So Long, Breastfeeding

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.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 6

  1. Really, I’m touch by your words. I have a 1 year old breastfeed son and I’m already considering of weaning him due to difficulty with my work schedules. Now, after reading your article, I am more determined to go on until he weans himself. Your blogs about breastfeeding is by far the most sensible and objective write ups I’ve read in the internet. Really. 🙂

  2. The paragraph about nursing and the mom’s body belonging to the child should be printed and given to all new moms. What a great way to think about it and perspective to take when, due to exhaustion, nursing feels like an imposition.

    This post made me feel sad for some reason, perhaps it is because it is a bittersweet ending for us moms. Two weaned around 15 months and the last one at 27 months. It does just fade away and you don’t know your last time is your last time.

    Congratulations on the end on the journey! Well done!
    not anonymous…julie, still not knowing how to register a name to comment!

  3. “I always felt like saying no when they asked to nurse was a bit like saying no to spinach salad and a hug.”

    This is a brilliant way to describe the nursing relationship as children get a little older.

    My youngest stopped at 3 years and 3 weeks and still, at 7.5, talks about how wonderful it was.

    1. That’s amazing. Neither of my girls remember nursing at all. I wonder when the memory left them. It’s probably because yours has verbally recalled it so many times since then that she remembers it still. Being highly verbal probably results in more detailed memories. I should get my kids to get in the habit of writing things down, since neither Havarti nor I passed on any particularly verbal genes. 🙂

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