Nursing has been on my brain lately. Because, for the the first time in almost eight years I'm not nursing anyone. Or I don't think I am. (I know. That sounds strange. But natural child-led weaning isn't a cut and dry nursing/not nursing relationship. It's fluid and transparent and ever-changing.) But I'm fairly certain that we're done. Forever.
Since late 2001 I have been either pregnant or nursing. Until right now. Sage nursed until he was 3 1/2. He weaned around the time I became pregnant with Lupine. And she is now 3 1/2. And she'd done. Weaned. "A big girl" as she would put it.
Why child-led weaning? For me it is an extension of how we have chosen to parent both of our children, gently and with the minimal intervention possible. But in truth (if I look deeper into the shadows) there is more to it than that.
When Sage was almost two I started to feel done with nursing. (There is often an increase in the intensity and frequency of nursing when a child reaches 18 months old, and we were there. I didn't know it would pass and we'd hit our groove again.) I started to move towards gently weaning Sage.
But then Sage got really sick. And as I lay by his side in the pediatric ICU, wires and machines and nurses and neurologists everywhere, we nursed. All night we nursed. All day we nursed. And as that long week wore on I felt gratitude hour-after-hour for nursing. It was all we had.
And after we went home, nursing – so vital all along – became unsurpassed in its importance because if things ever went terribly wrong again (fingers crossed) I wanted that safety net available to us – for comfort, security, and nourishment.
I decided that Sage would know best when he was ready and I surrendered to that. And he did. No, we never needed nursing again like we did that week, but we still needed it – for overstimulated afternoons, for connecting after a hard day, for hydration and natural immunity during colds and flu, for a physical manifestation of mother-child love. And when he was ready it was over. It was so gradual I can't remember the last time we nursed.
Lupine was a different story in that she arrived with no baggage of something-might-go-wrong. Just bliss, joy, and the now. While I was free of worry, I still carried the gift of surrender that I learned with Sage. I gave myself up to her babyhood in a peaceful and joyful way, knowing that these moments were fleeting. I was happy to have her in my arms, in my bed, at my breast for as long as she chose. And while I didn't know what that would mean I was game. It just felt right.
And now? I have a big girl. In her words, "Mama, do you know why I don't love to suse (nurse) anymore? No milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk – for like five days."That was this June. Since then she has halfheartedly nursed for a brief second on each side, once a week.
Yep. It's over.
As for me, it feels good. Like both my kids (in this department anyway) had their needs met and we were all happy with the journey. Now everyday Lupine nurses her dolls and talks about all the babies she'll have when she is "a real mama."
And so this chapter ends and the next begins.
35 thoughts on “It’s National Breastfeeding Month and I Think We’re Weaned.”
Thanks so much for sharing, that was a beautiful story! I’m going to do child led weaning as well with my little girl. I wanted to ask you how long did they nurse at night for? My little one (at 9 months) is asking to eat 3-4 times a night. We’re starting to have heavy wetting problems. Thank goodness for wool diaper covers!
beauty, beauty, beauty. thanks for sharing.
What a beautifully written tribute to your journey. It must be bittersweet knowing that you’ve ended that part of your mothering, but in such a healthy, loving way…
My first son nursed until he was about 13 months old. My milk dried up due to a pregnancy that wasn’t meant to be…I mourn the loss of our nursing relationship as well as the loss of that baby. Now nursing my second boy (actually as I type this) is so precious and sweet. I love the opportunity to snuggle him and get some one-on-one time when most days I spend so much time chasing a busy 2.5 year old…
Happy Breastfeeding Month to all the mamas who breastfeed and pump, too!
oh rachel what a beautiful story. i nurse my 7 month old as often as he wants for as long as he wants. He, too, still wakes up 3-4 times a night to nurse. When he was 2 1/2 months old he was in St Marys for 2 nights with RSV but while other babies there were very sick with it he just spent one night on a little oxygen – he slept on top of me (much to the dismay of the hospital staff – at first they werent to keen on it but they softened up a bit after the saw how well he slept) and he nursed whenever he needed it. They credited that for him getting better so quickly. Upon us leaving the hospital they told me it could take him 2-3 weeks to fully recover – but in about 3 or 4 days he was perfectly fine. So I will continue to nurse him as he would like and enjoy it while it lasts – they grow up way to quickly 🙂
I love reading these perspectives. There was another good one yesterday on the Fed Up with Lunch blog: http://fedupwithschoollunch.blogspot.com/2010/08/world-breastfeeding-week-and-my-own.html
Three weeks ago, I was in the PICU with my 28 month old, and I so wish I could have nursed and nursed him!
