Weaning is Weird!

Do you ever do something very natural and ordinary for a while and suddenly realize one day that what you’ve been doing is actually rather amazing?

My youngest son is 27 months old and recently I decided that it was time to wean him. At his age he was no longer nursing during the day. He nursed at bedtime and also if he happened to wake up in the middle of the night. But when I stopped breastfeeding, I also started looking back and thinking…

mom and newborn

I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son in October of 2005. After a fairly uneventful yet still draining pregnancy, I gave birth to my darling Zackary in June. I nursed him for two and a half years. By the end of that time he wasn’t nursing much. He breastfed at bedtime and in the morning and that was it. All the same, my body was still extending its energy on behalf of another human being.

And then one day I started having trouble with the nighttime feedings. My breasts were tender and sore and my hefty son made it much worse when he tried to nurse. A quick pregnancy test confirmed that we had another child on the way. Zackary was weaned shortly after I learned I was pregnant because nursing was just too painful.

In October of 2009, our youngest son was born. For the next two years, he nursed as well. He was clingier than his older brother had been and when I was preparing for the BlissDom Canada 2011 blogging conference in Toronto, he was still nursing at least ten times during the day despite eating regular meals.

I made the decision to cut out all feedings except nighttime ones. He handled it just fine and was able to make it through the three days I was away without a problem. I had the idea that I might just stop nursing then…but his insistence when I returned home won out.

Now for the last four days, my son has not nursed at all. My breasts are in tremendous pain, though the third day was the worst. My son is sleeping fairly well, though he sometimes cries a bit when I put him to bed and don’t nurse him. And I finally, FINALLY have time to do the math.

For the last six years, my body has been nurturing a child. For the last six years, there has been a part of me that is only concerned with ensuring the survival of the human race by ensuring the survival of my boys. Six years is more than half a decade. It represents one-fifth of my entire life up until now. Six years is, no matter how you measure it, a pretty darn long time.

There was no break from this time of being a nurturing mother. There was not even an hour when my body was not working to give sustenance to another.

And now?

It’s over.

I no longer have to consider the effects my smallest actions might have on my children. I can swallow an Advil if I have a headache. I can eat the spiciest food I desire. If I have to leave town for a few days, I can do so. And yet I find that weaning my son has left me feeling somewhat empty. I am free and it seems very strange. For so long, my body had a greater purpose. Now it is mine again, and that is both wonderful and tragic.

Of course, there’s not a 100% guarantee that I am done having children, but if I do, it won’t be something I planned. Two delightfully high-energy boys are quite enough for me! So in all likelihood, my body’s days of being a nurturer are over forever. I don’t know if I feel so listless and confused because my body nurtured for so long or if every mother feels this way when she weans her last child. I don’t know if it’s purely an emotional experience or if part of my reaction is a result of my body’s hormones returning to normal for the first time in six years. All I know for sure is that I feel really, really…weird.

I do have one consolation though. While my days of physical nurturing may be over, I know that a mother’s days of emotional nurturing are never done. In the words of Robert Munsch, “As long as I’m living, my babies they’ll be.” And so through my current mood, I continue to remind myself that while my body may be my own once more, my heart will forever be in the hands of my two charming and cheerful little angels. And as every parent knows, there’s no better place for a heart to be.

Now I’m off to ice my boobs.

16 thoughts on “Weaning is Weird!”

  1. My body’s gone (still going) through a similar thing. Two babies 2 years apart, means lots of milk. I feel like I’ve been “pregnant” for the last four years without a break :) I nursed my first until 14 months and then weaning just kind of happened naturally. Now my little one is 5 months and I started a job (yes, a real job! lol). I really didn’t want to put her on formula full time. So the last two days I’ve been suffering at work with sore breasts, then when I get home, I have to pump some out so baby can eat comfortably. Yes, I’d rather put myself through pain then do just formula. I love nursing, it’s fun :) But I’m hoping my milk supply will re-adjust asap (I just wanna do night and eve feeds)!!! Sore breasts hurt like hell!
    I’m kind of looking forward to not nursing in the near future so I can enjoy what you’ve described (advil, spicy food, etc), but at the same time, I’m gonna miss it so much…
    Ah, I’m just rambling on and on.
    You did good :) And I’m sure our kids years from now will say “eeew, you breastfed us?” (that’s what I think, lol) but in the meantime, we know it’s best for them and we also get pleasure out of it too :)

    1. Good for you, Jen, to keep up with breastfeeding while working! I think you’re totally right, it’s worth the effort to still have the chance to breastfeed your little sweetheart. :) And milk supply does adjust pretty quickly; in about a week it’s usually where it should be, I found. Pumping just a little to relieve the pain can be helpful too.

      It IS nice to have my freedom back, but I know what you mean about missing it, I miss it already!

    2. Jen…Keep on going!! I was nursing DD1 8-10 times a day when I went back to work when she was 13 months. Both she & my milk supply adjusted and I was still nursing her at 3.5 (tandem with her younger sister). Our bodies are amazing things and adjust to fill the need.
      As for the spicy food – I never stayed away from it while I was pregnant or nursing (just couldn’t go SUPER spicy) and both girls now eat spicy food – not sure if that’s why or not – and have from the time they started eating solids. I made all of their food at home and added garlic, basil, oregano etc right from day 1 of solids.

