And just like that, she was done.
This is the line I have read so many times. Over and over.
Just like that.
I imagined that my own breastfeeding journey would follow this regular and straightforward pathway. That one day, I would look at the calendar and realize I could no longer remember the last time I nursed my daughter.
Let's just say that my imaginings were wrong.
I nursed her three weeks ago and I can confirm that I have now been breastfeeding for four years, nine months and seventeen days exactly.
There have been days - when it's been a couple of weeks since her last feed - that I've started to think that she actually might almost be done. Days when I start to consider that this chapter has naturally reached its end point...just like that...and then all of a sudden, she's right back to nursing once every other day again.
In fact, this particular journey's end is proving to be just as bumpy - albeit in a different way - as its beginning.
Yet this steady and natural decline is calm. It doesn't have the shock factor of those early days...there is no fear or utter disbelief at the magnitude of the changes taking place in my world. And my daughter is sailing through, as ever - happy, vibrant, thriving. Yet there are days when I have struggled to keep up with my body's ever-changing hormones.
I feel like an addict, although my crack is oxytocin.
Some will argue that after four years, the levels of hormones shifting their little chemical booties around inside my body is pretty much negligible. Of course, they are far less pronounced than if I had weaned my daughter when she was still a baby and nursing every hour...but let me assure you - they are very real.
Some would assume that any kind of weaning-induced low must be all in a mom's head. That the feelings must stem from a sense of grief at a changing relationship, a sense of wanting for this particular bond to continue, a sense of fear about never being needed in quite this way ever again...but let me assure you, while this thinking might be a reality for many moms, this is not my truth.
Sure, amid the cracks and mastitis and self-doubt, there have been many magical times - hundreds and hundreds of them - much of our breastfeeding relationship really has been unicorns, rainbows and ocean views...
And yet I am not grieving this diminishing relationship...because while breastfeeding is packing up her suitcase, my girl remains in my arms. And although she no longer roots for milk, she still smiles through her eyes in between giggles.
We live in a society where nursing is a taboo. Where breasts are sexual entities and
nothing more. Where children's needs take second place to parental wants.
So of course, information about the natural decline of breastfeeding is extremely hard to come by. There has been barely any research into natural term breastfeeding. There is barely a word written about the process of natural weaning from the breast, so I feel as if I've been trudging through these unforeseen and unexplained waters almost entirely alone.
Because in our culture, this kind of information has almost been lost. Lost to generations of formula and premature weaning. Lost to societal taboos and hushed tones. Lost to egos and judgment and the over-sexualisation of milk glands.
This is where we need a village. This is where we turn to social media, to messages and groups and pages of other moms. Other moms like us. Riding this same wave, walking this same path.
I'm here to tell you, fellow breastfeeders, that weaning is a bitch.
It can throw you, literally, to your knees. Your face will break out, your mind will cave in and once or twice, your heart might just hit the ground.
But this too shall pass.
This is a process, live it, breathe it up and ask for help when you need to.
Reach out to your friends, to your sisters, to the moms who are walking this road beside you.
I'm here to tell you that this is possible. Do-able. Worth it.
Because motherhood is a journey and breastfeeding is a chapter. One of the most soul-defining chapters you'll ever happen upon - and one day, mark my words, breastfeeding really will be done...
(After just one extra nursing session...)
(And then a head-cold to comfort nurse through...)
(And then a nursing memory to appease...)
(Ok...now it's done. I think...)
- The Problem With "Extended" Breastfeeding
- 4 Words Every Breastfeeding Mother Needs To Hear
- Why Nursing In Public Should Be No Big Deal