think I've done as much as I can and have earned the right to get my body fully back in my possession! We still have some work to do on Jacob's solid food diet, though we're working on it slowly but surely....adding more and trying to get into finger foods as much as possible. It's taking a lot of figuring out, but hopefully we'll take some big steps soon!

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