It was never really a conscious choice—to become an extended breastfeeder. I’m someone who buys Little Debbie and doesn’t shop in the organic section. So for me to become the mom who did something like nurse past 12 months was an unlikely outcome. Yet there I was this summer in emotional shambles. Staring my fourth son in the eyes as I thought I was weaning and nursing him for the last time. He was approaching his second birthday and I knew it was time—by society’s standards for sure. And definitely in my mind too. But my stomach was aching as I wrestled with the thought. “Am I really strong enough for weaning, to make this the last time?” Clearly my heart wasn’t as settled as my mind.
It just felt so definite. So gloomy. So final. To close a BIG chapter of my life just because he was getting old. Who considers a two-year-old “old” anyway? Definitely not me. And I had only weaned my other sons when I knew I was pregnant. And I most definitely was not pregnant this time. So choosing to wean because I just wanted to felt foreign. And actually kind of selfish. In some twisted way.
But that afternoon, I rocked him to sleep without letting him nurse. He cried the whole time asking if he could. I cried the whole time telling him no. Then once he fell asleep, I sent a super dramatic text (that I felt from the core of my being) to my friends that read . . .
“10 years…2 months…5 days….THE END OF AN ERA . . . For this amount of time, I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding back to back. And it ends today.” Insert Cry face. Cry face. Cry face.
To which all my friends immediately texted back. As did my hubby. They were worried. As they should’ve been. I could not stop crying. I just didn’t feel ready.
So that next morning, I nursed him again.
Like a child finding their lost blanket, my heart felt happy again. It didn’t make sense. But my heart wasn’t ready. So I decided to wait a bit longer. He’s my last baby, I reminded myself. So why not keep going?
So he continued nursing until after he turned two. Almost a month after. And I learned that from my first attempt to wean, I would need to wean without emotionally focusing on it too much. So I took a few pictures of him nursing before I thought I was weaning so I wouldn’t be too sad when the day finally came. And wow, I’m glad I did.
Because I weaned him on a whim.
And this time with no mental focus on how much of an END it really was. I returned from an overnight trip to Schlitterbahn with my oldest two sons. And decided to let that be it. There was no “this is the last time” nursing session. It was more of a – this time we just aren’t going to do it again. We’re weaning. And for some reason, it worked.
I strangely missed him the weeks after because just holding him didn’t feel close enough. But slowly we were able to snuggle again without him wanting to nurse and my heart accepted that ending breastfeeding wasn’t losing him, it was just saying, my baby isn’t a baby anymore. And that’s okay.
Or mostly okay, I should say.
I wanted to write about it then. But I couldn’t. It was too BIG of a thing for me. I wanted to talk about it to my friends, but I didn’t think it seemed appropriate because who else other than a mom who has breastfed all of her sons insanely long could understand my pain? So I kept it to myself.
But for me, breastfeeding was a sweet connection with my sons. A time to sit, connect, and be close. Even if just for a brief moment. Can I say it was a sacrifice? At times, yes. But to me, the reason I did it was that it felt easy and natural.
It felt natural to have them curled up close to me and connected. If it had been super hard, maybe I would not have done it so long. My first son went until 24 months, my second until 21 months, my third until 21 months and my fourth until 25 months. And I am proud.
I deserve no glory for breastfeeding for so long. Nor judgment. I just accept that it was the best and sweetest thing for my babies and their mama.
No, I won’t bring it up on their wedding day. But in my heart, I will always hold dear that for a short time in their lives, God gave me that time with them. Nowadays my oldest wants little to do with us and much to do with his friends and I can’t help but smile and think that when he was little, he would nurse and nurse and nurse and then nurse some more. Listen, sweet mamas. Babies don’t keep.
So keep doing what feels right to you. And snuggle those babies.