by Kasey Stacey
Truth be told, I don’t even really like breastfeeding right now. At nearly 38 weeks pregnant, I’m feeling rather “done” with a lot of things, and nursing my 19-month-old is definitely one of them. Those who know me know that this is a major departure from my earlier feelings on the matter; even during the earliest days when I experienced tremendous difficulties, I was so deeply in love with nursing my son. I’m glad that I soaked in those moments while they lasted, because now, nursing him has become nearly unbearable. I dread every nursing session. I’m ready for him to wean.
Who have I become? This is not how I feel about breastfeeding. Since becoming a mother, I’ve also become one of the most rah-rah, #normalizebreastfeeding, “Girl-you-nurse-that-baby-whenever-wherever-and-to-hell-with-anyone-who-gives-you-trouble,” “Let’s-all-nurse-our-kids-till-they-go-to-college” breastfeeding champions I know. Lactating has become as much a part of my self-concept as being Vincent’s mother or being Catholic. Or breathing. Recently, news media highlighted a few different stories of nursing mothers saving the lives of abandoned babies by breastfeeding them. I thought, “Of course I would nurse some lost little baby in order to save his life! That’s such a wonderful and powerful thing that a woman can do!” It was a bit of a hard reality to remember that I haven’t actually produced milk in a few months.
But I think it’s that very lack of milk production at the crux of my current dislike for breastfeeding. I produced well into this second pregnancy, but somewhere past the half-way point, my milk dried up. I began producing colostrum a few weeks later, but that hasn’t been enough to alleviate my nursing aversion. Nursing aversion is killing me. I described it in my earlier blog about nursing through pregnancy, but I still really struggle to find words to adequately explain how terrible a feeling it is. The same pregnancy-related hormonal changes that have caused my milk to dissipate and have increased my nipple sensitivity are probably at the root of my nursing aversion as well.
It was because of this aversion that we finally night weaned. After much hemming and hawing on my end (because I knew that night weaning would be the beginning of the end), my husband and I decided that for the sanity of all of us, we had to put on our big kid pants and let Vinny be sad for a few nights. So Mike sat up with him and soothed him while he cried and I repeated Katie’s mantra from the Weaning Gracefully course: “Crying in-arms is not cry-it-out.” He is with his papa, I told myself. He’s fine. And he was.
Day weaning was almost entirely Vinny’s call. He stopped asking to nurse because he’s so busy playing, and after a while, I stopped offering except when he got hurt and needed to calm down. Eventually, “Mama! Boo-boo!”—a request for a kiss on some real or imagined injury—took the place of nursing.
Except in rare circumstances, we’re down to two nursing sessions a day: nap time and bed time. Even these are starting to fade away. I nurse him for as long as I can tolerate it, but if he doesn’t fall asleep relatively quickly, I unlatch him. “Mama needs a break,” I say. “We will just snuggle instead.” Sometimes I get a minor protest; other times, he just snuggles in and falls asleep. With increasing frequency, he has been popping off during these sessions, signing and saying, “More!”
“It’s right here,” I tell him. “Listen, you either have to nurse and go night-night or be done. If you want more, it’s right here.” He often chooses to be done. I think what he’s telling me is that he’s consumed all three and a half drops of colostrum that I had produced and he’d like me to refill, please. If only it were that easy.
By the way, has anyone ever mentioned what colostrum does to the contents of a toddler’s diaper? My goodness. If for no other reason, this is enough of a motivator for me to wean Vinny. Morning sickness combined with colostrum poops is enough to drive any mother to the edge.
Frankly, I don’t think Vinny is all that into nursing anymore, either. When he’s latched on, he doesn’t look up at me with eyes filled with wonder, like he realizes he’s drinking in the purest love he could ever know on earth. He used to, but he doesn’t anymore. He still seeks comfort at my breasts, but unless he’s extremely tired, he’s not focused on nursing. He barely suckles, barely moves his mouth. It feels so gross. He pops on and off, tries to have conversations with me, giggles at whatever is running through his mind, and fools around. It’s cute, but it’s not the beautiful, peaceful nursing relationship we once had (and that I fought so hard to develop).
So, once again, I’m left asking myself why on earth I am putting myself through this. It really wouldn’t be that difficult to fully wean. For a while, it was about not being ready to let go of my little baby boy. Nursing was the primary way I knew of cementing our bond and showing him how much I love him. And it was definitely about him not being ready; he was still technically an infant when I got pregnant. And, honestly, it was about how much effort I put into making this whole thing happen in the first place. It’s difficult to let something go that I worked so hard for.
I was and am still firmly committed to nursing my children until they outgrow the need—and I recognize that this happens at different ages for different kids, but I also recognize that many children will nurse well into toddlerhood if given the opportunity. I think that the circumstances of a closely-spaced pregnancy have required both Vinny and me to develop other ways of showing love and comfort—ways that might not have developed so quickly were I not pregnant. Vinny’s rapid acquisition of both receptive and expressive language has also helped in this regard; he understands almost everything I say to him and he communicates his ideas well for a 19-month-old. Still, he is just 19 months old. There will be times when he still needs to nurse, and even though I hate the way it feels, nursing is a two-way relationship. I take breaks when I need them, but I also make nursing available when he needs it.
Will we last another few weeks (or maybe just days??) until this baby is born? Will I meet that lofty goal of tandem nursing? Probably. There are times when Vinny still adamantly demands “num-a-num.” And when my milk comes back in and when he sees his baby sister at my breast, I am sure he will have a renewed interest in nursing. I am just praying that the nursing aversion diminishes when I’m making milk again. Otherwise, I will seriously have to reconsider this total weaning business.