I never thought I would breastfeed past a year.
I had made a personal commitment to breastfeed for the first year during my pregnancy, and knew whatever I had to do I would find the support I needed to follow through. Perseverance was my key word.
It didn’t come as easily as I thought it would. It honestly took about 3 to 4 weeks before I figured out what I was doing and began to feel successful. And nothing about the initial experience made me consider why one year seemed like the “right” cut off age.
I dawns on me now that one year is the cut-off for formula- when families can “safely” switch from formula to cow milk, being assured that the bulk of a toddler’s nutrition is now available via solid foods.
So as I became a breastfeeding mom and considered some of these ideas, it seemed less natural to simply stop breastfeeding at a relatively random age based on an idea that really didn’t fit my situation. I figured that there was not going to be a magic age, where breastfeeding isn’t necessary. Because I know understood breastfeeding was more than simply nutrition.
She expected (because I taught her) that nurture would come through breastfeeding; closeness, cuddles, reassurance, stability- all this demonstrated in our home through the act of breastfeeding.
So since J wanted to keep nursing, we kept nursing.
When I got pregnant, my nipples became very sore. It got to a point where I was so uncomfortable, I wanted to do anything but breastfeed. With some help and guidance from LLL Leaders, we started stop timed nursing, followed by cuddles. I explained that it hurt. I asked J if she would be willing to stop until the baby was born and my milk came back. (By this time it had begun to change to colostrum preparing for the baby.) J said yes, she’d wait. She told me it didn’t really taste right anyway.
Even with communication and understanding, I felt guilty for stopping. I had shifted from the invisible cut-off of one year, to the intention of allowing J to self-wean and choose her own terms, and now I had changed again. I felt very sad at the change and missed nursing her.She was 2 years, 4 months old when we stopped.
Her sister was born 2 months later. And when J asked to nurse, we’d tandem. But she didn’t really remember how to latch. So she’d try and then stop. I could see that she missed it too. After a time, she stopped asking.
Once in a while, she’ll mention it. Yesterday she asked to nurse. (She’ll be 5 in November) And although I want to support her, I wasn’t able to say yes. Because I’m ready to stop nursing.
K and I are winding down our breastfeeding relationship. (Ironically she is 2 years, 4 mos now.)
I wanted to be the mom who allowed her children the benefits of full-term breastfeeding and the opportunity to self-wean. And today, K and I have reduced to nursing 1-2 times per day. It’s a gradual process. I don’t intend to pick a date and go cold-turkey. But I can see the direction we’re headed and I’m glad to be moving that way.
I know I will miss this chapter. It is an amazing part of my experience of mothering. And do I feel guilty? No, but maybe a bit of regret that my girls won’t be little forever; insecure that mothering will manifest in new ways with which I’m not familiar; and there’s a part of me that will always cherish holding my little ones (even with long toddler legs) and giving them a part of me that was nourishment, nurture, and connection all in one.