When pregnant with my first I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I looked up the LaLeche League in my neighbourhood and sat on my front porch all swollen and pregnant with the quintessential Jack Newman ‘Guide to Breastfeeding’ reading and absorbing.
It was purely intellectual. I had read about the benefits of breastfeeding, about latches and drinking enough water. As the type A woman I was (am) I was planning to doing the “right” thing for my unborn child. Well, for at least 6 months, because, you know, I needed my freedom.
I was quite unprepared for the massive emotional bond and responsibility that nursing would bring. The connection, physical closeness and pure love that occurred between mom and baby blew me away.
If someone had told that pregnant porch reader that I would be nursing my belly baby until she was 18 months old I would have gasped. Before becoming a parent, I felt pretty strongly that if a child could “ask” for the breast, they were “too old”. How shocking and rude that mothers allowed their toddlers to lift up their shirts and put mouths on their breasts when they could use a cup.
Yet, I found myself nursing a toddler. When we stopped it was planned with a wind down period and mostly mutual. On Valentine’s Day, Lauren’s exact 18 month birthday, we stopped.
There is no ‘right’ time to wean, it completely depends on the mother-baby pair, their situation, and their choices. That’s why it's so silly for anyone to compare as it’s all so personal. The World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding until age two and a half but often when moms choose extended breastfeeding we’re doing it quietly. We’re thrilled to be sharing these moments with our children but not always shouting from rooftops or lifting our shirts at the park. Unfortunately, despite massive support for extended breastfeeding, judgement does still exist.
My second child was a strong hoover and my nursing experience different with a bumpy start, less alone time to nurse and a task oriented feeling. Yet I still enjoyed Andrew and had pride in our journey. As a young toddler, he started to nip occasionally when teething. At 15 months, one bedtime feeding brought a terrible bite and I closed the door on our nursing relationship. He didn’t even notice, but I cried for days. I hadn’t planned it, I didn’t count down, it just ended. I didn’t know if we’d have another baby. I mourned the loss of our special thing.
Funny thing about this motherhood gig, only YOU can make the decision for yourself when you’re in the situation. And decisions are not always the same per child.
I did have baby #3 and a wonderful breastfeeding relationship with her. Megan began biting at 8 months, far worse than what I recall with Andrew, yet I presevered. I blogged about my need to be done but my duty was to stick it out to 12 months. Frustrated, I wanted to release the girls from milk service.
And here we are, 10 months later, and that was just a phase. Meg’s almost 18 months and still nursing at morning and bedtime. She IS that child who walks up and pulls my shirt and “asks”. We have 2 special places where we nurse (in her bedroom or ours) and her little hand will pull me to those chairs knowing if we sit there, she gets a special mama cuddle.
As I stroke her hair, look at her peaceful face, feel her hand caress my arm, reach up and touch my nose, I am desperate for this to go on forever. It’s the last piece of babyhood I have in a rambunctious toddler. It’s the last part of babyhood I’ll ever have with my children.
I am so distraught by the weaning idea now.
I am leaving on a trip for 4 days this week. I had planned the trip with enough time to wean Megan. My nursing duty would be beyond paid.
But this breakup is not mutual. My baby loves this. I don’t think I can stand to turn my back on her when this is not child-led at all.
I’ve been flip flopping on this decision. For practical reasons, weaning can make a lot of sense as it releases me from her schedule. But this is my last baby, I don’t mind being attached and working around her schedule. Any inconvenience is so short lived. She’s already grown up too fast.
Have I cherished our 18 months together enough to give it up? Did I waste precious bonding time being distracted by my iPhone while she sighed and sucked and loved me? Did I ever use the phrase “I have to nurse her” instead of appreciating that I am a lucky mama who “got to nurse her”?
A few months ago I read an article by Ann Douglas about her 11 month son who bit his tongue in a fall and weaned himself unexpectedly. I cried while reading knowing how heartbreaking and disappointing that would be. I reread the article and it made me change my mind.
I’m not going to wean Megan.
I’m going to take a breastpump to keep up supply while away. And when I come back, if Meg still wants to nurse, I will be more than happy to oblige, encourage and figure out a weaning strategy down the line. If after 4 days away, she has moved on, then GULP, I will accept that.
I will weep though. Weep big tears.
Before I leave, there’s just one more bedtime left to share our precious bond. That expiry is beyond upsetting and feels like I am giving away something so sentimental and special, just because. For the last few weeks each time we sit down in the comfy red chair or the antique rocking chair that has nursed many babies, I well up. I look at her through glossy eyes and think, this could be it.
Weaning is way beyond a personal decision. Strategy does not belong here. Only decisions led by the heart. And my heart feels like it’s going to get run over by an airplane on Wednesday as the flight takes off at 6:35pm.
Ironically, that’s the same exact time of our usual bedtime nursing session.
Be ready sweet Megan when I return. But if not, I have loved being of special comfort and love to you.