My Surprising (and Bittersweet) End to Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding a baby in a lifejacket on a boat. Not the easiest thing I’ve done!

Is Breastfeeding Really A Choice?

When I was pregnant I was regularly asked if I would breastfeed. My reply of “I’m going to try” left many people confused and prompted a few insensitive remarks.

My pregnancy was high risk due to my having a uterine septum, a congenital uterine malformation discovered during my first trimester, and my son was born at 34 weeks via an emergency C-section. I also felt physically awful the whole pregnancy. Thus I didn’t want to put more stress on myself by setting a breastfeeding goal.

Dinner out for us both!

The first few months of breastfeeding were painful and highly emotional. It took a few days for my milk to arrive, but boy did it arrive when it did! I was producing three times what my son needed. My son could sleep through the night before I could! I developed mastitis (aka “the plague”) when I tried to space out my pumpings too quickly and struggled with plugged ducts for nearly a year, making it hard for me to take much-needed vacations away from my son. I was gradually able to get my supply down and learned to manage plugged ducts (hand expression was essential!), however, at one point I brought my supply down so far that I had to learn how to bring it back up!

For the past few months, I have loved breastfeeding for just one morning and one evening feed. However, I now need to stop for medical reasons. I just had a simple surgery to remove my uterine septum in hopes of improved outcomes in future pregnancies. For the uterus to have its best chance to heal my body needs estrogen, which is suppressed while breastfeeding.

Ah, motherhood is anything but easy!

Breastfeeding Is Highly Resource-Intensive

My post-partum breasts were like their own person! They needed serious attention on top of my new baby, healing post-C section body, and post-partum hormones. It was so overwhelming, more than anyone should be asked to handle. I don’t know what I would have done without two amazing lactation consultants who worked with me and my son to make breastfeeding eventually become lockstep after getting that critical latch.

I would love for all women to have an equal playing field when it comes to obtaining the resources they need for the breastfeeding, but America is still far from that. Breastfeeding took up a tremendous amount of my time compared to the speed of purchasing formula, not to mention the money needed for specialized clothing, a pump, and other breastfeeding accessories. I am luckier than most as I have the ability to work from home when I want, which made pumping and storage much easier. I became a pro at breastfeeding or pumping while in meetings or at the computer! However, in return, I felt “tied to the pump” for nearly a year. It was hard on my psyche to not be able to get out of the house more.

Some Beautiful Benefits Of Breastfeeding My Son

Post-breastfeeding “milk drunk”.

Despite all of the challenges I’m so glad I stuck with breastfeeding, and not just for its many health benefits. I loved the four to six month time frame when my son and I would feed, snuggle, and nap together every morning! It was so liberating when I could put away the pump but keep the beginning and end of day feedings. I loved that I had the ability to soothe my baby through breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding was a great gift to affirm my body’s abilities in the context of my challenging pregnancy, birth, and uterine issues. It was redemptive that my body was able to give my preemie what he needed to now be right on track with his size!

I was very happy to learn that I could mostly resume my pre-pregnancy lifestyle while breastfeeding. Advil and wine nights with girlfriends, oh yes, please. Thankfully “pump and dump” is not needed in most circumstances.

Claim Your Breastfeeding Journey

Breastfeeding in a dress I’m designing for this purpose for Maven Women!

Breastfeeding comes to women in different ways. There are many reasons to breastfeed as well as reasons to not. I dedicated far more time to breastfeeding than I ever expected and I still have complex, mixed feelings about it. At times it was isolating and I found it hard to reach out to others about my challenges. At other times it was just plain beautiful and the most special gift. I am nearly in tears thinking about my favorite breastfeeding moments with my son. Now that it is time for breastfeeding to end, I find myself grieving its loss.

Despite all of the challenges I am also excited to have another breastfeeding relationship when I have a second child. I hope s/he will be as into those morning breastfeeding snuggle naps as I am!