Sadly, due to his kidneys being in acute failure, the specialist was adamant that he had to know *exactly* how much fluid was going in and out. I had to pump for him for a few days, then after we were out of the PICU and on ‘the floor’ I was able to nurse him again.
I was also thinking about weaning. I still think that I will likely gently push towards weaning sometime around three. But this experience has definitely heightened my appreciation of him nursing and made me really cherish our nursing relationship. It is really helping him as he seeks reassurance and comfort after a traumatic hospital experience.
Thanks for sharing your lovely journey…
Yay! We always were an on-demand, child-led weaning family. I nursed from 2003 until late 2008, tandem for quite awhile. I think it is the best thing – and I believe it helped my asthma boy recover more quickly during his pnemonia/asthma attack episodes when he was younger. Memories!
I hear you on the 8 years pregnant or nursing thing. That’s my life, too, except I’m not done yet! My youngest is only six weeks old and if she’s like her older brother and sister, I have five more years of nursing before I’m done. The really great part for me is that my older two are five and eight, so watching me nurse their baby sister until she’s ready to wean will make it totally normal for them. What an incredible gift to give them!
I miss breastfeeding, my little fella weaned at 16 months, one day he fed 6/7 times and the next day nothing. I was heart broken and was certainly not ready as he was still just a little bubba. He wouldnt take mummas milk and to this day will not drink any kind of milk. Hmmmm, Im still not over it.
Beautiful post. Accepting the next stage with such grace- I hope I can do the same! And by the way, Lupines eyelashes are INCREDIBLE!
Aww! My girls talk about nursing their kids when they’re mamas too. So sweet. I don’t think I’ll be nursing much more either. Often I hear that there’s no milk in there. I’ll be very surprised if we last another year.
@KC- How long to night nurse varied by kid. I chose to night wean Sage when he was under two. Reflecting on that decision, I chose to night-nurse Lupine as long as she wished. That turned out to be three. Sage had some undiagnosed food sensitivities that were causing him to wake ever 20 minutes throughout the night. By the time he was 1 1/2 I was really indescribably tired and erroneously thought that night nursing was why he was waking. After night weaning he still woke ever 20 minutes, but now Pete and I could share the work of nighttime parenting. I wouldn’t do it again. But that’s just my reflection. I know others who have made different choices and believed that they were served by the decision to night wean.
What a journey. We wonder why those little ones come into our lives and then leave before we have a chance to hold them tight. Blessings and love,
It is magical, isn’t it? My heart goes out to all those babies who were there alone or without the comfort of mama’s milk.
Thanks for the link, Kathy. I’ll check it out!
What an amazing story. I can not imagine not being able to nurse my little one in a time of crisis. Blessings to all!
What a gift! All three so blessed…
So strange. I too would not know what to do in that situation. One friend experienced a “nursing strike” for two weeks at that age, and then her son continued to nurse until his fifth birthday. They each have their own distinct right answer.
We had a sweet, gradual wean around 3. It was so gentle, I don’t really remember it being over. Simone had moments of checking for milk after that.
She still has a relationship with my breasts, and asks to hug “Mama milk” in the morning. (as if my breasts are separate from me). She will often say “I keep Mama milk warm” with a breathy, sweet, pure voice. She breastfeeds her animals, dolls, etc. and tells me “One day, when I grow big, I will be a mama too.”
