When your breastfeeding relationship is coming to an end it can be a time of mixed emotions. You are not alone.
While I was lying with my son tonight helping him go back to sleep (without offering the breast) I felt proud of both of us and yet a little bit sad.
He is 2 years and 8 months old. We are still breastfeeding, but a lot less than even just a few weeks ago. He is more or less night weaned now, which is an accomplishment that we achieved in the past couple of weeks. I am mostly happy about it. It means more sleep (or more stolen time to work and write blog posts) for both of us. He wakes up now and again looking for me, even though I’m usually right next to him and even occasionally asks for “miii” (his word for milk.) But now I just cuddle with him and he falls back to sleep. It’s hard to be sure what happens in the middle of the night but I’m pretty sure he did not nurse or wake up at all the past two nights. Is it possible that my child is sleeping through the night? Could it be? We are certainly moving in the right direction.
It’s becoming more and more clear that we are coming to the end of this chapter and moving on to the next. My son is growing up and is quite the little boy, not so much the chubby baby he once was. He uses words that seem way too grown up occasionally and I can hardly bear to think that he will be 3 years old in 4 short months. But for now he still needs and wants his “mii” occasionally. It’s his safe, comforting space and a way for us to reconnect.
I realized today I only nursed him once this entire day. It is the first time that has ever happened. Once all day! I can’t even believe it and my boobs are tingling a little bit just thinking about it.
We were out all day and when we got home I managed to transfer my sleeping son from the car to the bed without a hitch at around 8:00 pm. He woke up at 11:00 pm looking for me and I thought for sure he would ask to nurse. But I didn’t offer it and he didn’t ask, and all it took was for me to lay down with him and that is when it hit me. This IS really happening. We are almost at the very end of our breastfeeding days. My baby is growing up. It is healthy and natural to let go, but it’s not easy.
My breastfeeding journey started with my first son exactly 8 years ago. Born by emergency cesarean we still managed to have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship. There was a lactation counselor who helped us get started with a good latch. I was so thankful for her guidance. She was hands-on and showed me how it should be done. She visited us daily and followed through to ensure that I left the hospital with confidence about breastfeeding. We were on our way to becoming experts. It is a very natural thing to do, but it still takes some learning for both mom and baby.
I did suffer with sore, cracked and bleeding nipples in the first two weeks. However it got easier and by our second week there was no pain at all.
I had a copy of The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears and while nursing I read chapters and sections of it that were applicable to whatever I was experiencing. In doing so I read the entire book and it was a huge help. We had a long and happy breastfeeding journey that ended when he was 22 months old.
And now my second son we have breastfed even longer. It has not been without struggles again. I’ve had an oversupply of milk and suffered with mastitis several times this go around. With both babies I experienced plugged ducts and became a pro at coping with and fixing them. And of course there is a degree of exhaustion that comes with the physical demand to supply nourishment and give your body up to another individual, your own personal space and freedoms and some of the little things that go along with that. Being stuck under a nursing or sleeping child while dying to use the restroom but not daring to interrupt or move comes to mind.
But those days were short and the momentary inconveniences really didn’t matter. The strongest and brightest memories of breastfeeding are happy, beautiful and fill my heart with more love than I can describe. My nursing son is healthy, strong and smart. It has comforted him and helped us to bond in the way only a mother and baby can.
Despite any of the struggles, I will deeply miss this time when it is over and I remind myself everyday to enjoy it as much as possible.
When the last drop of milk has fallen from my breast, it will never happen again. I will see other mothers nursing their sweet babies and admire the beauty of it. I will remember my own nursing babies so fondly. There will be a pang of longing mixed with love, joy and sweet baby scents wafting through my mind.
The bittersweet end of breastfeeding is a milestone that every breastfeeding mother and baby will go through together. Be easy on yourself.