Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure…

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

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Right from day one, I set goals for my breastfeeding journey. First, I just wanted to do it. Then, six months. Then I set my sights on a year. After that, my vision for the road ahead got kind of blurry. I figured I’d keep going as long as he wanted to. As the months went by, I continued to swell with pride and milk as my baby continued to nurse…and thrive. I looked at each day as a gift, and continued to nurse my baby.

I never in a million years dreamed that we’d still be nursing more than two and a half years later.


I haven’t been able to decide if breastfeeding, both exclusively and full-term, is hard or easy. I hate to say it’s hard, because that implies to new mothers that they should anticipate a struggle. But I also hate to say that it’s easy. As the months and then years went by, nursing got harder for us. Returning to work full-time with a high-stress job and 135-mile-per-day commute started taking its toll, and now, well…for the first time, I can imagine just being done.

So I can’t help but wonder: should I wean?

I want to wean because I’m tired. I want to sleep through the night. I don’t want to have to nurse every single time my son bumps into me in the night. I want to cuddle him or hold him on my lap or read him a story without nursing. I really want to conceive another child and I am 100% certain that my cycle is still affected by breastfeeding (I didn’t even get it back until almost 20 months after birth.) I want to lose some weight (which I’m convinced my body is hanging on to in some kind of  instinctual “survival mode”…) I often get touched out and annoyed and I just want my body back.

On the other hand, I do not want to wean because I know these days are short. In the grand scheme of my child’s life, he’s still a baby and the benefits are still many. Immunity, nutrition, emotional comfort…they’re all still there, still valid, even at this age (regardless of all the nay-sayers who insist the benefits stop after six months, a year, whatever.) I love nursing him (except when I don’t)  and the little bit of time he still spends at the breast is a lovely way to reconnect at the end of a long work day.

As immature as it may be, I also hate the thought that I could be giving any satisfaction to the horrible, ignorant people who have accused me both to my face and behind my back of damaging my son with this “disgusting” behavior. PUH-leez. No, this is not more about me than it is about him, and no he should not be weaned when he is old enough to ask for it, blah, blah, blah. Not only is he old enough to ask for it, he’s old enough to realize he’s run me dry and try to “fill me back up” with the toy honey container from his little kitchen. He can tell me which side he wants, how he wants me to sit, and that my milk tastes like butterflies. But none of those things mean that he’s too old for optimal nutrition, optimal comfort and the knowledge that when he needs it, it’s there for him.

To those who say it’s just too weird, I say: Sure, I get that it might seem that way when you walk into my life on any random day, cold and unfamiliar with the whole nursing thing. But for me, this is the child I gave birth to and have nursed since he couldn’t even hold his own head up. Since I could hold him in the crook of my arm and nurse while I dusted or cooked. Since before he tried to nurse while standing on his head and driving a toy car up my arm.

I didn’t start out nursing an almost-3-year-old. What’s weird to you is second nature to me, and that’s what matters.

I spoke with Shari Criso about my situation, and she read me like a book. I explained, “I just feel at this point like it might actually be coming between us rather than bringing us together. How do I know when to stop?” She said “It sounds like you’re looking for permission to wean. If it’s not positive for both mother and child, it might be time to stop. It’s OK to let yourself stop and be proud of what you’ve done.”

But the few times I’ve tried to deny him milk, his poor little self looks just heartbroken – not coddled, not spoiled, not demanding, but simply heartbroken – and my mother’s intuition red flag goes up like a flash. What I did not realize when I committed to nursing long-term was that, in a way, I was giving up the right to decide on my own when the end would be. Weaning an older child who understands more, expresses more, verbalizes more, and lets his opinions, wants and needs be known more ( a lot more!) now feels like a joint decision. Denying him milk makes me feel like I’m denying him the very act of mothering, and he’s very aware of it. It doesn’t feel right. For us, it isn’t right.

So, if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I will never wean my son. Weaning will be an action on both of our parts. First from my milk, then from most of the other things I do to care for him. I will watch each one go with sadness spiked with pride as I watch him learn to fly.

That doesn’t mean I won’t nudge him. We talk a lot about how babies drink lots of milk, but big boys don’t need as much and someday Mommy’s boobies just won’t make milk anymore. We talk about all the other things we do, like snuggle and hug and blow bubbles and make cupcakes and fingerpaint. Daddy and I do a lot of distracting to try to keep him from thinking about milk – sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

But for now, I nurse my baby. As I have through my own insecurities as a new mom, through my illnesses, through his, through hateful, venomous criticism from those who look at me like I’m a monster as well as support from a remarkable online community, through the joy of a new pregnancy and its very sad loss, through boo-boos and breakthroughs and some of the most beautiful moments of my entire life. For one more day, or maybe one hundred – I nurse my baby.



Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)

26 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding, Green Living, Parenting & Family

26 Responses to Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure…

  1. Lovely post for the carnival, Wendy. I teared up in several sections and nodded my head in understanding many times. It’s an interesting journey from full-time nursling to independent nursing child. And, like you mention, it’s something you know is right for the two of you.

    I really enjoyed your thought process about weaning and reasons to continue breastfeeding. Your honesty about not wanting to give the critics the satisfaction is appreciated. It’s incredibly frustrating to have negative opinions so vocally pointing at our children and ourselves (I say us as people, because the criticisms have rarely stuck to the actions and have centered on the mother and child personally.) There’s an element of truth to knowing both the “experts” and our personal experiences support our choices, without the need to judge those who choose differently.

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  6. This is such a touching post :) So many of your points resonated with me and I too teared up a couple of times. Kids don’t manipulate…their love is pure and unlike many adults they choose to express their emotions in the same way. I refuse to believe any differently.

    I started out with the “just do it” to lets get to 6 months and so on..I totally get that! Even though my daughter is only 17 months I suspect (and hope) we’ll enjoy a nursing relationship for many, many months to come.

    Thanks for this heart-warming and honest share.

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  10. Just wanted to add a datapoint about cycles – my period didn’t come back until my son was 19 months old. He was still nursing a lot, and I cut it down to three times a day, and then twice, and was able to conceive no. 2 without any difficulty when he was 21 months old. He continued to nurse through the pregnancy and out the other side, finally weaning when he was a ripe old 4 and a half. Not that you have to do any of that; just that it can be done.

    But give value to your own feelings as well as his, and continue to talk to him about it. Maybe together you can agree on a point in the future when he will be done. (I found birthdays and half-birthdays to be useful.)

    • admin

      In my head, I know you’re absolutely right, but we lost a pregnancy while nursing (I conceived at 23 months) so my heart is still a little skittish about it. I was ready to get pregnant the day I left the hospital with my son, and I dreamed of tandem nursing, but at this point I’m a little afraid to try – I’m nervous that I would get a little *too* touched out, since I already feel that way sometimes. I guess we’ll just have to take it day by day and see how it shakes out…

      Thanks for your comment and encouragement :)

      • Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that. Of course, then, I totally understand that you would have mixed feelings about things.

        You just never know. You have to do the best you can with the information you have, and take it as it comes. Right?

  11. “But for me, this is the child I gave birth to and have nursed since he couldn’t even hold his own head up. ”

    This is it, isn’t it? How can we say they are “too old” when they are only a few hours older than they were the last time they breastfed? We didn’t just jump right in to breastfeeding toddlers, they were our babies!

  12. You’ve hit the nail on the head here – I was never ready to say a final “No” to my son until he was ready to say “No, thanks” too.

    http://minimalistmum.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/6-years-of-natural-weaning-in-5-steps.html

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  16. Wendy – your post expresses so many of the conflicting emotions we all feel when the topic of weaning comes up. If I could recommend a post by Amy of Presence Parenting, it might help: http://codenamemama.com/2011/10/24/bfing-aversion-making-choices/ Amy really gave me food for thought with her wisdom, I hope it helps you too.

    • admin

      Thanks so much, Dionna. I’ll definitely check it out. I run into so few moms who have experienced those feelings – I’ll never pass up a chance to get a seasoned perspective! :)

  17. I get that same feeling like it might be pushing us apart rather than bringing us together. Every time Peanut asks me to nurse, I feel irritated. I feel like it’s driving a wedge between us. At the same time though, she is also so heartbroken when I tell her no. Even more so when, in my irritation of her asking for the 10th time in a half hour when I’m in the middle of something, I scream no. Then I start to feel even more sad and guilty because I’m doing something I never wanted to do (screaming at her) over something that has been so wonderful and a large part of our relationship (nursing).

    Every time I make a decision on whether or not to wean, I start fighting myself on it. I don’t know when it’ll truly ever happen. I asked Peanut earlier today and she said that she’s a big girl at 3, but we should wait until 4. But I can’t imagine nursing her another 10 months. Then I’ll turn around and think about what life will be like when we end this part of our relationship and I feel sad. I know I’ll miss it. It’s all so conflicting.

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