On Breastfeeding: The End of an Era

Since the fall of 2013, our little Léon, or iBun as I still call him in my head, has been able to depend on my body to give him everything he needs. He has had the best protection and nourishment possible, both in and out of the womb. We’ve walked a bit of a bumpy road to get where we are in this New Year, but now the time has come for us to wean away from the breast and over to a mostly formula-based diet.

Breastfeeding has not been easy, but I’m proud to have had my six-month old son on 100% breast milk since the day he was born. We’ve had everything from latching problems to overproduction to an abscess to mammary candida. But always, I powered through, with my array of weapons which included an electric pump, washable and disposable nursing pads, lanolin, cold packs, wandering around the house topless as much as possible and my last resort, always, Doliprane. My hard work has payed off as our little iBun has not been even moderately ill, save a fever he had in reaction to a vaccine, in his 6 months of life.

It took us awhile to find our rhythm, but soon I was feeding iBun in parks, on hikes, on lakes and seashores, in restaurants, cafés, trains, planes, embassies, prefectures, once while walking, once in a cemetery, and one very bad-ass time in a volcano crater in what felt like high-speed winds. We had a sweet freedom to go out when we could, Martin and I, without having to worry about formula or bottle preparation.

I remember as we were preparing him for 2 bottles of breast milk a day that I would provide to the creche, feeling a slight sadness in thinking my son was slowly growing away from depending on me for sustenance. My life became a game of when I could pump milk. But this also gave me a bit more freedom personally as I could now pump milk if I wanted to have a glass of wine at dinner or some such.

Even so, we were paying a price. There were, of course, the aforementioned health problems. Additionally, I still had to wear nursing-compatible attire. I either slept with my nursing bra and pads on, or topless on a towel as I always leaked at night. Sex was no longer about maneuvering around a pregnant belly but worrying if I would squirt or leak breast milk all over Martin at some point. Although I was often uncomfortably full of breast milk I still had this irrational paranoia that if I wasn’t careful I’d run out of milk. So I ate large healthy meals and limited my exercise to walking. Perhaps needless to say, I wasn’t one of those women who lost weight during breastfeeding. Rather, I kept my postnatal weight.

And so, as time went by I knew that I would be weaning little iBun at the six month mark. I longed for aspects of my pre-pregnant self – my usually dependably good state of health, the capability to remember things, the shape of my body and the wardrobe that went with it, the ability to push myself hard whenever I like doing whatever exercise I wanted. Other things, little things.

The time had arrived, little iBun’s six-month anniversary and as we were preparing the first formula bottle I couldn’t help but feel a certain melancholy that my sweet time with my sweet little boy would slowly decrease to a morning and evening feeding. We could no longer depend on my production during the day if we were in a pinch but now had to have a formula bottle always in reserve, just in case.

But, now I have a flexibility I haven’t had in a long time. Martin and I have the ability go on little dates here and there and I don’t have to worry about pumping or feeding beforehand, or calculate how long we can be away. I no longer have to wear clothing that buttons or zips in the front, or that has clever slits on the side. But even more important to me now is the ability to really exercise without worry.

I went for my first jog in ages, today! And it felt great!

I feel as if I’ve found where my rhythm is going as mother, and now is the time to concentrate on a more healthy balance of my other selves and what I’d like to have for myself, what I’d like to do for myself. And these are just little things, like jogging, like bike dates with Martin. Nothing fancy, just enough to be more than mother. A mother plus. Mama+

Happy New Year, everyone!

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One thought on “On Breastfeeding: The End of an Era

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Melissa. I am set to give birth in the first week of April and intend to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Thank you for giving a realistic overview of what it means to breastfeed: the good, the bad and the ugly. I have yet to investigate the technical and practical aspects of breastfeeding (to come soon during the birth prep classes) so it is all still a very abstract concept for me. We really must meet up at some point so that I can learn from your experience. Take care,
    Christine

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