This time 19 months ago I was exhausted in bed at the hospital wishing my little dude would hurry up and arrive. Eventually, after many many hours, he did. My life changed in more ways than I can count the day that Lukas was born, but there has been one constant in my life since his arrival, until exactly one week ago. Aside from about 5 days when I was away on various trips alone, every day for the last 18 months and three weeks I have breastfed Lukas. And a week ago it ended. I've been hesitant to write this post as I was unsure of the finality of my decision to stop, but at this point I think it is safe to say we are done.
I have very mixed emotions about this particular change in my mom life.
First and foremost, I am sad. Our nursing time was our bonding time. I could tune out the rest of my world and just sit with my baby and focus on him. It was how I started every day. And it was our way of reconnecting after spending each workday apart. It was my way of comforting him when he was upset or scared. It was my way of feeding him and helping him grow. It was our time to snuggle before putting him down to sleep each night. It was one of the ways we said I love you. But mainly, it was our time to be together. And for the loss of all those things, I am so, sincerely, depressingly sad. I have tears growing as I write this. I'm mourning what feels like a loss. I'm questioning my decision.
I'm also harboring a lot of guilt. (You knew there would be mom-guilt.) There's always mom-guilt, it seems. So yes, another emotion I'm feeling, is guilt. I didn't expect to feel such strong guilt for stopping breastfeeding after nursing well beyond the "recommended" minimum time (6 months to a year). I've nursed longer than most moms in the United States (57% of moms have stopped by 6 months and 78% have stopped by a year), yet I still feel guilt for stopping. I know I've been in the minority "extended breastfeeding" group for the last 6 months and my brain tells me that I've done so much good for Lukas for nursing him as long as I have. But my heart feels the guilt at stopping. The guilt I feel isn't because I think I haven't nursed him long enough. Yet I feel guilt. I feel guilty that I didn't follow "child-led weaning". I didn't let Lukas fully decide when our nursing relationship would end. I noticed his cues (some mornings he would rather read than nurse and some nights he'd go in the crib without wanting to rock and he didn't ask to nurse if my mom or Mr. Cob put him to bed), and I interpreted these cues as the push I needed to make the decision to stop. But I feel guilty because while I know that Lukas isn't nutritionally dependent on nursing, I fear I'm stopping him from something he enjoys and wants to continue doing. I did not wait for him to completely stop asking to nurse or to lose interest. When it comes down to it, I decided to stop. I mother-led our nursing relationship to its end. And for that I feel extreme guilt. Especially this morning when he asked me to nurse and I chose to say no. For a second, before I could distract him with cheese in the kitchen, he looked confused about my telling him no. He didn't look sad, just confused. But quickly he forgot and went about devouring his cheese. But in keeping it real, I feel that I have to tell you about the guilt. Because it is so there.
So why did I stop? If I feel such sadness and guilt, why the decision to stop? I'm sure I'll get judgement from pro-extended nursing moms for this, but the answer is that I was done. It was time. I wanted my body back. And it was getting a bit painful to nurse. I think my milk supply had dropped dramatically due to my few days here and there of no nursing when Lukas just wasn't interested, so when he would nurse he wasn't getting much milk and I guess he was sucking harder in an attempt to get the milk flowing. This was simply causing me discomfort and I stopped looking forward to our nursing sessions. I wanted to snuggle with my boy, but not necessarily nurse him. And I want to have some time where my body is just mine again before giving it over to another baby. I was pregnant for 9 months and then nursed for almost 19, so if my math skills are right, my body hasn't been just "mine" for over 2 years. And I wanted it back. I also feared that the longer I kept nursing Lukas the harder it would be to stop. With each day he is learning new words and maybe this is cowardly, but I didn't want to wait until he could clearly articulate his desire for milk and his displeasure with not receiving it. I also do think Lukas was more or less ready to stop. He hasn't asked for milk most morning this week - instead he asks me to read to him or to "eat". He's growing up and that means our relationship is changing. He doesn't need me in the way he did for that first year. My baby is becoming a little boy. This is hard for me to accept. I'm crying now writing that. My heart is heavy. But I think this is the right decision for me and for Lukas.
I will always cherish my days of nursing him. I'm so happy that I got over my initial negative thoughts on the subject and was willing to try it. I'm lucky that we had such a long nursing relationship and that it worked for us. And I know there will be days that I will miss it. I will miss rocking with him in his room at 3 in the morning nursing him. But it is time to move forward, and as the saying goes "Everybody weans."