September 13, 2013

On Weaning

Breastfeeding didn’t initially come easy to Rowan and I. There were early latch issues (lasting three months), open wounds, engorgement... all of that lovely stuff. But it did get easier, and I surprised myself for getting to three months... then six... then twelve months and beyond. I then hoped to get to two years of breastfeeding but didn’t want to stress myself out in case it didn’t happen. Breastfeeding in the second and third year turned out to be easier than the first, if you don’t mind a bit of gymNURSEtics! As Rowan got older, we were able to better establish rules with him about when and how he breastfed, and that certain behaviours (such as rolling around whilst feeding... ouch) weren’t on. It also lent itself to wonderful moments of cuddles, contented sighs, before-bed conversations about our day and hearing what Rowan had to say about it all.

He would tell me about how my milk tasted (“warm and sweet” was his favourite, “delicious” was another common phrase used), and displeasure if I’d eaten something that affected the taste – asparagus, without fail! And the numerous occasions where I’d stroke Rowan’s forehead and brush his hair from his face while singing our “Close Your Eyes” lullaby, one I made up when he was a very small baby to the tune of a musical mobile he has. Rowan would inevitably succumb to the lure of the head rub, especially if he’d been too busy to nap that day.

Breastfeeding at 10 months old.

20 months old.

Our breastfeeding days have now come to an end, which is a bittersweet feeling. A week ago (on the day Rowan turned 2 years and 5 months) had his last feed, after weeks of discussion about the milk “going on holiday” when I went away for a weekend trip. In the days that followed the trip, I had to work hard to stay strong at times, and to not offer Rowan a feed before bedtime or when he snuggled me on the couch. It had become such an ingrained part of our lives together that changing the routine had been tough (and I suspect, tougher on me). Hormones crashed and I had a headache which lasted several days. Engorgement left me a little sore and I felt genuinely miserable about my decision to wean Rowan – even though I knew that it was time, given the behaviours he had been developing and his lackadaisical approach to breastfeeding. Perhaps towards the end I was prolonging the breastfeeding relationship as much for me as I was for him?

But five days into weaning, everything changed. The headache disappeared, breast tenderness subsided and I woke up in the morning feeling much less ‘full’ than before. As someone who had to work hard initially to build up a good milk supply, the swiftness of it depleting was a little frightening, to be honest. There was no going back now, just spending a lot of time with Rowan and assuring him that cuddles are still okay and that despite being a “big boy” now, he’ll still always be my baby.

We talk about the milk going away until there is another baby growing in my tummy, and Rowan talks about “a little girl baby” (always a girl, never a boy). Though yet unspoken, there is the promise of reliving this all over again after my body gets a bit of a break to re-energize, to recharge and renew. I’m ready, just not quite yet... ready to savour time with my rapidly growing toddler who talks a mile a minute, reasons and negotiates, and shows empathy towards others. This (the weaning journey) is another step forward together in our journey as mother and son.

The last picture I have of Rowan feeding (to sleep in this case).
He is 2 years and 4.5 months here.

1 comment:

  1. such a beautiful post. Congratulations to you for making it past the hard days and being able to continue for so long :)

    I'm very excited about nursing again, Abbey pretty much self-weaned at 12.5 months. I would have liked to continue but she was fine about it and she's still a very cuddly toddler so that reassured me that she was truly ready. I do wish I had a final photo like yours though...