When I was pregnant, I imagined Sprout nursing until she was a year old. As her first birthday approached, it seemed pretty evident that she wasn't going to be stopping any time soon. Sometime shortly after that, I recall saying to Jen that I was fairly certain she'd self-wean by age two. Her second birthday came and went more or less as her first did: with no end to her nursing days in sight. I've learned from my past experience, so with her third birthday around the corner, I'm making no assumptions about when she will wean.
I always feel a bit anxious when posting even a sentence or two stating that I am still nursing. Will readers think I'm crazy for breastfeeding for so long? Will those who haven't breastfeed their babies feel judged? Maybe it's best to begin with this post by stating that I am firm believer that people need to do what feels right for them and their families and their babies when it comes to nursing. I understand that some people can't or just don't want to nurse their children or decide to wean after a certain point. It's a personal decision. Still, I feel judged. I know there are many people who think it's (beyond) time I stopped nursing Sprout. I always feel like I need to justify our nursing relationship --it's only around sleeping times. It's not in public. Etc. Etc.
All that to say, I've had this post floating around in my head for a while. It's just been hard to actually write and publish it.
I am fortunate in that nursing was never a big challenge physically for me. Sprout latched well. I produced enough milk. One of the most difficult things in those early days, and still a hard part of it now, is the forced stop of all other activity. I've never been one to read on my phone or really do anything at all while nursing except for, well, nurse. Sitting still is not one of my strong suits. I have had to make a concerted effort to be in the moment. To watch Sprout's face and feet and hands while she nurses. To do my best to commit those moments to memory. To take a minute to rest.
I never imagined myself nursing a child for this long. And for me, in this moment, it does feel like it's been a long time. I am both grateful for my ability to do so and exhausted by it. If we hadn't night weaned her after her second birthday, I may be losing my mind by this point. Fortunately, one of the biggest differences between nursing an infant and nursing a toddler is that the toddler can understand when you say you've had enough. They might not like it, but they understand. In addition to night weaning, setting limits to where and when I nurse has gone a long way towards making me feel comfortable with nursing a toddler.
Without saying when I think she will wean, I do feel like the end to our nursing days is drawing closer. I know I'm no longer producing a lot of milk. Sprout's nursing sessions have become increasingly shorter. It's obvious that the main goal of the nursing is now comfort. As she snuggles in I can often feel her body relax. Her breath slow. Her eyes close. For a toddler that doesn't like missing the action, I like that nursing gives her the ability to slow down and disengage when she needs that break. And the weight of her sleeping body in my arms. I will miss that.
I was concerned that when Jen and I went away this summer that Sprout would be done nursing upon our return. When we got back and she asked practically first thing to nurse, I breathed a sigh of relief. A week long vacation that she had no say in was not how I wanted things to end. But, after that "reunion" nursing session I also knew that I would be (mostly) okay with things coming to an end soon. I am ready to have my body back to myself. To not have to feel guilty about leaving her around naps or bed time. To have a back that doesn't ache from positioning awkwardly in a chair. I've questioned Sprout on whether she is ready to stop. (No.) Or if she will be soon... perhaps when she is three? (Yes. But then no.) If not then, when? (Never. Stopping nursing? Why? What a ridiculous thought!)
Sprout's attachment to me is very strong. Sometimes as a person who needs their alone time it can be overwhelming. I joke about Sprout being a "Mama's girl", but the truth of it is that she is. I feel like a lot of that has to do with our nursing relationship. And while I am glad that she feels close to me, I also feel guilty that she doesn't have that same relationship with Jen and that she will reject Jen in favour of me. The Bean didn't do this. I think I would have been heartbroken if he did. He also weaned before a year old. While Jen seems to take things in stride and keep the perspective of this as being a short term thing, sometimes I wonder if breastfeeding Sprout for this long has been the fair thing to do in terms of Jen's relationship with her.
Though there are reasons I am ready to stop, I know I will miss nursing Sprout. Maybe that's why I'm not forcing things at this point. I like to think I'll be able to let weaning happen on it's own. Almost certainly before she is four... right?