I give up, whining about weaning

There are so many things I want to tell you while they are top-of-mind: how to throw a non-Pinterest-worthy first birthday party without feeling like a huge loser; my thoughts on attending the BlogHer conference; and finishing breastfeeding forever.

Since my experience with weaning is a current obsession, I’m going to start there.

Breastfeeding goal, thwarted.
First — to get it out of the way — know that I am beating myself up for not reaching my breastfeeding goal. Please be kind.

My little guy and I were trying to get to one year, because I made it to 12 months and 12.5 months with my previous babies. Though we had a bumpy start, our routine of nursing and supplementing with 1-2 bottles of formula per day was going well. I thought we would get through a few more months without incident.

But then the pain started, intense burning pain on one side that began during nursing and would last for several hours following each session. Nursing five times per day, I was in severe pain during most of my waking hours. Though I tried many things: visiting doctors and lactation consultants; taking prescriptions; and googling symptoms, my pain only got worse with no sign of going away.

I was literally biting down on chew beads to get through a feeding while my baby often lost interest and would try to crawl away. After six weeks, I had to ask myself, What kind of martyr keeps going? When a four-day trip presented itself, I decided to seize my opportunity for a clean break.

Sawyer crawls away 

It has been six days since my last nursing session and two since my last pumping and this is what I have learned:

  1. Expect to be emotional. Weaning is bittersweet: Yay! To have my body back, but Boo! So long snuggles and special mommy-baby time. In addition to the roller coaster of feelings, hormonal ebbs and flows are part of the deal. I try to give my baby extra snuggles, but he often climbs down and crawls away. I feel proud of his independence and rejected at the same time.
  2. Cabbage leaves are our friends. Did you know that cabbage leaves have magical properties to soothe plugged ducts and help slow down breastmilk production? I don’t know how it works, but I can assure you it does. Install them into each bra cup until they wilt.
  3. Seek out hot water. Hot tub, hot shower, or hot washcloths will make your boobies feel better. One day, I took four showers. But that’s because I was the dummy with no pump on a four-day trip away from my baby. Which brings me to…
  4. Pumping may be required. I own a terrific electric pump that I have used regularly for 11 months, but I decided not to bring it to my conference because I was weaning. BIG MISTAKE. HUGE. I was aching and crazed to find cabbage leaves from every bodega in midtown until my friends Andi and Isabel suggested that I buy a pump from a drug store. Duh. A hand pump made the crazies and the pain go away. Just pump for comfort (rather than to amass a stash of milk). A few minutes ought to do the trick.

I would love to hear any advice or encouragement from other weaners out there!

[Updated: My husband would like me to expand on the “expect to be emotional” bit. Fair suggestion, but usually when I sit down to write, I’m feeling fine again and it’s hard to access those complicated feelings.]

But maybe he means some of this stuff:

  • Things that have made me cry in the past 24 hours: reading tips on how nannies can support breastfeeding, waiting for my coffee, selling my house.
  • Things that have made me laugh: the idea that donating money to the Obama campaign will make his team stop emailing me, Louis CK, Sawyer trying to eat my new watch.
  • Things that have made me happy: Selling my house, reading Harry Potter with my big boys, watching Sawyer chase balls.
  • Things that have made me snippy and mean: Choosing a paint color for the back porch, when my husband got Sawyer out of the high chair while I was making more plums, my oldest son talking like a baby endlessly.

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[photo of my too-good-for-the-boobs baby from: Alex Cave]