There are so many things people like to talk about when they discuss breastfeeding and the inevitable act of weaning. You'll, no doubt, hear numerous opinions on how to wean, when to wean, the impact it has on moms, the effect it has on babies and much, much more. There is one thing no one talks about when they discuss weaning, though, and it's a bummer because it will (arguably) make a weaning mother feel so much better about her decision to do so.
When you wean, your partner is finally allotted the opportunity to develop a closer connection with your baby during feeding time.
Obviously, this wasn't necessarily an option during your breastfeeding months or years, when your baby relied heavily on you for sustenance. And, obviously, many mothers feel sad and/or guilty about losing the closeness that breastfeeding offers them. It's perfectly normal to mourn this separation and transition, as it's a palpable realization that your baby is growing up and becoming more and more independent. How great is it, though, to begin to share more of the feeding and comforting responsibilities with your partner? I can attest to the fact that it's actually pretty freakin' great.
Personally, I chose and was (thankfully) able to accomplish extended breastfeeding with both my children. My daughter weaned at 23 months and only because I had to go away for 10 days and leave her with my husband. For the record, she asked to breastfeed when I returned, but I told her there was nothing left. With my son, we lasted 21 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I would've kept going, if it wasn't for a pinched nerve caused by a bulging disc in one of my upper vertebrae. After two visits to the Emergency Room, I was told I had to go on some very powerful (and completely unsafe while breastfeeding) medications to control the pain, swelling and muscle spasms happening. Just like that, my son and I ended our breastfeeding relationship.
I won't lie, it makes me incredibly sad that our breastfeeding relationship ended that way, void of any sort of preamble or official goodbye. One moment, I was his primary source of comfort, and in the next moment I was forced to say, "no" when he asked to breastfeed. We had our share of tearful moments, to be sure, and I'm pretty sure the only reason I handled it even remotely well was because I had those damn pain pills. However, now that a month has passed, I've been able to realize that weaning is actually a pretty great thing for myself, as well as my family.
First of all, the fact that I can no longer breastfeed my son means that he needs to find alternative sources of comfort, which primarily consists my husband. He went from being a "mama's boy," (especially when things went wrong in any way) to asking for both parents, equally and emphatically. This is truly wonderful to see, because it takes the pressure off of me and distributes it equally between myself and my parenting partner. Those dreaded middle-of-the-night wake ups used to be my domain, and my domain only. Now, thanks to weaning, my son sometimes asks for dad and, well, I am completely okay with that.
And while the increase in shared responsibility is pretty great, what's truly wonderful to see is how much closer my son is with my husband, now that he has successfully weaned. My daughter went through the same transition after she weaned, and seeing both children experience the same shift is like seeing my kids open their eyes a little wider and realizing the world is a just little bit bigger than they previously imagined it to be. It's as if the end of their breastfeeding journey was the start of their ability to see both parents. Now dad is in full focus, and they know that their father loves them and cares for them and is capable of comforting them, just as much as mom does and can.
Ultimately, weaning is incredibly freeing for you, as a mother. Sure, it's really difficult and can be a process filled with guilt and self-doubt and sadness, but honestly, what parenting choice isn't? At least weaning gives you the opportunity to see a bond develop (even further) between your partner and your child. You can feel a little bit sad and a little bit liberated at the same time. That's the incredible dichotomy of motherhood; the good and the bad are always coexisting.