Small goals. That's what they told us in the breastfeeding class we took before Willa arrived. It made sense to me. If you focus on the big picture, it can often be too intimidating, seem near impossible to achieve. But break it into smaller chunks and suddenly you're at your big goal before you know it.
Figure out how to breastfeed. What do you mean babies don't come out of the womb knowing how to latch on and eat the food they need to survive? I mean, shouldn't that be instinctual? Apparently, there's more nuance to breastfeeding than just sticking your boob willy nilly in the baby's milk-hole.
Breastfeed exclusively for a month, figure out how the pump works and start occasionally bottle feeding in preparation for daycare. Get past the sore nipples, leakage and clogged ducts.
Breastfeed until I go back to work and continue the occasional bottle feed.
Pump at work for a month. Continue breastfeeding. Realize taking your boobs out at the office even in private behind closed doors is just damn weird and awkward and quickly find a way to expose the girls as little as possible for each pumping session. Pray no one walking by can hear the mechanical pulse of the pump as it squeezes your nipples to extract milk in a way that is more than mildly reminiscent of a dairy farm.
Continue pumping and breastfeeding until she is six months old. This is my ultimate goal due to the timing of my work trip last month. I wasn't sure how four days away from Willa would affect my supply so I knew six months might be potentially it for us.
Continue pumping and breastfeeding until she is eight months old.
As of Monday, I am no longer breastfeeding Willa, which means I made it past my ultimate goal. So much yay and squee and hallelujah! But it does mean I missed my stretch goal by a month. I'm okay with that. The last couple weeks I noticed my supply dwindling significantly. So much so that I was having trouble matching the number of bottles she takes at daycare. Since I was going to have to start supplementing anyway, I decided now was a good time to stop. We had made it to seven months. That is a lot longer than I dared to hope for back when she was a few weeks old.
What I didn't expect was how emotional I would get over this milestone. Breastfeeding is a commitment and sacrifice. Conceptually I understood that BW (before Willa), but I didn't really get it until I was in the thick of it. Once Willa and I had learned the art that is breastfeeding, and I knew I could do it, I made the commitment. I was going to do it for as long as I could.
I sacrificed sleep in order to nurse her whenever she woke up for a late night feeding as I wanted to nurse as much as I could since I was working and was concerned about keeping my supply up. I kept social plans that would have meant a night away from her to a minimum. I only went to Bar Method on Saturday mornings so I didn't miss any feedings in the evenings after work.
I don't say this to make myself out to be a martyr but to illustrate the point that breastfeeding while simple in concept (boob + milk-hole = breastfeeding) is a lot of work. Work I willingly, gladly, proudly did. I believed wholeheartedly I was doing what was best for my daughter, and I would do it again without hesitation.
More than likely I will never receive a thanks for these sacrifices, the work and the commitment I gave so Willa could breastfeed as long as possible. And I am okay with that. My thanks, my reward will come one day many, many years from now. Maybe she'll have kids and realize when she makes those sacrifices that I did the same for her. (Thank you, Mom!)
Bittersweet milestones always have a way of bringing out my emotional side. I'm excited to move onto the next stage and be done with the pumping but sad to leave behind those times during each day when it was just the two of us.