Makes me smile,
Beautiful story! My son is nearly a year old and he has started nursing non-stop at night. I keep telling myself that one day I’ll sleep again, he needs mama’s milk and the comfort that it provides. We plan on child-led weaning as well. Your story is very inspirational. These years are just a blip in time and while hard at times, I truly do love nursing my babe.
I so enjoyed reading your story. I hope that my bumpy road to nursing ends in such a beautiful way. My first was unable to nurse so I EP’d for her for 16 months. She weaned herself from a bottle at 13 months but I couldn’t admit she was done and gave her mama milk in her sippy cup. Once pregnant again my supply was nil so I stopped. My second was born 11 weeks early and was in NICU for 6 weeks. I was so determined to nurse one of my babies and to retire my pump permanently that we worked day and night at nursing when he came home. The day after he was ‘due’ he (we) did it. He was fully nursing! Even though both my kids have been breastfed, I needed that extra connection from nursing them. And I plan to let my son decide when he’s done. I joke to people its cuz I have time to make up for – but I would have done it anyway. I still haven’t given up on my oldest, maybe some day, at 2 1/2, she’ll decide she wants to try again.
This is so sweet Mary. What a gift…
Did you know that the milk you make at night is more dense in all the goodness that he needs? And as his brain starts getting busy with all the growing up he is doing now (verbal, physical, social) he is probably not nursing so much during the day. So natural and normal, and hes so blessed to have access to what he needs throughout the night.
So much love in that.
Your story gave me goosebumps. I have a friend who pumped exclusively for her first for more than a year. That is more amazing to me than nursing for 3 1/2!!! What blessed little ones you have to know that you didnt give up.
I loved nursing too. I think I was a wet nurse in another life.
Beth – Smiling…
Thank you for sharing – my first son weaned himself at 15 months when I was pregnant (apparently the lure of a new toy broom was too great). Because I was pregnant, I didn’t push for him to continue, but sometimes I wish I had given him a little bit more encouragement. Although he has had a few cups of extra milk now and then when our household comes down with something – I think everyone can use the extra antibodies then! I think we’ll make it longer with my new little guy, but it is nice to leave the decision up to them. Your gentle determination is inspiring.
Thank you Anna for your note. I love the idea of passing out cups of mama milk when a cold works its way into the scene. Of course!
Beautiful stories about mothers who are willing to nurse their babies/toddlers for extended periods of time! The bonds they will have with their children will, I am sure, be incredibly strong.
I’m not knocking mothers who choose to bottle-feed. I am speaking from my experience of nursing my two children and the closeness I felt at that time to them. It has been joyful to watch my daughter nurse her daughter and observe the strong relationship they have.
God bless all new mothers! If you are an expectant mother and trying to decide how to feed your newborn, I strongly suggest you try breastfeeding.
I just read a wonderful article that in essence pushed forward the idea that breastfeeding (and vaginal birth for that matter) are not best. They are simply normal. Such a slight and yet profound perspective shift. Here is the link (I found it on Facebook, but I suspect you could find it elsewhere as well.)
love it- have been nursing or pregnant for 9 1/2 years now- number 3 is still so into it at 3 years plus 2 months. sometimes i am annoyed at the requests (demands!) for “nicknie” (milk)- but overall i am so happy i can provide what she needs (and what her brothers needed). she’s the last baby so i savour the sweet moments of connection. she says she will stop having nicknie “when i am much older”- so we’ll see! thanks for this post! xo
Thank you for your reflection, Sarah. Isnt it true – that pulling balance between joy and annoyance? Its all about perspective.
Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to nursing, and for promoting child-led weaning. My first nursed, like Sage, up to a little over three, through my second pregnancy. She barely got anything, but did it for her own peace and security, and I’m happy to say that she came out of it ready to “be a big sister.” I hope my younger, now 13 months, will continue until she is ready to “grow up.” Now, seeing your photos, I only wish I had photos of my big girl nursing, just so I could remember the contentment and the sparkle in her eyes. I’m going to get the camera out and capture her little sister so I can look back on it years from now.
I dont have any photos of Sage nursing as a big kid either. Enjoy making photos and enjoy those lingering nursing moments.