What! Why did you stop breastfeeding?

Moms are some of the loudest and most aggressive members of Camp My Opinion Is Best. Folks who haven’t had kids are often louder. While I was nursing my baby, I heard it all. When I mentioned I might wean at six months, I had mothers tell me I would be taking something away from my child (yes, in fact, my boobs). Later, I was told I should have weaned earlier because extended nursing would make her clingy (only til she’s a teenager!). Some said I was selfish for considering not weaning naturally (removing the boob clearly equates hiring a full-time nanny and checking out of my child’s life). Others said my kid wouldn’t thrive if breastfeeding didn’t end naturally (healthy children TOTALLY dive bomb toward malnutrition if supplemental nursing is ended). Before my child was born, I had plans to nurse for six months because that’s about when she would get teeth and no way in hell was I going to let her suck on my boob when she could chew food. Everyone has opinions on how to live your life, including younger you. I am here to say, “Fuck. That. Noise.”

After I gave birth all the parenting wisdom and plans I had preached were humbly destroyed by reality and experience. As six months barreled down the line I came close to a full breakdown over not wanting to wean my baby. I was so stressed over the change in my perspective that my supply rapidly decreased. I read everything I could about increasing supply. I ate fenugreek, nearly waterboarded myself with fluids, and may have tried living off oatmeal cookies, but my milk continued to decrease. In desperation, I called my best girlfriend’s mother who had nursed three babies and has been a NICU nurse for years.

With a firm, gentleness that comes only from years of talking people through stressful situations, she said, “You’ve given your child six months of breastfeeding. You’ve shared all the antibodies and nutrition and so much bonding. No one does it right or wrong. This is your journey. You have done well. Just hold your child close and be there for her. She will eat when she’s hungry. Your milk or something else. Your love is what she needs.” I cried. Within days, my milk was back.

++

Two years later, my Lil’bit was fast approaching 2 1/2 and we were still nursing a few times a day. At the end of a long day, bone tired from work, and another less than stellar night of sleep, I’d walk into daycare and she’d grin so big as to melt my heart. Then, her chubby little fist would raise defiantly into the air and the “milk” symbol would be wielded and she would giggle, “nana” (our word for milk). I had become her cow, my milk was free, and she wanted it all. Soon, I resented daycare pickup and made excuses to work late so her dad would have to deal with our milk tyrant. Of course, when I got home she’d squeal and clap, so happy to see me. And the raise that little demanding fat fist, and yawp “NANA!”

Finally, I was over breastfeeding. I didn’t care if I was selfish, I didn’t want to share my boobs with her anymore. I wanted to go back to being a woman who loved her child without  leaking, tender breasts adding to my daily exhaustion. I picked a date, New Year’s Day seemed poetic, and presented my boob warden with a shopping metaphor. I told her, “Oh wow. It seems “nana” is almost empty, like the orange juice carton. We have three days left.” I made the same declaration with two days. Then, on the final blessed day, January 1st, 2010, after she had black-eyed peas, but before our final nurse, I announced, “Well, this will be all the milk that’s left!”

She nursed, then pulled away and said “Go to store. Get more.”

I told her there are no refills. She looked up at me, sighed, “Read book.”

We read. We snuggled close. It was done.

Two weeks later, she timidly asked if she could nurse. I was so over it when we ended, that I didn’t think I would miss nursing her at all. But within days I missed the primal connection so deeply. I decided we could try a nurse. We cuddled up on the couch. She put her mouth to me, but had lost all instinct of what to do. Her big eyes sought mine. Her mouth rested on my breast. She waited a few moments, then declared, “All gone.” She climbed off my lap and toddled away to harass the cat.

The era was complete.

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