A lot of things are coming to an end, it seems. We’re almost completely potty trained so diapers are on their way out, and now breastfeeding. I’ve been nursing for five and a half years non-stop, including three months of tandem nursing after Kay was born. That’s a long time.
I’ve always been an exclusive breastfeeder. My oldest never took a bottle, no matter how much we tried. The closest we ever got was a few sips of expressed milk from a cup once or twice when she was five months. I eventually gave up and just learned to live with the fact that she would be attached to me day and night for the first year.
While it was nice to be needed, it was exhausting too. Nobody else could feed her. Nobody else could comfort her when she cried. Thankfully, I had a wonderfully supportive husband. Maybe he didn’t feed her, but throughout her first few months when she nursed multiple times a night and spit up constantly, he would get up and change her diaper and burp her and sit up with her for 10 minutes after every nighttime feed so I could go back to sleep. That little girl ended up nursing for 34 months before she gradually stopped on her own.
Thankfully my second daughter didn’t need to be held upright after her feeds, and I was experienced enough this time around to literally nurse her in my sleep. But I can still count on one hand how many times Kay took a bottle. There were a couple of days when I thought we were going to do it. Once she drank a whole ounce of expressed milk! But after that promising start, she steadfastly refused point blank. Sigh. It’s okay, I’m used to this.
Kay will be three next week and is still very attached to her bedtime nursing session. She occasionally asks during the day even. I had originally planned to allow Kay to self-wean, but unfortunately, over the last few months I’ve started feeling more and more uncomfortable with nursing. Some nights are less grating than others, but often it’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. So I’ve reluctantly made the decision to wean her.
I’ve been working on gentle weaning over the last month or so. My main techniques are distraction and time limits. At almost three, Kay understands when I tell her, “Not now,” or “Wait until bedtime.” I can offer her a story or a cuddle instead. Bedtime though is the hardest session to give up. Those I’ve been time limiting, and she’s okay with that, though she still complains. I feel bad about cutting her off before she’s ready, but I’ve experienced nursing aversion before and it’s not pretty. I pushed through it the last time, but it wasn’t fun for either of us and I don’t want to go through it again.
I’ve been doing this breastfeeding thing for a long time. This is my last child (barring any unexpected surprises), and I’m sad to be saying goodbye to the baby stage of parenthood. But I can’t wait to have my body back too. I’m looking forward to sending my kids to their grandma’s house and spending a night away with my husband. I’m already planning a shopping trip for a pretty new bra without those flaps or extra straps. This is a bittersweet transition, but we’ve had a really good run and I’m more than ready to move on.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year from August 1-7 in over 176 countries. What started as an idea to commemorate the Innocenti Declaration in 1991 has turned into an annual campaign which the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has successfully coordinated and organized for the past 23 years.