Ask me 9 years ago when I just had Truett and I’d tell you that breastfeeding and I just aren’t meant to be. I had zero technique, insufficient milk, boobs that refused to cooperate, and a baby who hated those boobs. I remember sitting on the bed struggling to feed this angry, screamy baby who would only calm down with a bottle of formula. I had decided then that I was not the breastfeeding sort because you don’t get to have everything you want and that’s ok.
9 years, 5 babies and too many hours of tears later, I’m here nursing baby Hayley, feeling grateful for an experience that I didn’t think I’d get to have.
And you know your relationship is on a whole new level when you go from “what is the least number of months I need to breastfeed this baby without having to deal with that overwhelming mom guilt?” to “how long can I nurse this baby before it starts to get a bit weird? Until she’s 5? 8? 10?”
When Hayley was born, my breastfeeding goal was nine months – right around the same time I weaned Kirsten, Finn and Theo. All the other babies had transitioned really well at nine months and I was happy to give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. Besides, it was always a relief to have my boobs be all mine again, no more of this mi casa su casa all day open bar boob access arrangement kthxbye.
But when Hayley got to nine months, I knew that I was far from ready to wean this last baby.
“Let’s get to 12 months before we decide,” I thought. After all, 12 months is the magic number recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t constantly strive to outdo myself? And more importantly, who am I to stand in the way of pediatrics and science? It was my job, no, my duty to provide this baby with all the nutrition she needed.
As baby Hayley’s first birthday drew near, I found myself dreading the 12-month mark because it also meant the end of something really special. Something that I’ve come to cherish so much more than I thought I would. I couldn’t do it. The thought of weaning this baby made me want to cry.
“She’s not ready,” I told myself, knowing that I was the one who couldn’t let go. “A little longer. Maybe just another few more months.”
13 months came and went. 14 months. Then 15. We’re closing in on 16 months and I think it’s finally time. I know she’s ready because she’s eating solids like a champ (she’s basically Theo-level kind of food enjoyment). And every time she spots Finn or Theo holding a bottle of milk while she’s nursing, she immediately unlatches and charges towards them, yelling “MILK, MIIIILLLLLK!!” She’ll gladly take a bottle till she’s full and once she’s done, she’ll pull at my shirt and demand for more milk but we all know that what she really wants is a human pacifier.
I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to wean this baby but at this point, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I feel like all these extra months of nursing has been a gift for this momma who had such a hard time letting go. I’d be happy to nurse this baby forever but this is already more than I had hoped for and for me now, it’s enough.
The process of weaning is easy enough – gradually reduce the number of feeds until you get to 0. We just went down to 2 feeds a day, soon it’ll be 1 and then sometime over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be all done.
This baby will crawl into my arms and settle in to her spot on my chest the way she’s done maybe two thousand times before. I’ll kiss the top of her head and inhale her delightful baby smell and play with her hair and feed her one last time before crying my eyes out.
I’ll miss this. I’ll miss this an awful lot.
Had a chat with this baby about what’s about to happen and I think this means she’s not on board with the plan.