World Breastfeeding Week is coming to a close, and after a busy three days of classes, speakers, and events on Nantucket, I was exhausted (and, frankly, remembered exactly what it was that I didn’t like about working full-time while parenting). As much as I love, love, love sharing breastfeeding information and was excited to learn more about skin-to-skin from such an amazing speaker, I am also glad to be getting back to our normal, slower routine.
This World Breastfeeding Week was a little different because, for the first time since WBW came on my radar, I’m not breastfeeding. That’s right: these days, you’ll see lots of watermelon cream drinking and that’s about it.
Nora is officially weaned and has completely forgotten how to do it (as we learned last week when she asked to try out of the blue and I actually let her).
I’ve written quite a bit about our breastfeeding experience so far: first, sharing my happiness at meeting my one-year goal and new goal of nursing her until she was ready to wean; then, around her second birthday, writing about my mixed feelings toward breastfeeding but that I still wasn’t ready to be done; and most recently, one small mention in May of the fact that I was on the edge of weaning. In the end, Nora nursed a little over 2 years 9 months, and I did play an active road in weaning her, though I had thought at one point I would let her do it on her own. Shortly before Nora’s second birthday, I started practicing “don’t offer, don’t refuse” and around Christmas, I started refusing in certain situations. By March, she was only nursing twice a day, but then she got sick and then attended the LLL conference with me, and went back up to five or more times per day. We worked on returning to early morning and nap time only. But ultimately, we got to a point where I was pregnant and tired, nursing an almost-preschooler who would have happily nursed as much as I let her, and I was just done.
When it comes to weaning, I really do think it is best if the child can decide when he or she is ready to stop, but I also think it’s important that mom feel good about it and some children could go on for years after mom has stopped feeling good about it. By May, I had pretty much stopped feeling good about it. Nursing was useful for inducing naps and getting to sleep a little longer in the morning, but it was also becoming a contributing factor to Nora not developing coping skills in certain situations. (Which is most certainly not the case for other older nursers, but seemed to just be that way for Nora.) Basically, I was at a point where I only wanted to nurse on my terms. I tried for a while telling her we only “did milk” at certain times of the day, which meant if she felt uncomfortable in a social situation she started complaining about being tired. I realized that, for Nora, nursing just needed to not be an option, and since I didn’t see tandem in my future, I decided to actively wean her. We started taking stroller rides at nap time, I kept lots of delicious snacks around to distract her with, and we talked a lot about stopping doing milk. I thought she was weaned mid-May, but then two weeks later she came to one of my LLL meetings and ended up nursing out of boredom/frustration that I wasn’t paying 100% attention to her. We nursed a couple times after that over the next few weeks. The last time she nursed, on a Wednesday in June: I offered because I thought she needed it and Nora said, “OK, but it’s the last time.” She nursed for a couple of minutes on each side and that was that.
Before weaning, I had wondered if I would miss it; I had feared the loss of naps or instant comfort in tough situations; I had worried about how she would remember the weaning and nursing experience. Now, I know I can get through the day without a nap time break. Though there have been some tough moments, I’m no longer worried about the loss of instant comfort. Chris and I are helping Nora to develop skills to get through them without nursing, and she has blossomed immensely this summer. Perhaps most importantly, I know that I don’t miss nursing Nora. I have wonderful memories of the two of us in our own sweet milky world and I am so very proud of myself for sticking out some very tough moments to mother her through breastfeeding, but I’m also excited about the changes in our relationship since nursing ended. Nora is no less, and perhaps more, affectionate since weaning. Now, she stops midway through a puzzle or book to give me hugs and kisses, she lets me scratch her back or rub her tummy at night time, and she asks to cuddle throughout the day. She has developed her own ways to connect with me beyond breastfeeding and it’s just as sweet and perfect.
Instead of mourning lost babyhood, now I’m looking forward to all the exciting “big girl things” we have in our future.
Nora’s weaning didn’t happen as I thought it would, even as I was in the thick of it, but it turned out to be exactly right for our family. I couldn’t be happier to have the relationship with her that I have, in no small part because of breastfeeding. I’m thankful for the fond memories we both have of nursing and thankful for how much I’ve learned and grown through my experience as a breastfeeding mother. I can’t wait to have the same experience with baby 2 — although I’ll admit, I’m also thankful to be done for awhile and getting a little break!