I remember how much I first struggled to get Rosie to nurse when she was a newborn.
She wouldn’t latch on. She just wouldn’t. She arched her back and screamed.
I didn’t know what to do.
I thought she hated me. I remember one night, when we’d only been home from the hospital for maybe a day or two, I laid her down on the bed and sobbed and sobbed because I was certain she hated me and that was why she reacted so strongly every time I tried to nurse her.
We had to work so hard, Rosie and I, in order to build our breastfeeding relationship.
The first time she successfully nursed without any pumped milk or nipple shields she was six weeks old.
Our breastfeeding relationship was wonderful. Rosie was one of those babies who wants to nurse all the time. Breastfeeding soothed her every woe, it put her to sleep, it nourished her body. She wasn’t really interested in eating meals of solid food until she was 16 months old, because breast milk was just that good to her.
She wanted to nurse everywhere we went! Nursing in public was scary for me at first. Rosie made me push past that. There was no way I could meet her need for nutrients and comfort without nursing her, and if I didn’t want to nurse her in public then I’d probably never be able to leave the house again.
Sometimes while I nursed her I sat and wondered. I thought about what the last time I ever nursed her would be like. Would I know it was the last time? How would it be, parenting my Rosie without nursing her?
At different points in our relationship when these thoughts crossed my mind I had varying reactions.
When she was a baby I couldn’t imagine not nursing her. I felt heartbroken at the thought our nursing relationship ending. As time went on and she grew older the thought of her weaning wasn’t as sad. I began to accept that it would happen one day, and when it did I would be ok. Child led weaning means that your child is truly done nursing. She would not be sad to stop nursing because she wouldn’t need to do it any longer. Still, I couldn’t fathom when that time would come for my voracious nursling.
When I got pregnant my milk supply dropped. Rosie was two years old. She kept right on nursing, despite the fact that my nipples felt like they’d been rubbed against a cheese grater. Despite the lack of milk. It didn’t matter to her.
When my baby died at 12 weeks, Rosie kept right on nursing. My milk came back and that made her happy. It was nice to have her warm toddler body snuggled against my sad heart.
I got pregnant again right after Rosie’s third birthday. By this point it was no longer socially acceptable for anyone to really know she was still nursing. Americans don’t value breastfeeding relationships. Maybe because so few of us have really experienced one to know how wonderful it can be, that knowledge is lost to our culture. Instead we have so much misinformation brought about by inexperience, false advertising, and old wives tales. Even pediatricians give terrible breastfeeding advice.
In other areas around the world child led weaning is more common. Whenever I worried about what others thought I reminded myself that I am not the only mama out there nursing a toddler, or a preschooler. Mamas just like me are loving on their little ones all around the world, some right here in America behind closed doors.
(Even in the middle of reorganizing a very messy room…)
I dedicated myself to child led weaning–nursing until Rosie and I both were finished. At points during my pregnancy with Ada I was finished nursing Rosie. It felt horrible. I felt like I could crawl out of my skin, or fling Rosie out of the window. It was just awful. My milk was almost completely dried up by the second trimester. There were no longer unicorns, and rainbows, and warm fuzzy feelings when it came to breastfeeding Rosie during this stage in our relationship.
Yet Rosie still wanted to nurse. She loved the closeness it provided. She’d fallen asleep nursing in my arms every single night of her life for three years. I knew how important it was to her. At this age she only nursed a few times a day–once upon waking in the morning and then again at night before bed. It was a routine of love between us, the perfect way for us to reconnect at the end of the day. The best way to start out our mornings. I pushed past my feelings because I remembered how wonderful it used to be, and I had already come so far–why stop now? How would I tell my sweet girl that she could no longer have her favorite thing in the world just because I didn’t want to do it anymore? How would that affect her relationship with her new sibling if I forced Rosie to wean only to replace her at the breast with a new little one? It couldn’t be good. So I gritted my teeth and kept going, while kissing the top of Rosie’s head and whispering in her ears how much I love her.
Ada was born, and then I was nursing two little ones. Tandem nursing. It felt so strange at first. I had visions of myself as a mama mammal, maybe a pig or a cat, nursing a litter.
Tandem nursing was beautiful also. Rosie and Ada nursed together every night before bed. They held hands and giggled over my chest each night.
Rosie began forgetting to nurse in the mornings when she woke up. She just stopped asking. Occasionally she would remember, until Ada was a few months old. By then she had forgotten all together. I didn’t remind her. This is the natural progression of weaning, to forget a nursing session without remorse because it’s just not needed any longer.
