“I can’t wait to be done with breastfeeding.” A sentence I must have thought, or said aloud, at least a hundred times since my daughter was born last summer and I made the goal of breastfeeding her for at least one year before weaning.
In the months that have passed since her birth, we’ve honestly had a pretty smooth breastfeeding relationship (save for one month where she had to drink pumped milk due to her reflux). She never had any problem latching, and she never went through a nursing strike.
Nevertheless, there have been so many times when I’d look forward to weaning as the light at the end of the tunnel. It was little things, like wanting a second cup of coffee but being worried about how it might affect her, or wanting to go out for an entire day but worrying how she’d do with a bottle instead of me. In the beginning, it was the emotional labor of keeping track of how long it had been since her last feeding, when she would need her next one, and how much she had eaten in a day. Weaning, in so many words, felt like freedom.
And yet, as my daughter’s first birthday rapidly approaches, I’ve found myself wanting to hit the breaks, to slow down time. We’re down to only four feedings now: when she wakes up, after her two naps, and at bedtime, and while I don’t love every single one of them, the idea of being completely done is bittersweet — an emotion I truly did not expect to feel.
It’s not that I’m sad about losing bonding time with her, as I know there’s so many more cuddles and hugs to come. It’s more about the fact that time itself is passing, and there are stages and pieces that we will never get back. There are parts of the past that I’ve already wished away — moments of frustration when it was 2 a.m. and I just wanted to sleep, or overwhelming afternoons when nothing was going right. Did I accidentally wish away the good parts at the same time?
I’ve just been consumed with the reminder that one day, this will be a memory.
I think about this a lot during her breastfeeding sessions now (when else would I have quiet time to think?) and I catch myself missing them before they’re even over. During her bedtime feed, I’ll try to be present in the moment, memorize the way her little feet wiggle in her sleep sack, or the way she rubs her fists over her eyes sleepily. But lately, I’ve just been consumed with the reminder that one day, this will be a memory. One day soon, this will be over too, an official ending to one chapter and the beginning of another. It’s already gone so fast.
At the same time, I know there’s so much ahead to look forward to. My daughter, who will be 11 months soon, is starting to reveal glimpses of the toddler she’s going to be. She dances and claps when she hears her favorite song. She squeals with delight whenever she encounters a dog on a walk. She makes silly faces and then laughs hysterically at herself. All of these tiny traits — the simplest indications of a person — will soon transform her from a baby to a little girl. She’ll obviously still need me, but not necessarily in the same way.
And there are things I’m looking forward to. My body hasn’t been my own since I took that pregnancy test, two winters ago. It’s draining to share yourself with someone else that way, to be constantly tied to another person, to feel like every physical choice you make affects them too, in some way. I miss going out, drinking several glasses of rosé without thinking twice about it, or having that damn second cup of coffee without a single twinge of guilt. To have that freedom back will be refreshing.
Perhaps the bottom line is that every stage of parenting will be somewhat bittersweet. Babies are constantly changing, which inevitably means the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. And I’m realizing it’s okay to miss the things that are gone, as long as it doesn’t take away from enjoying the things that are ahead.
So I’ll try to make the most of the final weeks we have together in this chapter. I’ll try not to be nostalgic for moments that haven’t passed yet, and I’ll try to exist more in the present. After all, there will always be something to miss. But there will also always be something to look forward to.