From Reluctantly Breastfeeding to Relucantly Weaning, Part 1

Initially, I was terrified of breastfeeding. Sure I’d read and heard plenty about how it was the healthiest choice for baby. And, let’s face it. The price is right. But even though I knew that it’s the reason they exist, I just couldn’t fathom attaching a human to my boobs at regular intervals throughout the day.

Then a friend who was breastfeeding her newborn came over for a visit, and while she rocked and nursed I asked two questions: How often, and how long? When she told me every couple of hours, for up to 45 minutes at a time, I was speechless. No. Way. That’s almost fifty percent of the day. I knew having a baby would necessitate huge life changes, but I did not anticipate it would require spending literally half of my life with my nipple in its mouth. Whoa.

But my gigundo belly proved I’d already signed up to join the club. And when it comes down to it, who am I to argue with nature? I was committed to giving it a go—for a while. I constantly asked medical professionals, in the doctor’s office or my social circle, how long am I supposed to do it? What’s the recommended minimum? The shortest time frame I got was three weeks. It became my goal. I would do it for three weeks and then give myself permission to stop.

I ended up nursing for a little over 18 months.

Roy was a skinny baby. Even at two weeks late, he weighed in at just over six-and-a-half pounds. So I was truly (and surprisingly) relieved when the little guy latched on well. At first, the pain was excruciating. Who knew that initially, breastfeeding feels like someone lit your nipples on fire?

But because I’m stubborn, and had committed to three weeks, there was no way pain would be the thing to stop me. The utilitarian nature of my breasts did freak me out, but in that newborn-baby haze, that was secondary to the monumental development of little thigh creases and the distinct beginnings of a third chin. I did that, I’d marvel. And so an addict was born.

Three weeks came and went. “Why stop right after working through the pain?” I reasoned. At six months, our family doctor’s recommended minimum, I was still going strong. (Though we began supplementing with formula so I did not have to constantly pump. I was never a big producer.)

I jonesed for “our time,” when I would do nothing but soak in Roy’s little feeding grunts, stroke his rabbit-fur hair and feel his baby fingers tickling my forearm. Still, I figured I’d stop at a year. Didn’t happen. We did get down to two sessions a day—first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. By then, baby #2 was on the way. I knew I’d have enough to deal with those first few weeks without adding “sibling breastfights” to the list. It was time to wean.

Roy didn’t seem at all upset when I phased out that first one, just jumping into our day rather than settling into nursing time. But the nighttime feeding—clearly that would be a different story. Each night, as Clint dressed him in his footie pajamas, he sobbed “Mama!” in raw anticipation for our time together.

The plan: Phase nursing out slowly in August, thus giving Roy five full months boob-free before watching his sister take up the habit. A few times a week, I would say goodnight at bathtime, and Clint would put him to bed. When it was my night, I wouldn’t offer to nurse, yet I wouldn’t refuse. We designated September as the backup month in which to truly get the job done, in the event August’s attempt didn’t take.

The night of Clint’s first shift, I almost backed out. He’s not ready, I reasoned. But when I tried to back up my claim, I drew a blank. That’s when I understood the truth. I was the one who wasn’t ready.

From Reluctantly Breastfeeding to Reluctantly Weaning to be continued…

(Read Part 2 of the story here)

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  1. by Colleen

    On September 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Good for you for nursing so long! I too just weaned my 17 month old daughter, and am 21 weeks pregnant. I never thought I’d go longer than a year, but it just seemed right for both of us.

  2. by Eve

    On September 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    You should be so proud of yourself!

    I’m not ready. There is just something about that bond and time. When he comes up and snuggled in asking, “more mama milk, please?”, just gets me every time.

  3. by Liz

    On September 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Aw, this was an awesome post. Know how I thought we were done? Yeah, that was a phase. Turns out we’re back to two-a-days. Never thought I would even entertain tandem nursing (used to laugh in a judgy and horrified fashion when I read blogs about it) but now it seems like we’re heading that direction. We’ll have to see. I’m okay with it either way. Fun to hear more about the journey you and Roy took!

  4. by Stefanie

    On September 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I’m still super sad it didn’t work for me and Royce. We never got a successful latch – but he did get my pumped milk for 5 weeks. The few times it kind of worked with a shield to aid I remember feeling so calm and happy – it’s funny how we are designed to enjoy doing something so good for our kids.
    I hope that it continues to go ok for weaning – one thing I never had to worry about, so I have no advice. I can tell you that I’m sure you’ll be just fine – and so will Roy!:)

  5. by anti jen

    On September 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

    girl, i’d still be nursing zadie if my milk had been more plentiful, and she’s almost 7 years old. kidding, but i totally know what you mean. best post yet.

  6. by Eve

    On September 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Liz, isnt that funny how you find yourself doing things you judged others for? I am totally the same way. I always thought I’d quit when my kid could ask to nurse. I do find myself selecting who I tell that we still nurse, as I don’t want to be judged!