After Rosie turned four I began to wonder if she would ever be ready to stop nursing. I never imagined I would be nursing a four year old! But you know, it’s not the same as looking at someone else’s four year old and saying, “Oh gosh I couldn’t imagine nursing that huge kid!” Rosie was my baby. I saw her every day of her life, she grew up before my eyes gradually. I nursed her every day of her life.
It’s like when you don’t see someone for awhile and then you see them again and they are totally different, compared to if you see them every day. When you see someone every day you don’t notice the gradual changes.
I know now that Rosie will go into motherhood filled with nothing but wonderful memories of nursing. People who don’t understand say things like, “Won’t she be disgusted when she remembers nursing?” No, she won’t. She loved nursing even as she was ready to wean. Memories of nursing are a gift that I’ve given her, a gift of knowledge about how wonderful a breastfeeding relationship can be, which she can in turn give to her children.
I would ask Rosie sometimes, when will you be done nursing?
“When I’m 90,” she’d say. “I will nurse forever.”
I started thinking that four was hitting my comfort limit. I mean she was still my baby, but she was so big compared to Ada. Our breastfeeding relationship seemed to be falling into a season of winter, where there is dormancy and quiet stillness. I could see a peaceful end on the horizon not too far ahead.
She began to nurse for shorter amounts of time. Just before bed, and eventually only for a minute each night. Despite the short amount of time, she would always need to nurse. Suggestions to skip one night were met with horror and gnashing of teeth.
Then our relationship suddenly progressed further towards the end. She came up with an idea she called pattern milk. Pattern milk meant you nurse one night, then not nurse for the next night she told me. She always changed the pattern to suit her needs. Sometimes she said the pattern was nursing for three nights then not nurse for one night. It was a silly game she played.
One night a few weeks ago she nursed for the very last time ever. She nursed for about 15 seconds then said, “Actually can I have a glass of water?”
I knew it was the last time. I have a snapshot of it in my mind.
There it was–the moment I’d always wondered about when she was a baby. At different points in our relationship I’d thought of that moment with dread and sadness, and at other times I’d looked forward to it. But now that it had come I was ok, just as I thought I’d be. Rosie was done nursing. I was done nursing her. We finished together and it was a peaceful quiet ending.
She hasn’t asked to nurse again since that night. We read a book together before bed instead. I tuck her in, blow the bad dreams out of her head, kiss her goodnight, and she goes to sleep.
The ending was so simple.
I won’t lie, I secretly cried.
It’s really over. Four years and eleven months of a beautiful nursing relationship are behind us, and now a new chapter begins.
Another day of being alone. Thankfully Tyler will be off this weekend, because I’m not sure how much more I can take.
He came home from work at 4 in the morning, then slept until 1. At 1 he got up and we ran to the store to arrange for the appraiser to come tomorrow to price tile floors for the kitchen and bathroom. (That’s what the in-laws are getting us for Christmas!) It’s estimated at $2,800 including the tiles and installation. We’d never be able to afford that on our own, and though I don’t think tile laying is very hard (I did it once!) Tyler doesn’t even want to try. $2,800!! That’s like how much Tyler makes in a month. No joke.
As soon as we got done at the flooring store we had to come straight home so Tyler could get in his car and leave for work.
Poor Rosie, she cried for two hours after. She waited all morning for him to wake up, and then we drug her to a boring store only for him to come home and leave without even coming inside.
My sweet Rosie is growing up so quickly. Last night she asked me to move her bed into her room and out of our room. Then she went to bed in there all by herself! She loved it, she slept in there all night. She spent several hours in there playing by herself on her bed this afternoon too.
Rosie never slept in a crib, we just co-slept, then when Ada came along I let Rosie pick out a toddler bed to sleep in if she didn’t want to be squished up with the baby. That was when Rosie was 3. She loved her new little bed and slept in it (in our room) with no problem. Now she’s sleeping in her own room.
People always say, "Ooooh, you’ll never get them out of your bed!"
WTFever. I loved sniffing her head all night long as a baby and toddler. Now she sleeps on her own, there was no struggle at all. No tears, no bribery. Just a little girl proclaiming how grown up she is, feeling very self confident.
