By the time I weaned my two children, I was done with breastfeeding. I'd loved it, I was proud I'd surpassed my goals, I felt lucky that I'd had the good fortune and privilege to be able to succeed, but I was over it. Still, the lingering worry that I was going to be losing something special and irreplaceable with my little ones remained. While there's still nothing that really compares to breastfeeding, in my experience, in many ways weaning actually made me feel closer to my kid.
While I've been passionate about breastfeeding for a long time now, I've never been militant about it. Breast? Bottle? Yeah, it doesn't matter to me. Even when I started nursing, I was very open to the idea of using formula to feed my kids if that's what was best for our family. As it turned out, everyone involved took to nursing pretty easily, I enjoyed it, and I wound up continuing to breastfeed my kids well past a year. That didn't mean, of course, that it was always a breeze. And, over time, it became increasingly frustrating to feel as though I was nothing more than a convenient pacifier for my kids who, at their ages, were mostly subsisting on table foods. I felt negativity creep in, and I didn't like it. I didn't want something that had been so lovely to be tainted with resentment. Instead, I wanted to end this crazy business on a high note.
I'm pleased to say I did just that and, moreover, that weaning only strengthened the bond between my children and me.
I Was Able To Just Cuddle
There is nothing quite like cuddling up with your child and nursing them. As you might imagine, for the months I breastfed my children, pretty much any time they cuddled up with me they wanted to nurse (or sleep... or both). I was sad to lose out on that when the time came to wean but, as it turns out, you can just cuddle. Like, no breastfeeding required. And, honestly, just cuddling, for me, is even nicer. No one has ever accidentally bit my nipple cuddling, folks.
I Had More Family Time
For better and for worse, breastfeeding can often serve as a "mommy/child" time out. Even if you don't step away or cover up to nurse, your mobility and activities are somewhat limited. There is no taking part in a rousing family soccer game while nursing a baby, for example. And it's not like we couldn't get any family time in before I weaned: we had lots. But now we were beyond the issue of that time being regularly interrupted as mom and baby had to bow out for a feeding.
I Got To Watch Their Relationship With Their Father Grow
Again, it's not that our children didn't have a relationship with their dad before I weaned them, but they were necessarily with me more of the time. This was especially prevalent with our second child. Anyone who has two kids knows that an effective parenting technique, especially while going out, is for each parent to "take the lead" on a child. Now that I've weaned my second, my husband and I try to evenly switch who takes whom. But when our daughter was still nursing, it was always "son with daddy, daughter with mommy." Weaning marked a time for both my kids, but especially my second, to really bond with their dad more than was practical before.
I Was Able To Foster A Sense Of Independence, For Everyone
While I was more keen to wean than either of my children (it's OK, guys, because they adjusted quickly), it turns out that the newfound independence was good for everyone involved. I loved breastfeeding, and I wanted to stop before it got to the point that I didn't... and it was getting to that point. So when I "got my body back" I was reinvigorated and felt more like myself, which enabled me to more authentic, which, in turn, helped me be a better mom.
I Was Excited For The Future
Yes, it was the end of an era, but it also ushered in a new era. Such a clear delineation made it easy to get excited for all the cool things that having a bigger kid meant. Certainly there was a part of me that was sad to let go of this symbolic marker of the baby years, but, hey, the baby years were awesome. Who's to say the kid years aren't going to be awesome in a different way?
I Was Able To View My Kids As Individual People
Because until they weaned, they had been reliant on my body for something since they were conceived. Even though by the time I weaned them I wasn't their major food source, they still "needed" me, if only out of habit. Weaning cut that last physical connection, at least the physical connection of that level. It was strange but also brought us closer because it marked a moment where I felt like I was getting to know them instead of just knowing them.
I Felt Powerful Because I Had Completed Something Significant
It's a bit of a trip to be able to look back on something that occupied so much of your time, because you can look at it as a whole, reflect, and fondly reminisce. It's one thing to be going through something with someone — that creates an important bond in and of itself — but when you have gone through something with someone, that's pretty remarkable, too.
I Still Had To Deal With My Kids' Hands Down My Shirt
Like... to this day. It's just a cute little reminder that they still associate that particular part of my body with comfort, even subconsciously.
I Realized My Kids Still Wanted & Needed Me
That's a powerful lesson to learn. I'd spent over a year with this very effective, very important tool in my mommy toolkit. Yeah, my kids wanted me, but they needed me. Or at the very least I had a strong incentive for them to do so. My boobs were full of their favorite food! And you intellectually know that your bond with your child goes beyond nursing, but sometimes it can be hard to distinguish "motherhood" as something separate from "breastfeeding' when you've been doing it for long enough.
But, of course, what we'd been building over the course of their short life transcended nursing. Breastfeeding was over, but everything that was really important at that point remained.
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