Monday, February 6, 2012

Dear Daniel, (On Weaning & Welcoming Change)

It's been almost two weeks since you nursed last. After nearly twenty months of nursing, you have decided to wean.

This has been an unexpected transition (yet it's also completely expected, in some respects). We began the weaning process as soon as you had your first bite of food. Around eleven months old, you night weaned (on your own) and we all started getting more sleep at night. At fourteen months, your nursing frequency suddenly decreased, and I feared you were weaning completely then. I wrote about it for the Nursing Past Infancy series at Code Name: Mama, as I started to process the fact that our time as a nursing dyad would come to an end at some point. Fortunately, we had close to six more months after that to enjoy this aspect of our relationship together.

Our last nursing photo
Since very early on in our breastfeeding relationship, I've had a strong desire for you to be able to wean on your own timetable, and I checked in with myself and reaffirmed that desire shortly after your first birthday. Now that you have made this transition on your own, I'm very grateful that it has played out this way. There were times when I had considered whether you would want to nurse until you were three or four, and I wondered how that would feel. For many months, I (pretty much) practiced the "don't offer, don't refuse" method of nursing, which some parents consider to be a weaning strategy. Since you still nursed as often as you wanted (quite frequently) without me offering, I didn't see it as a way to cut back on our nursing times. Rather, I saw it as a way to allow you more control over this part of your life: for you to take the lead when you were ready to stop.


In the final month of us nursing, you had cut back to just one early morning nursing session per day (with a few extra now and then). The first day that you didn't ask until before your nap, I knew the time was coming that you wouldn't ask anymore. It was at that point that I realized that if I boosted my milk supply with herbs and other lactogenic foods, you might start nursing more frequently again. I made the conscious decision to continue not to influence the weaning process with my own reluctance to accept this impending change, and to let it happen naturally and gradually.

The morning after the last time you nursed, you didn't ask, and I knew it was over. I had talked with Papa about this moment many times before, always fearing that it would come before I was ready. When I talked to him about it that night, we both knew that you were finished.

I offered the next morning because I was feeling some discomfort, and after getting excited and snuggling into me, you signed "all done." It was heart-wrenching and totally OK at the same time. I hugged you close and told you I loved you. For several days after that, you would pat my chest to sign "nurse," only to sign "all done" after I lifted my shirt. I know you have fond memories of nursing because even when you knew you were finished, you didn't know exactly how to let go of it. In those moments I offered you hugs and kisses, and now you ask for those when you want them, instead.

I've been drinking lots of (less milk) mint tea.
What I didn't expect about this gradual, child-led weaning process was the dramatic hormonal shift that happened in those first few days after you stopped nursing. It felt similar to the day my milk came in (though somewhat less intense). Even though my milk supply had gradually decreased and you were only nursing once per day before weaning, I leaked milk for a while. I felt very weepy, and I spent a fair amount of time alone in our room, drinking mint tea (to stop making so much milk), and feeling introspective and protective of myself.

One of the things I realized during that reflective time is that I've been sharing my body with you for close to twenty-nine months, Dearest Daniel. That's almost two and a half years! It's been a strange transition for me to have my body be my own again after sharing it with you for so long. I'm not using my body to grow you or make food for you anymore. I don't have to wear clothes that help me do those things. This stage of mothering feels a little bit unfamiliar and new to me.

Despite the sadness and discomfort that has come with this transition, we're all doing fine. I'm OK with this stage (of your life and of my mothering you) coming to an end. I enjoyed nursing you very much, and it's been sad to experience the end of that time. But ultimately, it follows the natural course of life for you to wean. Change is normal and inevitable, and I welcome it. I'm still trying to decide how, but I promise that we will do something together to celebrate this transition.

One thing that will never change is how much I love you, sweet Daniel. No matter our stages in life or what changes may come (expected or unexpected) I will always be your Momma. I will always love you unconditionally and with all my heart.

Love,
Momma

12 comments:

  1. It's interesting to read other experiences. I'm impressed that he was a part of the decision. It was also hard for me to stop. After we were done, it did feel nice that it was one less thing for me to do, yet at times I felt phantom urges to breastfeed (like my breasts were full, but in reality they were completely dry.) I will be posting my breastfeeding experience on my blog this Wednesday, the 8th, if you would like to stop by!
    http://oldnewlegacy.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing, Amy! Very sweet and a lovely description! You have a lot to be proud of about your parenting. As the parent of a 16, 19 and 26 year old, what strikes me is how similar this is to the stage we're in: of letting my girls take more and more control over their life and trying not to let MY needs be too influential, yet staying available and supportive of them along the way. I think you'll probably recognize this cycle over and over in your life time as a parent. And, especially since you've had such excellent self reflection this time around, it will be easy to notice when it comes around again later and you'll be able to build on your previous success! Patti B. from Granville

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beautiful. I have gone through the process three times now and all were so different. I love that you possess such awareness of you and him. I am sure you will both treasure this time forever, even if it becomes less conscious.

    ReplyDelete
  4. We just went through a similar situation at 17-months. I wonder if it was because he was truly "done" or if because my milk flow wasn't as strong. Either way, we're done and I have very mixed feelings. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "It was heart-wrenching and totally OK at the same time."

    This I do get. Well said.

    Lots of hugs and love to all of you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Aw, how truly bittersweet. Signing "all done" about did me in. Thank you for being so honest and open about your feelings through all this. I think weaning must be a hard transition for all us AP mamas. I've often wondered how weaning will go for us and how I'll feel about it. Just thinking about it ahead of time makes me sentimentally sad, but I bet not sharing my body will be an interesting relearned experience. I look forward to hearing what you choose for commemoration.

    ReplyDelete
  7. As we approach 1 year, we (Horn, Hannabert, and I) have committed to continuing breastfeeding and letting LO decide when to stop. I am already NOT looking forward to the end of nusing but I can tell that Hannabert is already starting to be more independent.

    Like Lauren, the "all done" made me tear up.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh wow - wanting to nurse and then signing all done - man, it just doesn't get any more poignant. I know oh so well the conflicting feelings - confident that change is natural and good, and reminiscing about the part of your relationship that has ended. Beautiful post!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for this great post. My little boy finally weaned at 2.5 years after I got pregnant. My milk dried up and I found nursing really uncomfortable, so I was offering whatever substitutes I could before the breast, and sure enough, he seems pretty done now. Sigh. The process was gradual, thank goodness. By the time I got pregnant, he was nursing once a night at most, and sometimes skipping nights. It made me feel really sad when he weaned. I'm glad we got to nurse for as long as we did, but it was very bittersweet for me. Considering that most of my friends couldn't figure out why on earth I nursed him that long, I felt a little alone in these feelings. So it's nice to read accounts by other women who treasure breastfeeding as much as I do. Happy weaning, Daniel! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh God, that made me cry. There are some days where I wish my 17 month old would wean, or at least cut back A LOT, but I suspect that I am going to have a lot of trouble with it when the time really comes. I love that your son would ask for it and then sign that he was done, rather than just stopping all at once, and the slow transition. I hope we have a similar experience down the road.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. It is so helpful to read and connect to other women's tales. Beautifully written. Daniel is such a lucky, lucky boy.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I really appreciate all your kind and thoughtful comments. Even so many months after Daniel has weaned, I still have some of the same mixed feelings about it. I'm glad to have shared my thoughts in the moment, though, and we continue to read his nursing book regularly, which helps (us both?) with the transition.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment! I love hearing from you.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...