      1. That’s a GREAT point, Nancy! I’ve actually read that the tastes from the foods you eat slightly change the taste of your breastmilk, which then helps your baby’s palate develop so that when they’re older they enjoy a wide range of foods. It makes perfect sense when you think about it; after all, I’m sure people in countries that favour spicy foods don’t change their entire way of eating when a baby is born! The REALLY spicy is what I avoided too. :)

  2. Oh I so know where you’re coming from. I’ve been nursing for almost 6 years now. My oldest DD born in June 2009 nursed until January 2010 (3.5 years) and my youngest DD born in September 2009 is still nursing in the morning and bedtime (or in the night is she wakes) and at naptime on the weekends.
    I dread the day that DD2 decides she’s done with her ‘MeMe”, as much as I would love to have me to myself, I love the snuggles and time that we share.

    1. Those snuggles are amazing, aren’t they? And they’re never quite the same again once a child stops nursing. My oldest has just got to the pull-away stage when I try to cuddle him; so sad!

      My sons, however, both charmingly referred to nursing as “Booby,” which was funny, but not great if we happened to be in public. lol

  3. Your body did some beautiful things! Be proud and hang on to those amazing memories.

    Weaning can be a very emotional yet uplifting experience, can’t it?!

    I nursed both my kids until they were just under two – what an incredible experience and although my boobs definitely show that I nursed two children, I will never ever regret that decision – what a beautiful opportunity! I hang on to those memories so close to my heart ….in face I find myself missing them some days – today is one of those days. Excuse me while I go shed a tear (or two).

    Lovely post Kat!

    1. Emotional yet uplifting describes it perfectly! I loved nursing too; I think all us extended nursers probably do. I can tell already I’m going to be just like you, Amanda, missing it SO much some days! Thank you SO much for reading and sharing your own experience!

  4. ahhhhh that was so lovely!! it really is hard when they pass those last milestones and there are no plans for more. I felt the same when my baby left his crib remember? the breast feeding I was happy to end! lol

    1. Thanks Jen! :) I do remember that; it’s funny how different moments affect us Moms in different ways. I think the way you felt about breastfeeding is the way I’ll feel about toilet training. Even though diapers are the last real “baby stage” that I’ll be saying goodbye to, I don’t think I’ll feel very emotional about it! lol

  5. Jeannette Laframboise

    Here I am a few moments out of bed with my eyes still half shut and I am whimpering away as if it were I who just weaned a child. I understand exactly what you are feeling. That dreadful push/pull feeling that switches back and forth between relief of having your own body back with an awful all consuming emptiness. You described it perfectly! I remember feeling so happy with the freedom, yet wracked with guilt even though most people had already weaned their children long before I. It is a feeling that only a fellow mother can truly know. You are also spot on with the quote from “Love You Forever.” To this day, I have NEVER been able to read completely through that book without stopping to compose myself. My 2 older boys used to find it rather amusing and would specifically ask me to read that particular one just to see my reaction. They are now 27 & 24 and they both remember it well. My youngest, now 11 has also never seen me get through that book with crying. Bottom line, it is the truth, which is why it breaks my heart every time…It does not matter what age they are, they will always be your babies and have the ability to bring great joy and pain as well. Exhibit “A” I am presently living as my 24 yr old has recently moved back home after getting himself into some trouble. They always run back to their mommy. Us mothers live the: “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be” every single day of our lives:-)

    P.S. I am sure you noted the huge gap between my boys ages, so you NEVER know when you are truly finished having babies.:-)

    1. Aww, this is so sweet, Jeannette! I am the exact same way with that book; the first few times I read it to Zackary when he was older, he would say, “Are you okay? Why are you crying, Mom?” with so much concern! lol Now he knows that it’s just the way Mom is, even if he still doesn’t understand exactly WHY I can’t read it without crying!

      It’s so great to know that even when our children are grown, they’ll still need us to be there for them. There’s no question that it makes dealing with that strange empty feeling a whole lot easier. :)

      And that’s SO true; I’m the oldest of five kids at 30, the second-youngest is 19 and the youngest is 13. It reminds me of something I read once. “If you REALLY want to get pregnant, just make plans for an exciting new career, get rid of every baby essential that you have and tell absolutely everyone you know that you are never going to have another child.” lol

  6. Our stories are really parallel! Our oldest was born May 2006 and youngest Nov 2009. Both boys! I quit nursing our oldest soon after we found out we were pregnant w/ #2- & am seeing the end for this guy too- although I’m not sure if he’s ready.
    I hear cabbage leaves stuffed in your bra are helpful for reducing the swelling. I swear I’ve heard this.

    1. That’s actually true, Kalani! Isn’t it funny? There’s an enzyme in the cabbage leaves that helps reduce swelling and dry out the milk quicker, though I don’t think anyone is quite sure why or how it works! lol Our stories are similar; I can’t believe how close in age our boys are! :) And I know just what you mean, deciding if your child is ready has to be one of the biggest challenges of the whole process!

  7. Very well written. Still nursing my 15 month old. Most think I’m crazy. Thank you for the inspiration and foreshadowing. Hang in there!

    1. Thank you so much Chaton! And good for you! I know exactly what you mean; some people definitely don’t “get” the concept of extended nursing, but I really believe that when doctors and breastfeeding guides say, “The longer, the better,” they mean it. :) Enjoy every minute of it!

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