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I Wasn’t Ready to Wean

How my baby dictated the terms of our breastfeeding journey.

I Wasn’t Ready to Wean

"As long as she wants." "Until she's done." Whenever anyone asked me how long I planned to nurse my oldest daughter, Hermione, that was always my answer.

Unlike her baby sister, Portia, who was born a champion nurser, Hermione and I fought hard for our beautiful nursing relationship. Through four brutal weeks of an undiagnosed tongue tie, she couldn't latch and would just scream and scream. But we fought to make it work. I would try and unsuccessfully nurse her and then pump and give her a bottle . This cycle would then repeat every two hours -- for four weeks. Finally, we figured out the problem and got it fixed, and she finally latched on and nursed like a pro. I returned the rented pump, gave away the bottles, and never looked back.

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After enduring such an emotional and exhausting start to our nursing relationship, I was in no rush to give it up. I loved nursing Hermione and was sure she would still be nursing as a two or three year old, and I would have been more than fine with that.

After she hit about 15 months, she was only nursing three times a day (down from almost ten at its height): in the morning, after her nap, and in the bath before bed. If she was sick or hurt, she would nurse more. I loved always being a source of instant warmth and comfort for her. I loved nursing her in the middle of the night if she woke up and needed me. Sitting in the rocking chair, snuggling with my sweet baby girl and feeling like the only two people in the world, will always be my happy place. The smell of her hair, her little hands waving around and stroking my face, the sweet way she would say, "milkies please, Mommy" -- I loved and cherished every second of nursing my first baby girl.

And then one day, after 20 beautiful months, she was done. There was no gradual process. I had no idea it was coming.

Hermione woke up from her nap, as she always did, calling for me: "Milkies please, Mommy! Milkies please, Mommy!" I went into her room and got ready to nurse. But this time, as I pulled down my shirt, she started to freak out. She screamed and cried for a while, and no snuggling or cuddling seemed to make her feel better. I realized then that she wasn’t going to nurse. It took 15 long minutes, her favorite green juice and a little help from Sesame Street for her to eventually calm down.

At bath time that night, it happened again. Instead of grabbing me in the tub and nursing for 15-20 minutes, she just stared at me and said "fix it." Fix what? I still had plenty of milk and was confused and saddened about what she thought might be broken. I tried to convince her to latch on as she was clearly agitated and upset, but she simply wouldn't. It was as if she had forgotten how. The whole scene felt very similar to when she was a tiny newborn and wanted desperately to nurse but just couldn't figure out the physicality of it.

The next morning she woke up asking for mommy’s milkies again. But again, she wouldn't nurse and got terribly upset when I offered it to her. The same thing happened after nap time, and again in the bath before bed.

She was done. Despite asking for milk something in her little body was telling her it was over, that she couldn't nurse anymore.

My heart was breaking. If she had seemed happy and not conflicted about her decision, the shock might have been lessened for me. But her inner turmoil was sad and confusing. For the past 20 months, I had met her tears and cries with nursing, and suddenly that no longer worked.

Aside from the emotional shock at the sudden loss of our sweet nursing bond, my body had already started to react physically to this change. My breasts were very sore and engorged -- as they once were, right after Hermione’s birth. My hormones were on a roller coaster ride as they adjusted to not creating or sustaining a baby for the first time in 30 months. I cried randomly. I felt emotionally exposed and raw all over. All eerily similar to the immediate weeks postpartum.

In my head, I knew that breastfeeding Hermione for 20 months was a huge accomplishment. We did it, without pumping or bottles, until she no longer needed it for nutrition or physical comfort. We ended on her terms, as sudden as they may have been.

Once I realized this wasn't a nursing strike and it was really over, the challenge was to create new routines to occupy the time we would have spent nursing. How would I comfort her when she was upset? How would I gently soothe her when she woke up cranky from a nap? It took a long time for Hermione to wake up without screaming and crying. Now she is almost three and a half and simply wakes up and runs into my bedroom, overjoyed to see me and start her day. Most mornings, I am nursing her baby sister in bed when she comes to greet us. She always asks, "what's Portia doing Mommy?" It's amazing how quickly they forget.

Our intimate, beautiful nursing relationship may have ended sooner than I had hoped, but I know those 20 months bonded us in ways we might never fully understand. Even if she is no longer growing in or being sustained by my body, she is still my baby. I her mommy. Her weaning led me to appreciate each snuggle, kiss and hug that much more. More so than any other milestones, it made me acutely aware of how fast children grow up. My baby is now turning into a big girl before my eyes, and it is the most beautiful, exquisite pain there is.

After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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