a tale of weaning gone bad

So I thought I had this whole “weaning” business figured out. After all, I nursed/pumped for nine months with Maya and then weaned her pretty easily. My supply was dwindling and I just pulled the plug (literally and figuratively). No problem. Within a day or two, my chest felt like “mine” again (as in, not twice its pregnancy/breastfeeding size). And I assumed that it would be a similar situation for round two.

What’s that line, “when you assume you make an ass out of you and me?” Definitely ate some crow this past week.

Monday night Ben had his last bottle, and Tuesday morning was his last nursing session. Knowing I was leaving for Kansas City early Wednesday morning, I didn’t bring my pump bag to work on Tuesday, figuring I’d just let my body start to adjust. While I was a uncomfortable by the evening, it wasn’t unbearable and I didn’t pump for relief (something that’s commonly recommended when weaning).

I flew to Kansas City sans bag and spent all day and evening out and about, feeling “tight” but otherwise, OK most of the day. But by the time I got to my hotel room around 10 PM, all I wanted to do was pump. I was hurting something fierce … and there was no relief in sight. The next day, I had trouble even carrying my laptop bag — any time the strap brushed against me it was like a thousand nerve cells being tripped … and the water pressure in the shower was excruciating. The danger of engorgement like this without relief (manual expression, pumping, etc.) is mastitis — and I definitely didn’t want that, especially before a long holiday weekend! As soon as I got to the airport, I changed into looser clothes and prayed my chest wouldn’t explode.

The whole plane ride home, I hemmed and hawed about what to do. Milk drying out can take only a day or two … or several weeks. I didn’t want to pump and jump-start supply … but thanks to the magic of the mighty Google, I read that pumping just for relief won’t re-ignite milk production, after all — it just helps avoid engorgement and lowers the risk of mastitis. That was all I needed to hear.

The pain was intolerable by the time I walked in the door and I popped an Alavert immediately (the antihistamine helps dry up milk, too, which is why you’re not supposed to take them when breastfeeding or supply will be impacted).

I had stuffed my pump bag in the closet — expecting to never see it again — but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I didn’t produce much, but the relief was literally immediate and the “rocks” went away within fifteen minutes. I went to sleep feeling a million times better. And when Ben woke in the morning, I didn’t even give it a second thought: I nursed him, for the last time (for real this time) … and that was it. By Friday evening, my chest was noticeably smaller and I didn’t have any annoying leaking or anything.

I did learn a very practical lesson: what worked for child #1 is not necessarily going to work for child #2 …  and that little nugget can be applied to anything. Oh, and I also learned not to wean cold turkey but rather phase it out … in this case, a long goodbye of sorts would have been way more effective than the Band-Aid ripping approach I’d attempted.

Of course, that’s just the physical side of weaning. There’s also an emotional side, and that one is just as hard. Ben is having major “mamitis” lately and I can’t soothe him the way I used to (he wants Mommy all.the.time and shrieks like a wild animal if I leave his line of vision — I forgot this separation anxiety stage and how hard it is). In addition, he’s still been rooting every time I rock him to sleep (naps and bed) and it pains me not to be able to just feed him.

We’re just learning our new normal, and I’m appreciating every moment he is nestled in my arms — it’s fleeting, all of it … and while this chapter of our journey may have closed, there’s plenty of other journeys ahead.

I gave him all I had, and that’s something worth celebrating.

How about you? Was weaning hard or easy for you — physically or emotionally?


On a happier — and totally unrelated — note, I’ll be posting a gallery of Ben’s 7-month pics later this week, but check out these awesome pics my friend Staci took during Ben’s 7-month shoot.

I’m pretty sure he couldn’t be any cuter — but then again, I’m just a tad bit biased! 😉



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