So much talk is focused on the early days and months of breastfeeding, as it should! Those days were so hard, but I was prepared mentally for that struggle. Weaning…not so much. I dreaded it, but I had a few minor medical reasons pushing me toward the finish line.
The real struggle was the feelings and emotions that caught me off guard. Here’s a snippet of my emotional journey during weaning week:
It’s 6:45 a.m., and I stayed up way too late. The drowsiness helps to mask the weight of the moment as I grab my baby out of her crib and bring her back to bed for her morning nursing session–the only one left. I have an idea this will be the last time, so in order not to be a blubbering mess, I half-close my eyes and pretend to sleep.
That night, I try not to think about it. The dull but constant tingling sensation in my chest makes that impossible, though. I have weaned my baby…I think. It’s been 36 hours since she last breastfed. I can always give her milk tomorrow, I tell myself. There is still time. I’m feeling uneasy, but positive.
The world is falling apart. The blubbering mess can no longer be suppressed. These are not tears you see celebrities cry on TV. I am red, splotchy, and inconsolable. My husband is supportive and hugs me as he acknowledges, “I have no idea what to say.” I tell him to tell me that it’s still not too late, I can go wake up Adrienne and nurse her, or wait until morning, if absolutely necessary.
“I wouldn’t do that, it seems weaning is going well for her,” he counters. Ugh, the voice of reason. I go to bed inexplicably sad and am not sure things will seem brighter tomorrow.
I feel a little better. Adrienne once again does not try to nurse. I couldn’t ask for a better experience from her end, but I’m still sad. I try to concentrate on the fact that she’s okay. I distract myself with exercise, buying Unisom, and putting on an anti-aging cream I couldn’t use pregnant or breastfeeding. Maybe my skin will look good even if I ugly-cry again. I keep a tight sports bra on at all times.
I still think about trying to nurse her before all of my milk dries up, but am 99% sure I won’t actually follow through. Unless she initiates–then all bets are off. I kind of hope she does.
My daughter is 14.5 months. I have slowly tapered down since she turned a year old. This is the exact amount of time I nursed my first, and I know fed is best no matter what…so why am I so sad?
But it’s more than just hormones.
It’s a bonding experience I’ll never get back. It’s acknowledging the fact that my baby is growing up. It’s not knowing if my family is complete and if this will be the last time I’ll ever nurse. It’s wishing I would have taken a few more pictures nursing and put my phone away more. It’s coming to terms with how my body is changing, yet again. It’s giving up a big part of my identity over the last year without picking up something new to fill the void. It’s a big deal.
And yet, as the days turn to weeks, I begin to understand some truths I wasn’t open to before. She was ready. She’s still the same baby, and I’m still the same mom. I am still providing nourishment for her 24/7, the same caregiver I was before and that mamas everywhere are, whether they breastfeed or not. Nursing was not stopping her from growing up.
I should celebrate the experience.
I met my goal, even with a rocky start from her premature birth and NICU stay.
I should embrace having my body back in some ways. I’m still in the weeds with my kids’ high physical needs, so in other ways, my body isn’t completely mine and won’t be for a while. Somehow, this brings comfort.
If you’re weaning, please be gentle with yourself. You may be dishing out high-fives about putting nursing behind you, feeling more matter-of-fact about the whole thing, or finding yourself overcome with emotions. There is no right way to feel, and there’s nothing quite like motherhood to keep you on your toes with knowing ahead of time which category you’ll fall into!