Today I did something I never thought I’d do.
I dumped my frozen breast milk.
It was only about 20 ounces, but mamas who have ever pumped know what a triumph each of those ounces is. I never pumped to build a stash because, being at home with my daughter during the day, I was simply around the majority of the time to nurse on demand. Those ounces I had stored were actually from when she stopped nursing at night and I “weaned” myself by tapering off with pumping in the evening. A particularly nasty bout of mastitis after trying to quit our nighttime session cold turkey made this a necessity.
I had always intended on giving her those pumped ounces after we had finished nursing entirely, as a way to extend the amount of time she was getting breast milk. I had also thought that we would have stopped nursing a good year ago.
And so the bags sat in my freezer…and sat…and sat. And we still nursed…and nursed…and nursed.
Fast forward a year and I found myself out of cow’s milk one evening this week. I knew my daughter would be requesting her cup of milk first thing in the morning, but I didn’t want to make a late night trip to the store, either.
So I decided to defrost some milk from the freezer and offer that instead. The next morning she knew right away that she wasn’t sipping cow’s milk. She gave me a half smile and a questioning look and said, “What’s this?” When I told her, “It’s mommy’s milk, like nursing,” she stuck the cup out and simply said, “Other milk, please.” And that was that.
I tried again later that day with another cup, mixing it with some cow’s milk, but she was on to me then, too, and wouldn’t drink it. Even though I knew it would go bad in the refrigerator after 24 hours, I didn’t have the heart to dump it one minute sooner than that. I also knew that, being now year-old milk, the rest of what was in the freezer would have to go, too, if she wasn’t going to accept it.
In the end, it’s really just a small amount of milk, and she certainly hasn’t missed out by getting it straight from the source for the last 27 months. But dumping the milk signifies the end of something; there’s no going back to that part of our nursing relationship. When she does decide she’s finally done nursing, I no longer have that stash to fall back on. When we’re done, we’re done. There’s just more of a sense of finality about the whole thing.
Unlike the pump itself, I’ll miss seeing those small, half-filled bags of milk every time I reach for my frozen peas. They were a reminder of just how much work went into continuing my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. Nursing her, for any amount of time, has been one of my biggest accomplishments to date.
Though I have to say, the extra storage in the freezer is quite nice to have.