One day he’s in my arms, caressing my face as he nurses. Then, the next, it’s all over. I’m grieving the end of breastfeeding and it’s breaking my heart.
This is what I wanted. I asked for it. I planned it. Forced it, actually.
He was biting me, drawing blood. All of my options were exhausted; my attempts to teach him otherwise, failed.
Now, I’m left with so many questions:
Did I fail him? Will our bond remain the same? Does he resent me? Will he be healthy without breast milk? How long will I grieve the end of breastfeeding?
I didn’t expect this.
Grieving the end of Breastfeeding: Our Breastfeeding Journey
The Rough Beginning
In the beginning of our breastfeeding journey, I didn’t know how I’d make it to 6 months. My boy wasn’t gaining weight because I wasn’t producing enough milk. My nipples were sore, cracked, and bleeding.
I worked hard to increase my milk supply; pumping after each nursing session. This meant sacrificing even more sleep than I was already losing. Those first 2 months were a daze. Basically a zombie; I remember very little details… other than the overwhelm of new motherhood.
Nursing him every 2 hours meant very little sleep and no opportunity to accept help. But, I did it. It was hard but I pushed through it because I wanted to give my son the very best of me. In this case ,it was the milk I’d produced for him.
They say nursing is beautiful and a great bonding time but it definitely didn’t feel that way.
They say nursing is beautiful and a great bonding time but it definitely didn’t feel that way. In the beginning, I wondered how moms could breastfeed their child past the year mark. Being the sole source of food and nutrition for your child is a lot of responsibility. Especially for a new mother who is in a lot of postpartum pain.
Then, one day, everything changed.
Reaching The End
Nursing became easy. In fact, it was more like second nature to us. We developed a strong routine and an unspoken communication.
My breasts became is comfort; his safe space; his happy place.
My breasts became is comfort; his safe space; his happy place. That sweet little newborn, to infant, to toddler body molded a space in my lap, in my arms. That feeling of him against my body engraved into my very soul forever.
6 months came and passed all too quickly. As we reached the year mark, I started to miss my personal space. I wanted to travel again, to spend a day with friends, without worrying about neglecting my son. Eventually, I made that happen. Well, my husband made it happen with his hands-on parenting and unrelenting support of my small business.
My son survived and so did I; not without a refrigerator full of pumped breast milk and a portable breast pump for my travels.
After his first birthday, the pressure to stop breastfeeding came from many angles. From underhanded family comments to funny looks, breastfeeding started to become a little more frowned upon.
However, the pediatrician continued to praise and encourage our mother/son journey. So, I did just that.
At this point, I didn’t have an end date in mind. To say it wasn’t exhausting, would be a lie. The consistent night wakings, constant whining, and my son pulling my shirt up was becoming too much for me. Not only were we cosleeping, my toddler was on the boob 80% of the night… literally.
He used my breasts as his safety blanket, his boredom buster, his pacifier.
The daytime was just as worse. My sweet little boy was addicted to nursing. He used my breasts as his safety blanket, his boredom buster, his pacifier. As sweet as that sounds, it became uncomfortable.
Then, the biting began.
The Final Weeks
It started with an unintentional nibble here and there as he was finishing up. It was enough for a quick jump from mommy and a very loud, “ouch!”.
Almost immediately, it became much worse.
The nibbling transitioned to 6 little teeth clinching down on my nipples. To make matters worse, my sweet son thought it would be nice to pinch my nipple immediately after biting. As if I needed salt thrown on the wound.
If I can birth a baby without medication, I can certainly handle sore nipples.
As you could imagine, those bites were drawing blood. I'd like to believe that I’m a strong woman. If I can birth a baby without medication, I can certainly handle sore nipples.
So, I dealt with it. Not without trying everything in the book to get him to stop, though.
I asked experienced mothers, joined forums, and even talked to medical professionals. I was desperate to put the biting to an end so we could continue our breastfeeding journey. To abruptly stop nursing him wasn't an easy choice. If anything, I wanted to wean him when we were both emotionally ready.
