I started this post last August. It’s taken me a while to finally edit it and hit publish. It’s a sensitive subject and one that I found myself feeling very passionate about.
Most “experts” recommend breastfeeding for at least the first year, and up to two years. It’s healthy. For us, it’s been relatively easy. My goal was to make it to at least the one year mark, and we could cut back (wean) as the baby saw fit. I didn’t think that I’d be pumping as much after the one-year mark, and I haven’t been as adamant about pumping an extra session I built in, but for 18 months, I religiously pumped during my work days. I have so much frozen milk. I could have fed another child for months. (I’ve totally offered to donate milk to other moms in need.)
In my child’s first 20 months of life, we only traveled once without him. It was one long weekend (3 nights) and we’ve done one more long weekend in the past couple of weeks. The first trip was this past August and before the trip, several people told me that it would be a great time to wean. It stressed me out. I wasn’t ready to stop. The baby wasn’t ready to give it up. And I knew that I didn’t have to. I just needed to educate others about this. I planned to pump while we were away, and originally I was just going to dump everything, rather than deal with the hassle of the airlines. I then came across some information about TSA and the regulations and figured I’d give it a shot and bring the milk back home. (The hotel I booked had a refrigerator, so I knew I was good on storing the milk.)
That Friday was my first test. I nursed the baby before we went to the airport, and then left him with my mom. My next time that I would have to pump happened to be when we were in the air. So I let the flight attendant know I’d been in the restroom for a longer than normal period, and headed back to the restroom for 15 minutes. (My double electric pump – with batteries – was perfect for the plane.) The rest of the day found us in the comfort of our hotel room, and I managed to stick to the “schedule” the baby and I would normally have at home, which was helpful. Basically any of the times the baby would be taking a bottle, I pumped.
Saturday was a little trickier. We were doing a bus tour, going to Yankee Stadium and seeing more of New York City, and I wouldn’t always have the comfort of the hotel room for pumping. Before we headed to the baseball game I was able to take care of things, but I knew I would need to bring along the manual pump to use during the game. I had never used the manual pump, but I found myself in a restroom using it about halfway through the game. Score one for me! The only time I was questioned was going through security at a restaurant at Yankee Stadium. The guy said, “you have a baby bottle in there?” He could clearly see I didn’t have a baby with me. I replied, “you really don’t want to get into that right now. Trust me.” Otherwise, no other issues.
Sunday was a lot like Saturday. We would be out and about, so I stashed the manual pump in my purse along with a bottle. The restrooms at FAO Schwarz are much more comfortable than those at Yankee Stadium, by the way. It was Sunday that I realized that the manual pump was for the birds. If I didn’t have the electric one, I don’t know that I could have kept this up for 11 months like I had.
We headed home Monday. I had everything labeled in individual bags (and then placed in a large gallon bag), except for two small bottles. When the TSA agent saw the bag and the bottles, she looked over the large bag and let me know that she was just going to test the two bottles. I have no idea what she was testing for, but I was grateful she didn’t pull apart the 16 small bags. It could have been messy.
At around 15 months, the baby did start to cut back. I think that was around the time we cut back to nursing 4 times a day (it was also that point where he started sleeping through the night.) When he was 18-months-old, I eliminated the afternoon nursing session, thus ending my afternoon pumping session at work. While we were out of town a couple of weeks ago, we made the decision that I wouldn’t pump during the day any more. It’s been a non-issue for the baby. He does still ask for milk (and he signs it), but he’s satisfied with a sippy cup. I still have several months worth of milk frozen.
Transitioning to cow’s milk has been a challenge. We’ve tried mixing breastmilk with cow’s milk and he tends to spit it out. He’s a little more receptive if we give him cow’s milk now, but it still isn’t his favorite thing in the world. Instead of pushing it on him often, I make sure he’s getting dairy in other ways (cheese, yogurt in his smoothies, etc.)
I know my initial goal was a year, and I’m so glad it was easy for us to hit that goal and continue. Physically, I’m ready to be done with this chapter. Mentally, it’s still challenging some days. Mom guilt sucks and I’m trying to push the guilt aside.
I’m hoping that this helps at least one mom out there. I’ve spent many evenings on Google searching for answers. Our nursing relationship was challenging at times, and I worked hard to keep things going as long as we did. So to any moms that are currently in the throes of breastfeeding, it can be a challenge, it can be easy. It can feel rewarding, but it’s also not for everyone. Don’t feel the guilt if you don’t make it to a year (or two years!)