Well, I think we’re (finally, yes!!) done breastfeeding. BoyWonder hasn’t nursed or asked to nurse in four days. At this point, even if he did ask, I don’t think he’d blink twice if I said no. If he does, we may nurse once more, just so I can tell him “last time.” But then we’re done. I’m calling it.
It’s funny how something that’s been such a big part of our lives can just slowly drift off like that. No fanfare. No drama. No tearful farewell. It’s like breastfeeding just silently tipped its hat and sauntered off into the sunset.
Each of my three kids has nursed until a few months past their third birthday, which means I’ve been nursing a baby or toddler for nine of the past 11 years. Not full time, of course. By age 3, they were generally just nursing first thing in the morning. But nine years total certainly qualifies as a long-term relationship.
I realize that also qualifies me as a total weirdo to some people, and a natural parenting hero to others. I don’t really care, frankly. I didn’t nurse into toddlerhood to make a statement or earn some sort of granola mom badge. I just never saw a reason to wean quickly. And that’s really all “extended” nursing has been for us – a very slow, s – l – o – w, weaning process.
Truthfully, I’ve been ready to be done for quite some time now. (Anyone who asserts that moms keep nursing for selfish reasons has clearly never nursed an acrobatic toddler.) I loved the breastfeeding relationship with each kid, and enjoyed seeing it evolve and change as each child grew, but by 3 (or closer to 2, perhaps), I was ready to stop.
But my kids weren’t. And though I distracted them when I could and flat out said no sometimes, I always felt like arbitrarily ending the nursing relationship without their consent was . . . I don’t know . . . wrong somehow. And in giving this feeling more thought, I think I’ve come up with why.
Nursing belonged to them more than to me. Yes, it’s my body, but it was theirs, too. It was their first home. It created them, grew them, sheltered them, ushered them out into the world, and nourished them once they were here. Nursing was such an integral part of their lives from day one, and weaning slowly, mostly at their pace, just seemed to make sense. I liked the idea of letting that attachment dissolve slowly, with enough gentle prodding to help the process along without unnecessary trauma. It worked for us.
Plus, I always felt like saying no when they asked to nurse was a bit like saying no to spinach salad and a hug. It’s not like breastmilk all of a sudden loses all of its nutrients and benefits at some point. Though it’s not as crucial later on as it is during the babe’s first year, it’s still really really good for them. If people think the breastmilk of a cow is healthy, I’m not sure why people think a mom’s breastmilk would somehow be lacking. Our societal squeamishness with breastfeeding really screws with our logic sometimes.
And the comfort factor is big. Sure, a hug works, too. But for a nursing baby or toddler, it’s just not quite the same. Two minutes of nursing can cure almost any boo-boo and tame almost any toddler tantrum. We truly never had a “terrible twos” phase with any of our kids, and I do wonder how much of that had to do with having the nursing option when nothing else worked.
The “tyrannical threes” is a whole other story, of course. Nursing can’t cure everything. 🙂
So farewell, breastfeeding. I would say I’ll miss you, and maybe someday I will, but right now I’m ready to say good-bye. It’s been real, truly. You’ve given us more than I can possibly thank you for. I hope you find someone else who will appreciate you as much as we have.