Disclaimer- this blog post is about breastfeeding. If it makes you uncomfortable or you are grossed out by this natural feeding process you can stop reading.
If you want to hear my journey, then read on!
So Teach Academy is on our Christmas vacation so I thought my posts might be few and far between, but I decided I really wanted to write about a big change in Ellison and I's life: weaning.
I realized that I have spent the majority of the last almost 10 years either pregnant or breastfeeding! That is about 4 years of breastfeeding and 3 total years (9 months x 4 babies) actually being pregnant so I'm owning my feelings and writing them out.
Ellison is 17 months old. She just weaned, like literally just weaned, like as in yesterday. I have been so ready for her to wean (I thought). She has nursed the longest of any of my babies. Cian was the next longest at 13 months, but the only feeding he did that last month after turning 1 was at 4 a.m. so I was ready to let that go, LOL!
Each kid is different and each experience is different. If you didn't breastfeed, I know you can sympathize with weaning, but it's not the same. Grace was on formula from age 5 months on due to bad back-to-work transition advice that left her only wanting a bottle of breastmilk and I personally wasn't going to be able to pump for 7 months while working. I didn't know I could do both; I wish someone had told me. It sounds stupid, but I thought they were mutually exclusive. I wish I had done formula during daycare and breast at night, but I didn't know I could do both and breastfeeding her ended then. So with that child, I did both breast and formula. So I feel I can make the statement having done both, and say they are not the same. I don't judge anyone for choosing formula, this post is not that debate at all. I'm talking about weaning from breastfeeding and that overwhelming joy and sadness that comes with it. When you stop formula it is easy. The pediatrician says they can have cows milk and you rejoice over not having to mess with that powder crap and measuring it and carrying it everywhere. I know I did with Grace when she turned 1. Breastfeeding is so different! There is no right or wrong time to stop and it is so different with each baby and each mother. Plus we pay our dues for the bond we get. I can't count how many times my formula feeding mom friends would get their little ones to sleep through the night so early. Mine were all in the double digit months before they slept through the night. And the mid-night feedings and lack of sleep... Ellie began not waking for a feeding only last month- at 16 months! Plus the leaking, the clogged ducts, the discomfort at first, etc, etc... So why do it you ask? Well, for me, it was the closest bond to my child imaginable. Knowing that you and only you sustained them. Hearing at the first doctor's visit they gained their birth weight back (or more) and knowing you did that! Knowing that you are giving them the best food there is for them. Ellison never had a bottle once in her life so I'm not sure where she heard the word, but she called breastfeeding "ba-ba" or "ma-ma ba-ba." Knowing she was comforted by me and nursing her, her eyes and mine locked, while her little hand wrapped around my index finger, it's not explainable.
It's worth it.
I am overwhelmed with emotion. I was ready, but not. My 3rd child, who is headstrong to this day!, decided at 10 months she was DONE! Well, it was a horrible end for me and I tried everything to get her to nurse the last two months to age one and she refused. She loved breast milk, but from a bottle. So, I did what she wanted and pumped for two months. Not the beautiful, child-led weaning I had wanted. So when we were pregnant with Ellie I had big expectations for it ending better this time. And it did, I waited until she was ready. Not forced her at 12 months to the day because my pediatrician said "this is the time most people wean." Not forced her earlier so I could go out for an amaretto sour with my gal pals (although that does sound good!). And DEFINITELY not for those Nosy Nellie's in my life (and everyone's life) that ask questions they shouldn't and dare to ask "Haven't you weaned that baby yet?" with all their judgment. I've done it our way. My baby's and mine. I've been patient and it's been worth it.
I guess I'm realizing that no matter when it happens there is that element of bittersweet. I am so proud of my sweet little toddler switching to her "Dora juice" because she is "SO BIG!"
But at the same time, as every parent knows, it is so hard to put a chapter of their childhood behind you. They grow too darn fast. My baby is no longer a baby. As I type, and tear, and leak, I decide I am thankful for these darn hormones going wacko. They are the same hormones that made the milk for her in the first place. I reached out to friends who have been "in the same boat" on facebook and hearing kind words really touched me. I am not alone. It is a journey many moms who nursed feel. I also found a great article last night. I was looking for the physical process on weaning and it actually talked about the mental and emotional impact of weaning which really touched me. I recommend it to anyone also going through the weaning process:
Here is one thing it said:
"Even for mothers who feel ready for weaning and wean gradually, there may still be some sense of loss and sadness. Weaning marks the end of a physical oneness with your child, the close of a very special period in your lives. Remember that your child’s strong need for your presence continues, even if it is now expressed in other ways."
Just now, as I told Ellie, "Let's get you in your highchair to eat lunch." She took her little fingers and wrapped them around my index finger. She looked up and me with love and that big huge grin of hers and I knew.
I knew I will always be her mom and she will ALWAYS be my baby.