Porter hasn't nursed in a week. An entire week. It's over, folks.

I think it's time to accept his weaning, to let those emotions come to the surface, and then let them go. In some ways my heart is broken knowing that I will never nurse another baby again. In other ways it's extremely freeing. Mostly I'm sad and still perplexed about how different my third child has been in the breastfeeding department. But I'm also proud that we almost made it to six months considering the struggle it's been. Maybe we didn't make it to a year or beyond like I'd hoped but we did the best we could. I did the best I could. It has to be enough, without regrets.

Porter would have been more than happy to wean at eight weeks when he first started showing signs of bottle preference, refusing to nurse longer than one minute at a time. Really, the remaining four-ish months of nursing were all for me, not for him. Which brings up some interesting questions about who breastfeeding benefits more: the mom who so badly wants it to work, or the baby who is actually consuming the milk. If the nursing relationship is a positive, satisfying one then I think both parties benefit greatly and should push through for as long as it makes sense. But now I am humbled to know first hand that it's not always so easy, so happy, so satisfying to nurse a baby.

So what if Truman nursed for a year and Cecelia for sixteen months and neither had a drop of formula? Porter is a different baby. CC hated the bottle and we battled to get her to drink from one while I was away at work. Porter took it to the other extreme and loves the bottle. Why does feeding a baby have such an emotional component? Why does it feel like we are being judged for our choices or our paths? Does this criticism live in our own heads or do other moms really care that much about how our breastmilk/formula/bottle/pumping story plays out?

Breastfeeding has been one of the biggest privileges of my life. And this time around it's been an important learning experience, and extremely humbling.

At that critical eight week point, what in the heck happened? He was fussier than usual, wouldn't stay latched past the first let down, his poops turned green, and we discovered that his weight percentile dropped from 60th at one month to 19th at two months. I had just as much milk as ever since he would pull off and it would be dripping out. I could pump 4-6 ounces at a time even if that was directly after a feeding. He just wasn't having it anymore, and although he had only had about three bottles in his life at that point, he loved the hell out of them. I know now that's just Porter.

'I cannot handle the thought of my last baby weaning himself at eight weeks,' I told Nate one night through tears. He promised me that it would all work out and the most important thing was to keep Porter fed and growing. Which meant I had to swallow my pride and give the baby bottles during daytime hours, clinging to the evening and night as our time to nurse.

Last Saturday night, Porter nursed before bed in the glider, lights out, white noise on, rocking back and forth as we listened to the big kids go through their bedtime routine with Nate in the next room.  That before-bed nursing session was the one solid time we had together, just Porter and I. A bonding session in the truest sense of the word. A sense of relief for me every time he agreed to latch on, even if just for a few minutes before drifting off to sleep and pulling off from the breast. 'He's still nursing, even if it's just once a day,' I'd tell myself when I started to feel sad that we were nearing the end. He stopped nursing in the middle of the night a few weeks ago---but no, he isn't sleeping through the night in return. He just likes the pacifier and cuddling in the glider at night instead of the boob, so the bedtime session was our solitary moment as a nursing mother and baby.

He nursed one week ago and I didn't know it would be our final time connected by breastfeeding. I certainly noticed when he refused to latch on the next night and the night after that. 'He hasn't nursed in two days,' is what I told Nate as I realized the finality of that statement. My last baby was finally letting go of our last session. I didn't feel ready but I'm glad he gave me those bedtime sessions for so long.

Sure, I could have tried a little harder to be an exclusive pumper in order to avoid formula. But no, screw that. I have no regrets with my decision to ditch the pump a month ago because I'll gladly use formula and maintain my sanity instead of killing myself over the pump. I could not make pumping a priority on my four days at home with the kids, and in order to match Porter's incredible intake of about 36 ounces in 24 hours I would have needed to pump at least six times per day. Every day. Including days at home parenting three small children. Pumping three times at work was fine but at home? Pshh. Yeah right. I was lucky to make it happen once per day without at least two of the kids needing me more than the I needed the pump. Ditching that beast was incredibly freeing and I will not beat myself up over that decision.