Just goes to show that it really does work–if you meet your baby’s needs constantly they will eventually learn true independence and it will come with self confidence. So much better than a crying baby or toddler being forced to do something they aren’t ready for just because silly American culture says they need to be independent…
It’s interesting that it took Rosie three years before she was ready to sleep on her own. I wonder how Ada will be. I think Ada might be ready to sleep on her own sooner because she doesn’t like to snuggle as much as Rosie did. (Well, Rosie still does love to snuggle!) Ada will roll away from me at night, compared to baby Rosie who liked to sleep plastered in my arm pit.
I sometimes wonder what will happen if I get one of those babies who just likes to sleep in their own space from the start. I think that would make me kind of sad!
I can’t believe how old Rosie is suddenly. I might cry thinking of it.
She’s outgrown co-sleeping, but she still hasn’t outgrown nursing. Child led weaning has been an interesting journey, and really not all that easy. I never imagined she would still be nursing at this point, either.
Our nursing relationship has changed so much over the past 4.5 years. Now nursing is just a way we connect and snuggle every night for a few minutes before bed. I can’t say that I enjoy it anymore, but I’ve come this far on the journey so I’ll stick it out until the end.
Society has all kinds of misconceptions and prejudices against nursing, forget breastfeeding a preschooler. I guess society and their opinions can kiss my skinny a$$…breastfeeding and child led weaning both have all kinds of wonderful benefits–emotional and physical. There really are no negative sides of it when you just look at the facts, there are only loads of positives. People like to gasp and proclaim how they can’t imagine nursing a FOUR YEAR OLD, OMG! But you know what? I couldn’t imagine nursing someone else’s four year old either. I’ve nursed her every single day of her life, weaning is a very gradual process. It’s not shocking to me, I’ve done it every day for four years…
Anytime a little bit of societal worry creeps in I think of other countries, where child led weaning is the norm. I like knowing that there’s nothing I have to do–again, no tears or forcing or trauma. Just enjoying it for what it is in this moment, and in the end when she’s done and that part of our relationship has ended it will be with happiness and only that.
Ada doesn’t seem to be glued to my breasts like Rosie was, so I wonder if she will nurse for such a long time. I believe breastmilk should be main source of nutrients for babies until 12 months, so I don’t do baby food or feed Ada meals. I let her eat little bits of lots of stuff, but only after nursing and not enough solids to stuff her full. It’s important, I want my children to have healthy guts and healthy immune systems. She’ll have her entire life to indulge on solid foods, 12 months of mostly breastmilk isn’t so long in comparison. After 12 months I do baby led eating/child lead weaning. I do still encourage nursing and offer often if baby is distracted because I absolutely believe babies shouldn’t wean before 24 months.
It worked perfectly with Rosie–she wasn’t too interested in meals of solid foods until around 18 months. She just picked at food up until that point. Now, of course, she eats normally. She wasn’t picky for awhile, but now she’s going through some phase…*sigh*….I’m continuing to offer a wide range of foods outside of her few favorites and hoping that the phase will one day end. At least her favorites are things like peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat, it could be worse.
It humors me how there are so many parenting debates. I say just keep loving your babies unconditionally and use the tools and intuition nature gives you. It’s that easy.
(Don’t leave me a zillion notes about special needs kids, those are an obvious exception, I know.)
Look at my girls! Hah.
Rosie isn’t into being photographed these days, unless she’s making some kind of goofy face.Ada on the other hand is easier torture.
Look! She has only one top front tooth. The other has no signs of appearing any time soon.
I love her so much.
Every time I stare at her, nurse her, sniff her head, listen to her giggle…I just want to have more. More babies, more happy squishy goodness, enough to fill a bus.
Rosie agrees, she tells me all the time how she loves having a baby and asks when we can have another. Maybe next year we can work on that Rosie, first I have to enjoy every second of the baby I have right now.
Plus, I can’t have too many babies..my Gus cat will get jealous.
I'm a young mother writing honestly about life.
I enjoy capturing emotions in photographs, and rambling about random happenings.
We homeschool, and have an urban homestead of sorts. One day I hope to have a large family and live on a farm.
Until then I'm trying my best to practice that whole "bloom where you're planted" idea...
Hit the RSS "keep reading" button over on the right sidebar to follow along our (sometimes crazy) journey as I try to figure out parenthood and adulthood.
If you want to get in touch with me you can leave a comment, or email azuroo at gmail dot com. However, I will warn you in advance--I am super busy living my life out in reality away from the internets, and I am kind of scatterbrained. This means I might not reply to emails, though I do read them all...usually at 3 in the morning when I can't sleep.