Realizing Breastfeeding Success Over Grief



    I never knew exactly when I would stop breastfeeding.  I had contemplated stopping around 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, but could never settle on an a exact time.  I got some “friendly advice” from acquaintances, nosy strangers, and family members on when they felt the perfect time to stop nursing should be.  I, however, decided my son and I would ultimately make that decision together.  Unfortunately, our breastfeeding journey ended sooner than we both intended.  Wyatt was close to 13 months old, growing and nursing well.  Often times, he probably nursed for comfort but I often needed that comfort too.  In the end, nursing helped heal both of our wounded souls.

    I was stricken with a migraine that impaired me for several days. Due to medication, Wyatt was unable to nurse during that time. I would get up in pain, pump, and then cry as I dumped the golden milk my body had made down the drain. After 5 days of suffering from a powerful headache and a consultation with my neurologist he strongly suggested that I resumed my preventive medication. What this meant to my son and I, is the ceasing of nursing. It was a difficult decision to make; most people probably wouldn’t understand why a person would struggle with the decision.

    Stopping breastfeeding was always a conflict of constant emotion, giving me a lot of guilt daily. I don’t think Wyatt was really phased by the decision, because we had already begun to transition to a one glass of whole milk mixed with breast milk a day. Most people said “you nursed a year, be done”, “great job”, “chapter complete”.  I, however, struggled with letting go.  I diligently got up daily at work during my allotted pumping times, pumped, and then dumped the milk. After a week of continuing this process I took a gaze into the deep freezer and saw the surplus amount of frozen breast milk, and thought to myself, “Why am I continuing to pump, I have plenty of milk for him?” I have 4-6 months of frozen breast milk and it’s time for Wyatt to be on whole milk as well.  Ultimately I realized I was trying to prolong my loss.  I was going through the grief cycle, anger, denial, bargaining, and finally accepted that my journey of breastfeeding had ended.  I wasn’t losing that closeness or connection with my son; it’s as strong as ever.  Breastfeeding allowed that incredible bond to form between my son and me.  Breastfeeding itself was an amazing journey that ultimately made me a stronger more confident woman and mother.

    It took close to two weeks to completely stop breastfeeding once I had mentally decided it was time.  I utilized the services of Lactation at the Women’s Hospital and the advice of an amazing midwife, Mary Beth Lodato. They helped me realize that I had been a champion in the breastfeeding world and that I could continue my journey with breastfeeding by being an advocate for others. I’ve accomplished a significant amount since my son’s birth: exclusively breastfeed for 13 months, saved 4-6 months of frozen milk, and donated breast milk to the Indiana Milk Bank.

    Breastfeeding is not an easy task.  It takes patience, dedication, and commitment. It is a journey worth taking, whether it is one day, one month, or one year opportunity. I highly suggest everyone try to do it at least once to have the wonderful experience with their child.  “A newborn baby has only three demands.  They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence.  Breastfeeding satisfies all three”.  (Grantly Dick-Read)



    For more information on breastfeeding assistance from The Women's Hospital, visit www.deaconess.com/lactation or call 812.842.4239.

    Posted: May 14, 2014 by Jessica Gerlach
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