Just as with the first time around with The Big Sis, the first month of breastfeeding The Little Sis was near-torture. Cracked, bleeding nipples because of a baby that didn’t quite have her latch right, combined with a baby who wanted to nurse constantly, did not make for an easy time of it. Frustrations mounted, and occasionally the thought of, “Should I just quit?” would enter my mind. However, I knew from the first experience that if I just gritted my teeth and kept up with it, we’d very likely get to a better place. Sure enough, after about a month each time, we got over the hump and it became a much more enjoyable activity.
I nursed The Big Sis for 14 months, and I had the same goal in mind for The Little Sis, assuming the stars aligned to make it happen. Most of the time, though, I tried not to look too far ahead and instead focused on those smaller milestones: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, etc. Twelve months came and went and I could tell that The Little Sis was kind of over the whole nursing thing. By that point, we were down to just two sessions a day (first thing in the morning and at bedtime), and she would oblige for maybe five or ten minutes then wanted to move on to other, more interesting ventures. We probably could have weaned then and there, but I really wanted to nurse the girls the same amount of time, so we kept up the charade. I never forced her to nurse, of course, but I could tell she was ready to move on, and I just had to wait for me to catch up emotionally.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to stop. I wanted to go into it knowing it was my last nursing session so I could take the time and drink in the experience, but it seemed too forced to just schedule. On Saturday, The Little Sis didn’t get a great nap because we made a day trip to Cincinnati, then we went to my parents’ house that night for dinner and I put her to bed a touch late because of that. As a result, she was so super snuggly and open to nursing without distraction. She just wanted her milk and her sleep. As I sat there on the futon in her room rubbing my hand on her newly budding hair, room darkened prematurely as the impending winter steals minutes of daylight each day, I realized this was probably the best possible scenario for a final nursing session (ever).
And so I really took it in. Synching her breathing to mine. Looking into her ever-grateful eyes. Listening to the wave sounds on her white noise machine and relaxed. Reflecting on what a wonderful thing I’ve done for both girls, and how fortunate I was to be able to do this for them. Thinking of the sacrifices I made to make this happen, all the pumping sessions, all the overnight feedings in the early days.
When her eyes were drunk and tired, I picked her up and laid her in the crib. As usual, I told her, “Goodnight, baby. I love you.” I was not sad. I was fulfilled.
She turned 14 months old the next day. I made my ultimate goal. As with the first time around, breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve done. But it’s also one of the things of which I’m most proud.