Well, I've finally done it. I'm done breastfeeding. Fourteen months and nearly two weeks under my belt, it's over. We'd been cutting down gradually, from 2-3 feedings and two pumpings a day, down to one feeding and two pumpings, to one feeding and one pumping, and finally to one feeding that I've stuck with for a while now. The evening feeding was always a nice way to end the day, just me and Jacob on the couch. No matter how restless and busy he was, most of the time he was more than happy to curl up and nurse for a while. The way he'd latch on almost instinctively and eat contentedly was a glimpse back at my sweet, innocent little baby. Lately I'd been cutting down the feedings gradually, from 15 minutes per side, to 10, to five. Over the past few days he'd actually been stopping himself after five minutes or so on each side, and then the other night he barely lasted five minutes total. I'd been preparing myself to mentally acknowledge that any given feeding might be the last one, and that night it just seemed like it was time to end it. Jacob seemed over it, and perhaps I should be too.
Admittedly, it had become a bit of a habit in recent weeks. Jacob's dinner is usually late enough that he shouldn't need a night feeding (though the calories never hurt considering how skinny he is), but since that was the way things always were and it was comforting to both of us, I kept it going. And truthfully, once he was down to one feeding, it was so low maintenance that I probably could have kept it that way for longer. Anything I wanted to eat or drink I could usually do in time for it get out of my system before nursing. I didn't have any engorgement issues at any point in this stepping-down process, and I didn't mind that I could still rationalize a few extra calories since breastfeeding needs them (though how much this amount of breastfeeding needed is up for debate). Once in a while it was inconvenient, like when I wanted to do something around Jacob's bedtime or when we were on the go, but for the most part it's been fine. Once in a while Jacob would rather go play or would lose his concentration and bite me a bit, but for the most part it's been a pretty uneventful and even pleasant couple months since I started weaning him.
Originally my goal was to make it a month, then three months, then six, then a year. And I made it beyond that. My secondary goal was to stop before Jacob knew enough to ask for it, with words or actions. In my opinion, any kid that can speak or knows enough to lift the shirt is probably too old to breastfeed. Of course, I may change my mind if baby #2 ends up being a genius and is talking in full sentences by their first birthday, but for now I'll stick with this theory. I think it's easier for everyone concerned if it's cut off before anyone is too attached. Sure, Jacob's done it nearly every day for his entire life, but it doesn't appear to be at the point where he can't go to sleep without it. He was a little off last night when we didn't do it, but I couldn't tell if it was the lack of nursing or another culprit--gas, exhaustion, general crankiness. He wasn't grabbing at my shirt, though he did give me a pretty good bite to the face. Even still, he had a couple fussy moments in his crib, but all things considered he went down reasonably well.
In the end I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad, proud I lasted this long, or a little guilty that I'm giving it up before I needed to. I know I did a great thing for Jacob and I was happy to do it. I only hope I can do the same thing next time around, both for the baby's benefit and for mine. My body seemed to like breastfeeding. I credit it with the major weight loss I experienced post-pregnancy, to the point that I was a good 6-8 pounds lighter at Jacob's first birthday than I was before I got pregnant, and I was already in great shape pre-pregnancy. But as I've been winding down nursing, I've been getting a glimpse at my official post-baby, post-nursing body. I'm not thrilled with it, but I'm guessing most women are in the same boat unless they're a celebrity with a nanny and a personal trainer (and even then...). I've officially got a pouch that won't go away, and my chest is smaller than it was when this all began--definitely a far cry from my early nursing days when my chest was so big that none of my clothes fit. I really didn't want to have my chest get any smaller because it wasn't that big to begin with, but what can you do? I have a heck of a time sucking in my stomach after so many months of not needing to, and now I'm officially trying to retrain myself to do it as automatically as I did before I got pregnant. It's becoming increasingly important because in the last week or so I've noticed my weight slowly creeping back up. Whether that's the result of reduced breastfeeding or just indulging for my birthday (cake, cupcakes, and meals out with all of the free birthday coupons I got from subscribing to restaurant mailing lists), I'm not sure. I am currently in the process of trying to stop snacking at work during the day. I got so used to it for nearly two years that it's a tough habit to break, particularly on painfully boring days. I'll also have to get back to watching what I eat a little more carefully because I'm not working out like I used to...still only once a week since I've been back at it in the past year. But the biggest question yet to be answered? When will my cycle get back on track? Two years and a month without a period...crazy stuff.
It was a little sad putting Jacob to bed without his bedtime feeding, pretty much for the first time ever. But I won't be sad to pack away my pump...though speaking of which, I still need to clear some frozen breastmilk out of the freezer. Hmmm...gotta put that on the to do list. It was a great run but I think for the most part I will be happy it's over. We'll see how Jacob does the next few nights, but one way or another, he'll adjust. Mama's Milk Factory is closed!