[Fair warning: this is a post about breastfeeding. If you are a male relative, a former student of mine, and/or somewhat squeamish, abort mission now. Otherwise, don't blame me if this is too TMI for your liking.]
I never really knew if I wanted to have children at all -- but I have always had strong convictions about what I would do if I ended up becoming a mom. One was staying home full time with them through their earliest years. The second was breastfeeding. Both of those decisions ended up rocking my world in ways I could not predict -- and 62 weeks later, as my breastfeeding relationship with Lorelei comes to a close, I'm feeling pretty proud, relieved, sad, and sentimental.
The first six to eight weeks of breastfeeding were excruciatingly difficult for me and for Lorelei -- I cringe to think about sitting alone in my rocking chair, trying for half an hour to latch her on while she cried, flailed her hands in front of her face, got such severe hiccups that nursing caused her to choke, or kept her mouth so tight that it was too painful to bear. Once I figured out the problem (OALD) and took steps to repair it, the blood and tears subsided -- and then of course came new problems: refusal to take pumped milk in a bottle, distracted nursing, biting, nursing strikes. But through it all I had my goal in mind: a full year of nursing.
Once Lorelei was 9 months old and eating three solid meals a day, I started planning for the inevitable. When she was 11 months old and still nursing 8 times every 24 hours (and sometimes more, because she was waking up so many times at night), I decided to follow the advice in my trusty copy of The Nursing Mother's Companion and start cutting out one feeding at a time, very slowly. [The part where I was supposed to replace each nursing session with a cup of milk didn't happen, but not for lack of trying.] Every two weeks, I cut out one more, until it was the beginning of July and she was down to first thing in the morning, right before bed, and once during the night. When my mom came to visit just after my brother's wedding, I figured that was as good a time as any to start eliminating the morning nursing session; I knew Lorelei would have a hard time with it, but "Gramma B" was a great distraction.
Within a week, Lorelei eliminated the nighttime feeding on her own and started taking milk from a cup. And then on Monday night, after her daddy kissed her good night and we settled in for her bedtime nursing session, Lorelei pulled away from me, crying, and I realized I wasn't letting down anymore. I gave her a cup of milk and snuggled with her for a while, then put her in her crib and she went right to sleep. And that was that.
I definitely thought I had more time -- I planned to have one last, memorable time nursing her before stopping, and I did a lot of crying on Monday night when I realized that we were done for good. But 62 weeks of being housebound out of devotion to my darling daughter was a pretty good run, I'd say. And despite giving up caffeine and alcohol, and the plugged duct, and the two bouts of mastitis, and the boxes and boxes of nursing pads and inability to wear most dresses or anything strapless, and the crazy hormonal roller coaster (especially, intensely, at first), I'm really happy that we stuck it out together.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week -- hats off to moms everywhere who breastfeed their babies for one day, one week, 3 years, and anywhere in between.