The Final Feeding.
Fourteen months and two weeks later, we’re done. I nursed Cullen for the final time on Thursday evening. I feel really proud of and really grateful for such a wonderful first experience with breastfeeding.
In his early days as a newborn, I savored each feeding, knowing I’d get a good chunk of time with him – relaxed, still, and staring up at my with those big baby blues. Back in those days, feedings usually led to something even better – a long snooze on my lap.
Back then, I’d let him sleep on my lap or chest for hours. I’d stroke his cheeks, read books, and occasionally nap myself. I knew that time was fleeting and even though it’s so hard to see when you’re in the thick of it – I knew he’d be to big for my lap soon enough. Looking back, I can say with certainty that I don’t regret a single hour or nap spent in that rocking chair. What I wouldn’t give for just one more!
Cullen never really got into the bottle, so for over a year we were pretty much tied together physically. Obviously there were times when this led to frustration, and I had to seriously readjust my idea of free time, but for the most part it wasn’t a big deal. Honestly, I found pumping and bottle feeding to be much more of a hassle.
I have a lot of people write and ask about breastfeeding advice and support, and what I’ve found through blogs and friends is that it is truly an individual experience. I feel really lucky that things went so well for us. I know for a lot of women, breastfeeding can actually stir up some depression and feelings of being trapped. For whatever reason, I never felt any of that. Almost the opposite. Feeding him sent waves of happiness through my body, and it was always my most relaxed and peaceful time of the day.
We didn’t really have any physical hurdles, other than me getting mastitis a few times. But Cullen was a good latcher and eater from the get-go, which made it much easier for me.
I also surprised myself by being really comfortable and confident in my role as a nursing mom. I thought nursing covers were cumbersome and sort of ridiculous, and I totally became that person that was willing to pull out a boob pretty much everywhere. In a crowd, I’d toss a blanket over my shoulder. In a park, I’d just find a bench and hug Cullen close to my chest. I should add that Seattle is also a very pro-breastfeeding city, so I never felt inappropriate or strange when we were out in public.
I even fed him while standing and cheering for Casey while he ran a marathon last summer!
After the early days of nursing round the clock passed, I started to really look forward to our feedings. It was such a nice, peaceful break in the day, and I could feel both of our bodies relax as soon as we’d hit the glider.
One of the things I will miss most about breastfeeding, is that quiet, calm time with Cullen. He’s such a wild man these days, so feeding him was one of the only times where he’d just be still in my arms. It was ten minutes when I could play with his hair or stroke his back, and he’d reach out and rub my fingers in his hand or play with my necklace. I will miss that.
We’ve been actively weaning since his first birthday, but I wanted to take it slow (for both of us). Once we dropped down to two feedings a day, I was happy to keep those up for a while, but I found that the end just seemed like it was naturally coming.
In the early days of breastfeeding, I couldn’t even imagine what weaning would feel like. I pictured it as this huge finale, and assumed I’d be sobbing through his final feedings and an emotional mess for days. But as do most things in parenting, it has turned out to be far different.
Like I said, the end has come naturally. As we’ve slowly dropped each feeding, we have both readjusted and gotten used to less and less. And so by the end, while yes I am nostalgic and a bit sad, I have also had time to emotionally prepare and move on to this next stage of motherhood.
Last week we were still doing two feedings a day, and had been for probably a month or so. And then one day I went to get dressed and realized that I’d actually forgotten Cullen’s morning feeding. We’d gone straight from diaper change to breakfast, and neither of us seemed to remember. So with that, the morning feeding was dropped. No sense in going backward.
I knew my supply was really dwindling at this point, and I didn’t think he was really getting a huge amount of milk anyway. I figured I needed to set an end date and just go with it. I had dinner plans on Friday night, and wouldn’t be feeding him then. Pumping sounded ridiculous. So Thursday would be it – the final feeding.
I think it really, really helped me to know that we were going to be finished ahead of time. There was no abrupt ending, or sudden nursing rejection. I was at peace with it before it even happened, and it allowed us to have a really nice day. I don’t mean to make it sound so dramatic, but fourteen months of breastfeeding was a big deal to me. My body went through thousands and thousands of feedings, and it took a big physical toll on me.
So Thursday was a special day for me and Cullen. I was more patient, more relaxed, more willing to sit on the floor and read the same book over and over again, just to feel his little body in my lap. It was a rare gorgeous and sunny day for this time of year. We went down to the beach near our house to get some fresh air.
We walked down to the water’s edge, and let the cold water trickle in over our winter shoes. Cullen squatted and splashed, and while my first instinct was to pull him back to the sidewalk so he didn’t get wet and sandy, something in me just watched and let him laugh and play.
I felt a huge surge of pride and closure as I watched him do his toddler shuffle along the empty stretch of sand. He’s growing up – fast – and while he might not need me in the ways he did as a baby, he’ll still reach out toward mom for new things at new ages.
He discovered the wonder of loose sand – something he was too small to enjoy last summer. He looked so funny, all bundled up in his winter hat and coat – tossing fist-fulls of sand into the air with all the happiness and joy of a child in the height of summer.
Which is just one more reminder that while one door is closing, there is still so so much good left to look forward to.
That night, after bath time with daddy, and a fresh pair of rocket ship jammies, he was ready to curl up in my lap for one more feeding. I’m probably crazy, but I think he understood. I let him nurse much longer than usual, and when he was finished and I said, “all done!” – we both smiled, and we were just that. All done.
Onto the next chapter!