Breastfeeding is the best. I was raised hearing my mom’s blissful stories of nursing us in the middle of the night in her LaZBoy chair and streetlight pouring in, falling asleep there until morning, how it was a nearly religious experience for her. So, although clearly many moms don’t get the chance or things don’t go as planned, I really had my heart set and every ounce of my being determined to make it work.
It turned out not to be an issue with my baby born two weeks past his due date- he just latched on and that was it. Even in the early days of nursing him every couple of hours, the I looked forward to nursing sessions when I could just sit and hold my peanut and do nothing while single-handedly nourishing a new human. And getting a rush of relaxing hormones and eating big plates of food. What’s not to love?
I went back to work at 5 months. I pumped three times a day to keep my supply up. It worked. I baked lactation cookies that I still make because they’re so delicious- wheat germ, oatmeal, nutritional yeast, flax seed. None of it is proven to work- neither is beer. But I did it all anyway, and it worked, or something did. We normalized breastfeeding in restaurants, cars, parties. Not one person said anything or made me feel uncomfortable. He started signing for “nurse”- the little hand squeezing a cow’s udder.
A year went by. I had always planned on “at least a year,” not knowing how it would feel at that point. I heard that some moms were hating it, and so over it, and that’s totally valid and their experience, but I couldn’t relate. It felt like the gift of all gifts- total nutrition, relaxation, stops the crying, gets them to sleep, and gets them back to sleep in the middle of the night, soothes after vaccinations and during illness, I mean this is a miracle that our bodies can do this.
We kept going. at 18 months, it started seeming like I “should” think about weaning but it didn’t feel like the right time yet. We were still in it. We went to a group two-year birthday party of one of my mom’s groups and still-nursing moms gathered for a nursing photo. There were only 4-5 of us out of 30 or so. I was the only one who hadn’t night weaned.
The following month, I finally night weaned E, and it wasn’t that bad. A little crying and then back to sleep. Then we slept through the night except for that tricky 5:30 nurse which I was pretty lax about right up until the end. A little wiggling and then a little whimpering and then a tragically thirsty “nuuuurse?” and I could not turn him down (and I didn’t want to get up and deal with the crying). Get in position, pop the boob, and go back to sleep. A lovely built-in solution.
Then it seemed like I should see him through our move- why take away this comfort during a time of potentially high stress? We were pretty solidly moving away from nursing in restaurants and on airplanes. I discovered the redirect. He was pretty easygoing about it. As we eased into our Chicago routine, he was nursing after school, at bedtime, and upon waking up.
This fall, I procrastinated. I gave in a lot. I wasn’t totally committed. I gave myself to the end of the year- I could tell he was ready! But was I ready?
The final push took about 6 weeks to the end of the year- I cut out the after-school nurse (substituted by activities, Halloween candy, videos), then the morning nurse on Christmas Day. Easy enough to jump out of bed and get something going.
I was always emotional contemplating the Last Nurse. The second-to-last one was naptime on New Year’s Eve, and I could tell my supply was down to almost nothing, E nursed gently as he drifted to sleep and tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt so grateful and sad all at the same time. My baby isn’t a baby anymore, and he’s strong and healthy and well attached and ready to disconnect from me in this way that connected us every day of his life thus far.
In the less than a week since then, he’s gotten more cuddly. He backs up to me so I’m spooning him and asks me to “close the door” which is to put my arms around him. He created a new song that goes, “Your BOOBS! Your BOOBS! Listen to the boobsies!” And sometimes he just wants to touch them for a minute, to know that they’re still there, that I’m still here. He’s transitioning just fine. And he’s eating about three times as much food.
My body is winding it down too, it’s painful and I have cabbage leaves and do hand expressing in the shower every day but my boobsies are quickly getting the message. Very curious how this will change my (enormous) appetite, metabolism, and mood. I’m now at a conference for three days so lots of distractions here, and a hotel room to myself where I sleep fitfully, searching for my boy.
2 years, 7 months!