Isn't it always an emotional roller coaster when breastfeeding ends? It ended much sooner than what I wanted but even if we had made it to a year or beyond, I know I would still feel the sads. It's the end of a special chapter of life. So is the glass half full or half empty? We 'only' made it to six months nursing and we had to use quite a bit of formula. And yet, he nursed a bit each day until freaking six months and my baby seriously loves formula. And he's ridiculously happy, healthy, and growing so who am I to feel anything but gratitude when I'm holding my Porter boy?

Now that nursing is over, I can stop worrying about when it will end and can focus on the future instead. My body is now my own for the first time since 2009, because I've been continuously pregnant, nursing, or having a stupid-long miscarriage in the past five years. I just had my first period since 2011 and boy, those 3.5 years without a cycle were glorious. And I'm sure that the hormones of breastfeeding cessation plus my first period in years, and saying goodbye to my family after an awesome Christmas visit are combining to make one giant ball of melodramatic overanalyzing.

It was the best I could do and it was enough. I did what was best for my son by feeding him from a bottle and giving him formula, and he obliged me by nursing this long.

Thank you, Porter, for giving me those six months of nursing. I love you and look forward to many other ways of bonding with you, sweet boy.


  1. You did (and continue to do) great with Porter! I personally am just glad you won't need to bring your pump to Mexico now!! Yay!

  2. Thanks for sharing this Julia. We are in the process of switching Kai over to formula for various reasons, and I did not expect to feel so emotional about it. I am almost done pumping and will be glad when that is over (but also a little sad) :) We all want to do what is best for our babies, and as long as they are fed, loved, happy and healthy that is all that matters.
    Also, Porter's eyelashes in the above photo. OMG, I die!!

  3. Beautifully written. I'm literally in tears over here. Nursing during my maternity leave was a struggle, as my Oliver also preferred the steady flow from bottles...but returning to work full-time started a rapid decline for my nursing sessions. I'm fairly confident Oliver latched for the last time on New Years morning. I've had my fair share of tears over this experience and appreciate everything you've shared about your experience! Thank you! I especially love when you said, "I love you and look forward to many other ways of bonding with you, sweet boy." There are so many other beautiful ways to bond and I just need to keep repeating that line to myself...And on the flip side...enjoy your freedom! :-)

  4. Oh, Julia. My friend. I know I don't have to say this. But you did WONDERFUL! You gave your baby all the love and care he needed (regardless of bottle or boob). I know it's difficult. Believe me, oh man, do I know. Kudos to you for six months while struggling. You are such a great mama!

  5. Such a hard thing when the decision isn't in your hands but you did great! Oliver is my part-formula baby - we all have to do what we have to do! XOXO

  6. Love this post (she typed as she sobbed into her coffee). I'm sad for you that nursing Porter was not what you had hoped but so proud of you for looking forward. I also love that you used the word 'humbled'...that is a tough one to take as moms, it is such a complicated (and awesomely powerful) part of this whole "super hero mom" gig! Sometimes things are just out of our control. You are amazing and I can't help but wonder how you haven't just eaten Porter whole at this point! :)

  7. After being EBF for almost 7.5 months, my daughter decided that she wanted to wean herself to only bottles. It made me quite emotional because I was hoping to get to at least a year- even if towards the end it was just am and pm nursing. But she had other plans and I'm glad that I was able to give her those 7+ months. I know you struggled to make it to 6 months so kudos to you! Porter is a happy and healthy boy and he is doing great!

  8. We made it about 3 months of exclusive nursing and then I pumped exclusively till he was about 6.5 months. I seriously cannot imagine how I'll plan pumping sessions when we decide to have another baby. Congratulations on doing it as long as you did despite all the issues!!

  9. I don't typically comment (just always a reader) but I wanted to make a comment this time... my third baby has been the hardest with breastfeeding being the biggest struggle. I have always been a believer that any way a baby gets food is the best way. You could never walk into a 9th grad classroom and pick out which kids were breastfed and assume they will be better off in life, so I could never understand why all the "judgement" one way or the other from other moms. Anyway, like you I loved the bonding and with our third being our last it has been a heartbreaking experience. I almost think I want a 4th because this has not gone the way I planned or I feel like I am not enjoying the last baby. It's so hard to accept it and move on and not cry every night or beg my husband for another baby, but reading things like this make it a little easier. We are all going through similar things and doing the best we can. Thank you so much for sharing your story.... and cheers to no more breast pumps!


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