Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the End of Breastfeeding

I have not nursed my son for 4 days. He's 19 months and 3 weeks old. Before then, I nursed him at least once a day, every day, since practically the moment he was born.

Three weeks ago, I started contemplating weaning. I'd never expected to nurse Munch this long. When he was born, I had decided I would see how my body took to breastfeeding and not see myself as a failure if I needed to turn to formula. But, my body did what it needed to and Munch latched and we were off.

Three weeks ago, when I started feeling like it was time to wean, I was very sad about the prospect. This article about the last time our children do things kept echoing in my brain. With each short nursing session, I tried to enjoy every second, emblazon it on my brain. I felt a little panicked. And I felt a tiny bit heartbroken.

Nursing is something I have treasured. It has been a constant in these first months of motherhood. As my son now runs full tilt and identifies bananas and birds and stars, it is a last vesige of Munch's babyhood. First, he learned to hold his head up on his own. Then, he broke the swaddle. He graduated from the Pack n Play in our room to his own crib. Solids became the primary food source. The sleepsack was packed away. And soon nursing would be gone as well.

So, I reasoned, maybe I wasn't quite ready in my heart, even though I was in my head. I support every mother's choice to breastfeed for however long is right for her. But nursing started evolving for me when my son became very communicative. He's a bit of a late talker, so it wasn't until about 15 months that he started really interacting. With him at 19 months, I felt strange being able to hold a relatively meaningful and lengthy conversation with him and then stick my boob in his mouth.

Also, the teeth. He no longer bit me while nursing for 2 minutes--he grew out of that. But at the end of a nursing session, he clamped down and scraped backwards. This was not good. And last Saturday, he took some skin off the nipple. Really not good. And it was in that moment, I think I felt my heart say good-bye to breastfeeding.

So, I said to myself, I'll only nurse him if he asks for it. (Munch asking is him holding the Boppy or any random pillow out to me, giving me a pleading look, and saying, uh uh uh.) We nursed for a rather long session (i.e., about 7 minutes) overnight on Sunday, when I believe he was having teething pain and difficulty sleeping.

And that's been it. That night likely will be the last time I nurse this child, whom I've cuddled to my chest for God knows how many hours since his birth. It was a nice ending--quiet, dark, with the TV flickering, like it was in the early weeks, when I became very familiar with Willie Geist on "Way Too Early" and SportsCenter, when only paid programming was on every other channel.

We ended nursing the way we began, Munch and I--alone as my husband slept, half-asleep, comforted.

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