Sadly, it didn’t happen that way.
After weeks of biting during almost every nursing session, my nipples were pretty damaged. Scabbed, bloody, and sore… but not like I’m the beginning. These wounds were from brand new teeth; a much different kind of pain.
The most difficult part of all of this, was that I still had to nurse him. I still had to be his kind, loving mother. He wouldn’t sleep without nursing. So, I continued on.
I gritted my teeth during every session, hold back painful moans. Additionally, I watched for all the cues that he may bite soon: boredom, a bad latch, need for attention, clinching jaw, etc..
Then, one night as I was trying to nurse him to sleep… the worst thing happened.
The most painful bite of all. The one that quite literally, traumatized me. This bite made the final decision for me to abruptly stop breastfeeding.
He’d drawn blood before but it was always a single drop. This time, it was serious. Blood was pouring, staining my bra and shirt. This particular injury was so bad because he had just gnawed on a previous wound.
That was it. The end was here and I was so ready… or so I thought.
My husband took control of nighttime duty and we distracted my son at every attempt to nurse throughout the day.
We had successfully stopped breastfeeding. I thought the hard part was done but my emotions had just begun.
Now, I'm Grieving the End of Breastfeeding
I don't think it really hit me until around Day 3. My breasts were beginning to feel different. To add, my son had been hitting me, pinching me, and avoiding my loving touch for 3 days in a row.
Despite the fact that we'd been together in entirety for those few days, I missed my little boy.
Despite the fact that we'd been together in entirety for those few days, I missed my little boy. I couldn't help but to long for his affection. What was supposed to be the most restful nights in my 17 months of motherhood, ended up with me tossing and turning. My body was learning to sleep without him.
As much as breastfeeding was his comfort, safe space, and happy place – it was mine, too.
The single thought of my breastmilk slowly disappearing absolutely breaks my heart. Did I cherish the last moments enough? Will I forget how beautiful it was? Will I always miss it?
I can't stop reminiscing and wishing we didn't have an abrupt end. The fact of the matter is that my little boy is growing up. I can't stop it or change it. I can only live for today and appreciate yesterday.
Saying Goodbye to Our Breastfeeding Journey
After days of sore breasts, pumping for relief, and fighting back tears, he did something that made my heart burst.
My sweet boy climbed up next to me and laid his head on my chest. For the first time ever, he didn't try to nurse. He just wanted to lay on me.
We sat still and I held him as tightly as I could for what felt like an hour. I truly believe it was his way of telling me, “It's okay, Mama. I understand.“ As beautiful as that moment was, it made me miss nursing him even more.
Where are we now?
Whether out of habit or just for the sake of trying, he did try to latch on a few times in the first 2 weeks. I can still see him longing for that comfort, as he slowly rubs his cheeks on my chest. “I miss it too, bud,” I always find myself telling him.
My only child will be reaching that 18-months milestone soon. We stopped breastfeeding two weeks ago. It's still fresh and I find myself yearning to see those big brown eyes staring at me as he eats. Likewise, I find myself trying to remember every single moment, every feeling, every sweet caress.
I find myself trying to remember every single moment, every feeling, every sweet caress.
When my little boy is curled up next to me at nap time and begins crying for no reason – I know he's missing it, too.
While I know this is an accomplishment and I should be extremely proud of how far we've come, I know it will take sometime to finish grieving the end of breastfeeding. And that's okay.
As unbelievable as it sounds, I feel as if we've grown closer after finishing our breastfeeding journey.
I know we have so many other incredible things to overcome as mother and son. This is just the start. Up next? Figuring out how to get him to get eat real food!
Are you grieving the end of breastfeeding? Tell me about it!
Are you dealing with some serious grief after breastfeeding? You could be experiencing depression. Please seek help from a medical professional.
And, as always – take care of yourself, too, mamas: 50 Self-Care Ideas for Moms
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