Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gentle Weaning: Mission Accomplished

Dear Delilah,

Photo by Nicole Aarstad
of Bella Photography
A little while back, I wrote to you about some mixed feelings I was having about our progress toward weaning. A couple of weeks after writing that, you were down to nursing just two to three times a week. I had decided that I wanted to cut out the bedtime nursing session, so for those couple of weeks, your father took over the bedtime duties. When he put you to bed, you were perfectly content to skip nursing, but if I was involved in bedtime, you always asked.

On Wednesday night, the week before what turned out to be your final taste of mama's milk, your father returned from putting you to bed to find me a bit emotional and weepy. When he asked what was wrong, I told him that you hadn't asked to nurse since that Monday morning, and that I was having more mixed feelings about weaning. He gently reminded me that there was no rule saying that I couldn't offer to nurse if I was so inclined, and gently cautioned me that I should be prepared for you to decline the offer if I made it. (As a side note, I can't say enough about how supportive and wonderful your father has been throughout our nursing journey. It was he who helped me position you to nurse for the first time in the recovery room when the unhelpful nurses started mentioning formula. From the moment you started nursing to the moment you stopped, he has been thoughtful, kind, gentle, and caring as he did his best to understand what I thought and how I felt every step of the way.)

The next morning, once again, you didn't ask to nurse. I was feeling weepy and emotional and my boobs hurt, and I was very confused about what I should do. I turned to one of my most trusted group of friends, many of whom I knew would understand how I was feeling; the amazing bunch that make up the Natural Parents Network volunteers.

With their kindness and support, I decided to go ahead and offer to nurse you at nap time. I was terrified that you would want nothing to do with it. My fears were unwarranted; when I offered, your face lit up in a huge smile and you started smacking your lips, saying, "Num-num!" Rather than end the nursing session after a few minutes as I'd grown accustomed to doing, I let you nurse until you decided you were done. If this was the last time you nursed, I wanted it to end when you were ready for it to end. Several times, you popped off and looked up and smiled at me, saying, "Num-num!" before enthusiastically returning to my breast. While you nursed, I talked to you about how much I had loved making milk for you, and how you would soon be all done with Mama's milk. I gently stroked your hair and cheek and thanked you for the beautiful nursing experience we'd had together.

When it came to an end, I wasn't sure if I'd offer again or not. I felt very at peace, knowing that we'd had a very mindful and meaningful nursing session together. I knew that if that was the last time you nursed, I'd remember it, and fondly. One of my fears in weaning was that one day, I'd up and realize that you hadn't nursed in weeks, and that I wouldn't be able to remember the last time you'd nursed.

As it turned out, you nursed one more time after that lovely afternoon. The following Monday morning, you woke up earlier than usual, as your father was getting ready to leave for work. I was certainly not ready to get up yet, so your father tucked you in bed next to me. You immediately asked for milk, and nursed off and on as we both drifted in and out of sleep. Those lazy mornings nursing were always my favorite, so it was significant to me that you chose this as your last request for my milk. Also significant to me was the date: February 20. The third anniversary of the date of your conception. Three years, to the date, from conception to weaning. The best three years of my life so far.



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  1. Lovely! What an incredible experience nursing our babies is, huh?

  2. I can really relate to this post, having recently been through weaning with Daniel. It does feel good to have gotten through the other side knowing we were both comfortable with the way the transition happened. Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Aw, I love this. I can understand completely the mixed feelings. I'm glad you had such a lovely and loving end.

  4. Oh dear, you've made me cry! As I'm battling those same mixed feelings about weaning myself... it is so hard. I want to nurse her for as long as she wants, but I just am not enjoying the actual experience at all. It is quite unpleasant. And that breaks my heart.

    What a wonderful end to your nursing relationship. You are so very lucky to have had your wits about you enough to truly cherish the end of that era.

  5. Truly beautiful. I'm in tears, too. My little one is still going strong nursing at 18 months and although I used to wonder when she would wean, now I am beginning to intimately understand that one day she will actually do it and I hope to be as thoughtful and sweet as you have been here.

  6. My twins are a week shy of a year old. One year was my nursing goal. I tend towards the concrete and specific, and if AAP recommends a year, then I'll nurse my twins for 365 days (at least), but not one day short. My son is currently on what appears to be a nursing strike, and I hope we can work through it. Last week he was in the hospital with bronchiolitis, and I'm grateful for the opportunity it gave us to nurse and bond all night long. My daughter, on the other hand, shows no signs of weaning. She gazes adoringly up at me, patting my chest, pointing to my freckles, saying "uh duh" periodically (we're interpreting it to mean, "What's that? Name this please.") And last night, after I'd struggled with brother's on-and-off 2 minute session, she signed "milk" after I modeled it. I just about lost it. In many ways I'm ready to detach my body from my children's mouths, ready to chuck my pump out the window, but I am feeling bittersweet about anticipating the end of my journey in nursing. I don't intend to wean completely yet. I want to keep nursing morning and night (and ditch the pump) for a while yet. The nursing strike put me on my guard though -- what is this is the last time he'll latch? What if he's too much of a big boy? What if he wants to be independent and explore the world beyond boobie?

  7. It's easiest for you and your baby if weaning is gradual - over several weeks, months or even longer.
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