Weaning & Cherishing Every Phase
He was eating more solids, growing more active and less patient sitting with me every morning to nurse. First, he nursed exclusively from one side, and then he only wanted to nurse in the morning. That was the beginning of the end of breastfeeding... the beginning of weaning. I hung onto it for as long as I possibly could...
One morning while on vacation in Hawaii, I woke up to the distant sound of giggling. Wes had been up, playing with my mom for hours. I joined the fun and casually offered him a nursing session. Usually if I waited too long after he woke up, the interest would be lost and he would decline. But in this case, he accepted and we cuddled for a few minutes before he was up and at 'em. Maybe he wasn't ready to quit yet after all?
Once we returned home, I entered Wes’ room quietly in the morning, crawling on the floor up to his crib. “Pssst… boo!” I said as we played a game of peek-a-boo before I took him out. For the next thirty minutes, we giggled, tickled, and zoomed cars around the room. We said our good-mornings to bunnies, the clouds, and the rainbows on our hallway walls as I carried him downstairs for breakfast. We ate together in a quiet house before it was filled with Dixon and Dobby barking at the bunnies, Figgy meowing for food, and Mark bumping Reggaton in the backyard during his morning workout. It was peaceful. The day went by in a flash and it wasn’t until after I put him down for bed, that I realized it -- Wes hadn’t nursed all day.
Our nursing chapter was over, just like that.
I used to think weaning would be one long battle. He’d demand it and I’d have to decline, heartbroken and conflicted. I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready to end nursing, but I had a gut feeling that Wes would let me know when he was ready. And instead of the end-of-breastfeeding drama I anticipated, we simply developed new rituals to take its place, without even consciously trying.
Breastfeeding has been a journey for us. Wes latched perfectly at the hospital, but somehow I was led to believe that he wasn't getting enough, even though he was getting so much it once gushed out like a firehose, sprayed him in the face, and made him cry! Regardless of the early challenges, I was committed to nursing for "six months to a year." To preserve our nursing sessions, I limited his bottles (he loved them as an infant and still loves them today), which meant going out of the house was a struggle. I always wanted to stay close enough so that if I could make it home in time for a feeding, I’d be right there. Not being able to stray far from home took a toll on my social life, created a challenge for my adventurous and spontaneous marriage, and pretty much meant workouts or yoga outside of the house were a no-go.
I so desperately wanted to hold on to that connection… When Wes’ sight expanded and he was easily distracted, I used tricks like wearing fun necklaces for him to fiddle with, or playing games like sticking out my tongue and watching him copy me – it was the cutest thing! I knew that if he stayed in his crib long enough in the morning, he wouldn’t want to nurse, so I was in there the minute he woke. I continued comfort nursing before nap-time as long as he would take it.
I was scared that the end of breastfeeding would mean saying goodbye to morning cuddles, permanently cutting off echoes of those magical skin-to-skin moments in the early weeks, and saying goodbye to that innate bond we’ve shared from the beginning. While it was the first step of separation and a major milestone, it didn’t mean saying goodbye to any form of closeness. Funny enough, since we’ve stopped breastfeeding, Wes has become more mommy-attached than ever -- an entirely new hurdle! I guess he wants to keep us close, too.
Years before Wes was born, after watching my beautiful niece enter the world, I declared on the phone to my best friend, that while it was an amazing experience and a flawless delivery, having a baby just wasn’t for me. As tears are rolling out as I write this, I don't think I've ever been so wrong. I’ve fallen in love with motherhood. Looking at our baby boy as I put him down for naps everyday, I think of how quickly the last year and a half has passed, and how we only have sixteen and a half more years until he spreads his wings and leaves home.
My goal was six months to a year, and eighteen months into it, breastfeeding ended just as magically as it began. Weaning was the first step of growth and separation for both of us -- the first of many, I’m afraid. He’ll be a big boy soon, a young man even sooner, and before I know it he’ll have a family of his own...
I can only hope that we achieve future milestones with this much trust and love. I will continue to truly cherish each fleeting moment and to love him unconditionally at every phase. Damn, it feels good to be a mama…
If you’re still my small babe or you’re all the way grown, my promise to you, is you’re never alone.
- Nancy Tillman