Why I’m not letting baby decide when breastfeeding stops.
Weaning… for me (as for many other moms), it always feels like the end of an era. I let my firstborn wean herself when she was ready, and it ended up being an experience that was physically and emotionally traumatic. Not only did I deal with a bout of depression due to a sudden hormone drop, but I also had painful engorgement from the weaning process. So this time around, with my second baby, I knew that I wanted to do things differently -- not just for my baby, but for myself as well.
A little after Portia turned 17 months, something in my gut told me that I was done, and I felt like I needed to respect that. We had just gotten back from our summer vacation, and she was down to one nursing session a day. This session was enough to keep me on a tight leash, though. I missed socializing with adult friends in the evening, and I dreamed of traveling again with my husband -- even if for one night or two. Our nursing session was also taking away from the time I could have spent with the girls together, playing or reading before bed. I just wanted something else, and nursing felt like a distraction from all the other things I could do.
I also was ready to feel like myself again and to be happier with what I was seeing in the mirror. After 17 months of breastfeeding, I was working out and eating extremely healthy, but I was still hanging on to that last bit of baby weight. Two pregnancies and three years of nursing have also left my breasts completely deflated, and I am considering getting some cosmetic surgery done to lift and reshape them.
Portia was born hungry and knew exactly how to get the milk she needed, which meant that breastfeeding came beautifully and naturally to us. I loved nothing more than snuggling with her while she buried her face into me and twirled her hair while she drank her milk. And since she was the second child, she was getting a little less of my time; so breastfeeding was the perfect occasion for us to bond, just the two of us. Nursing her was sweet, snuggly and wonderful. But it was time to move on.
I tried to wean her on my own, offering her a snack or a bottle of cashew milk at bedtime. But in vain. She would scream and flail and freak out until I agreed to nurse her. I knew at that point that I couldn’t be home at bedtime. I’d need to pass the baton to my husband for a couple of nights. So we picked a three-day weekend, during which he could put her to bed three nights in a row. This, we thought, would help break her nursing habits.
The first night, I worried I had made a mistake. I pictured Portia screaming and crying for me the entire time. But guess what -- she was fine. More than fine. She was delighted that her daddy was giving her a bath and putting her to bed. The next two nights were similarly smooth sailing.
Come Monday, when it was time for me to do bedtime again, it went off without a hitch. Instead of nursing after the bath, we cuddled in my bed and read a few board books while her sister, Hermione, luxuriated in the tub. It was official. She had weaned. In just four short days.
It felt quick and easy, but it was filled with mixed emotions, which have persisted to this day, after a few months. I feel a little guilty for making the decision for her and still wonder if she would have wanted to nurse until she was two or even older. I am also still a little sad. Knowing she is my last baby, it all feels very final. I will never nurse a baby again. That is a lot to take in -- more than I expected.
Breastfeeding was a commitment that I was proud to make. It isn’t an easy task and takes a lot of time and sacrifice. But now that this phase is behind us, I am looking forward to spending different kinds of quality, intimate time together. Even this afternoon, after her nap, she and I snuggled in her rocking chair and read books after books after books. Those cuddles and quiet moments are just as special as nursing was, and I know there are many, many more of them ahead of us.