I think we’re done breastfeeding.
For the past few weeks I’d been wondering, as Natalie’s sessions at the udders grew ever shorter in duration and longer in between, whether each occasion would be the last time she nursed. I’d refused to let her self-wean before our Fourth of July cross-country trip, in case a jetlagged baby might need some night nursing. But once we got home from Seattle, the signals were unmistakable: Natalie gave up her bedtime nurse-down as soon as I stopped insisting on it, and she’d lost her enthusiasm for breakfast at the boob by the time I left for Boston on July 14.
This was my first business trip since maternity leave, my first trial in over two years, and my first-ever overnight away from Natalie. All of these things were independently nerve-wracking in theory. But in the weeks leading up to the trip, what I feared most was the thirty-six-hour break in nursing. Would I, for the first time, finally fall prey to the complaints of successful lactators — engorgement, leakage, inflammation, blocked ducts like hot marbles under my skin? Or, more likely, would my absence for more than a day finally finish us off for good, leaving me bone-dry and Natalie disengaged? When I walked through that door, would my daughter ever breastfeed again?
She did, as it turned out. But after all of ten seconds, she popped off the boob, looked up at me, and gave me a huge toothless grin.
All signs indicated that we were done. My mammaries, unaffected by thirty-six hours of disuse, were as indifferent to the process as ever. And Natalie was thoroughly over breastfeeding.
I think we’ve nursed two or three times since I got back from Boston. On none of those occasions did the session last long enough to convey any measurable nutrition to my daughter. I’ve gone down a cup size. She’s stopped even asking, with one exception: this morning she grabbed at the lace bustline of my (non-nursing) pajamas, and when I curiously offered her a boob in response, she took it. For five seconds. Which, I wistfully suspect, represents our last-ever nursing session.
It’s been an easy weaning, as these things go. Never a great enthusiast for breastmilk straight from the source, Natalie gave me no grief when I started feeding her formula. But even when all the formula she could drink was available on demand, my polite little girl didn’t snub my attempts at breastfeeding, either. Rather, for the past three and a half months she’s been happy to snuggle up to me and nom away, at least until something more interesting caught her attention. And she’s equally glad to consume thawed boob juice from our freezer stash, which should last us at least another month at the rate we’re going. I couldn’t have asked for a softer landing.
I’ve still got mixed feelings about breastfeeding, though. It was an ordeal: Natalie’s agonizing newborn latch, the condescending lactation consultant, the ridiculous pumping campaign, Natalie’s discomfiture at the weak brew I produced, her failure to gain weight, my failure to lose any. I will not be hopping on a soapbox and preaching our breastfeeding success story any time soon.
But at the same time, I’m proud of us. Proud that we made it this far, uphill all the way. Proud that Noodles was able to nurse and consume solids on the same day. Proud that she’ll have had breastmilk for a good three-quarters of her first year on earth. Proud of how robust and healthy she is now, how she’s brought nothing worse than the snorfles home from daycare to date. And almost irrationally proud of her chubby thighs, round belly, apple cheeks and enthusiastic appetite. She may not have gotten these things from nursing, but she definitely got them from me.
We’re done. But we done good.