As a new mom, my goal was always to breastfeed for the first 6 months. Once my baby and I passed that milestone, I set my sights on a year. Then, almost without me noticing, 18 months had passed. Suddenly I had a 2-year-old toddler and we were still enjoying our breastfeeding relationship, so I was in no hurry to have it end. So, I decided he would decide when we stopped and self wean. I thought it would be easier, which is to say I didn't think I'd deal with the emotional struggles every mom experiences when her kid self-weans.
Before I had a child, I didn't know what extended breastfeeding meant and thought I would stop breastfeeding way before my son could talk. However, when each milestone came and went and both of us were still happy to continue, I wondered why I thought I needed to stop breastfeeding in the first place. In fact, many of my mom-friends were still nursing and my husband was very supportive, mostly because breast milk is free and morning nursing cuddles in bed meant we could snooze a little later, but also because he's just fantastic and supportive, regardless.
So the decision had been left to our toddler to decide, and after 910 days of breastfeeding, he gave it up. Just. Like. That. He was just fine with his decision, but I must admit I've been struggling. I have a feeling I'm not alone (please, someone tell me I'm not alone) because while I thought I would be happy to stop breastfeeding, it's proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Sigh.
When You Can't Wait For It To Be Over
Breastfeeding a toddler is not the same as breastfeeding a small baby. Toddlers move and wiggle and lose interest and get distracted, so nursing them can sometimes (read: always) be exhausting.
In the last few weeks of our breastfeeding relationship, I had started to get a bit uncomfortable. It was the start of summer, my son was getting bigger, his hot little body pressed on me was making me overheat and I was ready for it to end.
When You're Completely Confused As To What's Happening
My son stopped nursing over the Canada Day weekend, as if he knew I would need a few days to deal. He went to bed late one night and didn't ask for milk, and the next day he went off to play with his grandparents and didn't ask again.
I remember laying in bed thinking, "Is this it? Is it over?"All of a sudden it felt too soon.
When Your Realize Your Kid Really Is Growing Up...
Once I got over the initial shock that, yes, we were done with the breastfeeding stage of our relationship, I started to feel pride in my growing boy.
He could say his alphabet and count and was learning to go on the potty and now he was completely self-weaned. While there were so many more exciting milestones to look forward to, there was no denying that our nursing days were officially behind us. Gulp.
...And That Realization Makes You Extremely Sad
Then it hit me, I didn't have a baby anymore. Many people consider the first birthday to be the end of "babyhood," but because my son was still happily nursing multiple times a day, I could hang onto the idea of him still being my baby.
I started to look through all his baby pictures and feel very emotional for the baby he no longer was.
When You Feel Like You're Useless
When my son was breastfeeding I felt essential to his happiness and well being. Suddenly, he seemed to be so independent. I mean, sure, he still gave me the occasional hug or kiss and loved riding on my back per usual, but that daily, repetitive, reliable time to slow down and hold each other was gone.
When You Don't Know How To Comfort Your Kid Anymore
Soon after my son had weaned, he ended up sick with a stomach flu (thank you, parenting gods, for that one). It was clear he was feeling rotten and he had no energy or interest in much of anything at all. Without the familiar snuggles that accompanied our nursing sessions, I wasn't sure (at first) as to how I could adequately comfort him. Suddenly, it almost felt like we were strangers.
However, It didn't take me long to snuggle under the covers with him, hold his hand and find our special connection again.
When You Realize The Bedtime Snuggles Are Gone
Our routine at bedtime was always bath, pajamas, a story, and nursing snuggles. Now that my son had self-weaned, what were we supposed to do? It all felt a bit clinical to just put him straight in his bed.
So, we developed a new routine and, I have to admit, it's just as helpful. After reading a book, he asks me to tell him his birth story (a tale he knows and loves well). I turn out the light and hold him tight in a close embrace, as I recall the snowy night just after the new year, when he came into our lives.
When You Vow That Your Baby Will Always Be Your Baby
As the months have passed I have come to realize that no matter how old my precious boy gets, he will always be my baby, and that won't change just because I'm no longer breastfeeding.
Our breastfeeding journey started off bumpy and with a lot of hard work it became the best part of my day for well over two years. Sure, there were ups and downs and days when I just wanted my body back or when I was tired and wanted to be alone. However, overall I am so grateful that we had this special time, and I am so pleased that he was able to make the decision to self-wean and stop on his terms. I was able to offer him this gift and, if given the choice, I would do it all over again.