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Giving Breastfeeding All that I Had: Andrea’s Weaning Story

by Andrea Volk

I made the decision to stop pumping/breastfeeding. It was not a decision I took lightly. I talked about it at all hours of the day, cried about it, and contemplated my decision for days.

Eventually I made the final decision because I know that it’s the best thing for myself, for my daughter, and for our family. My breastfeeding journey has been a difficult road that, quite frankly, has turned into a dead end. I had an amazing team of qualified healthcare professionals supporting me every step of the way, and we made great strides together; but there are issues beyond anyone’s control that have led to chronic pain.

Trying to continue breastfeeding is no longer worth the cost. Money is not the issue (though I have invested a lot on this journey); my sanity and the well-being of my family is the real price I’ve paid. Pumping has been costing me precious time that I could be spending holding, bonding, and interacting with my daughter. My pain and anxiety about the next pump have caused me to be an irritable wife and mother. Everyone in this family has been negatively impacted.

So, here I am today, confident in my decision and honestly able to say that I gave breastfeeding everything I had. I did not fail at breastfeeding. I’m not stopping for lack of motivation or effort. Sometimes in life we have to make the tough calls. This is one of the tough calls for me. As I was bottle feeding my daughter formula yesterday, I looked into her eyes and said, “Mommy needs to fill her cup so I can fill yours.” I emptied my cup over the past six weeks of Adelyn’s life. Making this decision is the first step in refilling it.

Meeting with Katie for weeks and discussing my decision with her was therapeutic. Not once did she make me feel like this was the wrong decision. I never felt like I was being selfish or unreasonable. In fact, she completely understood that I got to this place using reason and logic. I weighed the pros and cons, I took inventory of my personal well being and the well being of my family, and I made the best decision for us.

People like me who are strong willed and driven don’t like to “quit” or “fail.” These words don’t exist in our vocabulary. In most situations I would rather suffer for extended periods of time than fall short of a goal. But this isn’t quitting or failing for me. Yes, it is falling short of a goal; however, the end result is actually the beginning of a new and—dare I say it?—better goal.

Society will ask, “What could possibly be better for your baby than breastfeeding?!” The answer for me is so complex that it would take another blog to explain, but the short answer is a happy, healthy mother. Looking into my daughter’s eyes as I feed her from a bottle and she studies my face, I feel a deep bond and connection that can never be replaced or stolen from either one of us. I am happy and my baby is happy. And my goal now is to build upon this happiness as Adelyn and I learn and grow together.

Ending my breastfeeding journey has been heartbreaking for me and I do feel a loss. One day I’m going to have to teach Adelyn about adversity and picking herself up after heartbreak and loss. Without my own personal experiences, what could I know or teach about either one? Life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows. Sometimes life is thorns and rain and sorrow. What matters is how we use the hard times to build a better future, how we use them to improve our character and our empathy for others who may be going through the same thing or something similar.

Today Adelyn is losing a couple of breasts full of milk and gaining a mother who is going to make herself whole. She is getting a mom who is confident and happy and yes, still driven. Most importantly, she’s gaining a mom who can be completely there for her and focus all attention on the most important person in all of this: Adelyn.

I think one day we’ll both see that the trade off was worth it.