The Last Latch

Despite the hardship I found breastfeeding to be with both of my girls, I felt quite nostalgic when it came to ending that connection with them. It was hard but it wasn’t all bad. It could be quite beautiful as well as useful and the longer we did it, the easier it got (mostly). I felt more mournful weaning Mallory than I did with Madison because, in the absence of plans to have any more children, I knew this would be not just my last latch with her but my last latch ever.

It’s such a great way to soothe a baby. When they get a vaccine shot, a tooth cutting through or a bumped head. And I reeeeeally appreciated breastfeeding Mallory when she was sick. She’d be miserable all day, drippy nose and weepy eyes, drooling and the wettest cough. She cried a lot. But not while she was nursing. She would become so peaceful, taking little sips, taking her time, taking sustenance and comfort in me. I’m so grateful I had all that to give.

I just finished weaning Mallory last week and as I prepared for her latching days to end, I made sure to take more notice of everything during our remaining feeds. I had often idly scrolled my phone, texted, read and listened to podcasts while feeding her for those countless hours, but more recently I left all that behind. As I began shortening the feeds, and also spreading them further apart, I could sense our time slipping away. I just felt the weight of her body and listened to the sound of her swallowing, noticing her grip on my shirt and her palm pressed against my back. She’d reach up to play with my lips or that mole on my chin and I’d let her for a few seconds more than I usually would tolerate. It’s not that I never took notice of these things before but now I was soaking them up more than ever.

It took longer to wean Mallory than I anticipated. In large part I was estimating how long it would take based on how long it took with Madison. Rookie mistake, I know. For one thing the girls are different. There’s no way around that. And I’m different now too. But I also note a key difference is that Madison was already taking the bottle on a daily basis (whether it be with formula or with pumped milk) to top up her feeds whereas Mallory has been strictly breast. So she was reluctant to bottle feed and my breasts were full steam ahead. We took a few extra days to give her more time and let the supply slow down. After I cut off nursing entirely, I pumped only twice and hand-expressed once in a 3-day period, to let some of the pressure off. It is quite uncomfortable to let them stay too full but of course I didn’t want to pump too much or too often because that tells my body just to produce even more. Such a tricky balance! But it wasn’t too bad. My left is now fully deflated and my right is almost there. It’s wild to me to think of how this all works. The milk that is clearly in my boob right now, what? Just reabsorbs? Weird.

I chose to wean her off now for my own reasons, not for hers. It wasn’t because she was refusing the breast. It wasn’t because I was drying up. It was to get my body back. It was hard for me to get fully behind my choice and be okay with choosing myself. Talking it out a few times with family and friends with their reassurance was helpful. I did it for the same reason with Madison about a couple weeks before she turned 1. I had planned on a whole year but it served me to wean before a cottage trip so that my body was just for me and I could better relax on my vacation. I could drink all I wanted for one thing. But really it’s not about the drinks. They’re more of a symbol. It’s about autonomy. I’ve felt more deeply, since becoming a mom, how important my autonomy is to me. And breastfeeding is a huge factor in that.

Mallory did not take well to a bottle despite a lot of experimentation and patience on my part in earlier months. She just preferred the boob. She would hold out for it. Even during the process of weaning her, I’m sure she got very thirsty before finally giving into a bottle for a little. And when I would breastfeed her, at the longer intervals, she’d go for it, full-tilt. Her rejection of the bottle up until the time of weaning made it so that I could not leave her with someone else for an evening. I couldn’t pump and dump after a few drinks. I couldn’t even go very far since she fed so often as well. As she got into eating more solids I thought I could leave her for a couple hours but then of course she wouldn’t eat for anybody else either. That’s a whole different problem. The point is, I was tied down. Tethered by the teat, if you will. It’s quite a daunting feeling for me.

So now she is drinking solely from the bottle. Half the time she gets formula, and half the time she gets some of my frozen milk from last summer. It’s been a difficult road but I’m so grateful for all I’ve been able to give her. All those healthy proteins, dietary exposures, and amazing little antibodies through this year of a thousound illnesses in our home. I’m grateful for our bond, our time together, alone in the dark. Our closeness, our touch. I’m even grateful for the occasional little scratch marks she left on my chest and the pink pinches on my tummy. I’m grateful for the ease of soothing her in the night and lulling her back to sleep. Im grateful for the 327 days I nursed Mallory and 347 days that I nursed Madison before her. I’m grateful to the breastfeeding consultants who helped me in the early days with each girl. Without them I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did.

It was all worth it. The challenges we three faced and Matt and the women in my family supported us through, were worth it. And now we begin a chapter of new-found independence. I still hold Mallory close and cuddle her to my chest. She rests her head on me and I melt. My girls and I have not lost our bond. I’m still their mom, their boo-boo-kisser, their entertainer, their shoulder to cry on and their role model. And I’m proud of how far we have come.

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