Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Breastfeeding: The end of an era.
On May 1st, I breastfed my baby for the last time.
It was a surprisingly unceremonious occasion. By that point, Clara was only nursing once a day -- first thing in the morning. And it was mostly for my convenience, as it bought me some time to rest in bed before having to get up for the day.
Though we enjoyed it for a full 12 months, Clara and I have both outgrown breastfeeding. She is far too busy exploring and eating solid foods these days, and I was more than ready to stop.
When I realized it was time to drop that last morning feeding, I made the decision and stuck with it. Dill was home those first two days, so he got up with Clara and fed her breakfast as a diversion. Five days have passed since the last feeding and she hasn't cried for it once. She hasn't tried to lift my shirt or bite my shoulder. My instinct was correct -- Clara is just as "done" with breastfeeding as I am.
It's a bittersweet thing, moving into a new phase of life with your child, but also mourning the simplicity of the early days. I will miss the ease of pacifying my child by simply nursing her. It comes so naturally. It's a basic instinct on the part of both mother and child -- baby cries, mother knows exactly what to do.
But babies grow into children, who grow into teenagers, who grow into adults, who don't need their moms as much anymore. This is the natural progression of things and I need to accept that.
Some people may judge me for only breastfeeding for a year and for being somewhat nonchalant about stopping. Remember, everyone is different. All babies are different and all mothers are different. Clara simply wasn't all that attached to nursing and neither was I. It's true -- I haven't shed a single tear over the end of this era. That doesn't mean I'm heartless. I'm sure I will miss it someday and will look back on those times with fondness. But, I am also ready for the change.
I thought about writing a "How to Wean Your Baby at 12 Months" post, but I decided not to. Breastfeeding is such a personal thing. And just because it was easy for us doesn't mean it will be a cake walk for everyone else. In my experience, each mom knows best when and how to transition their baby from breast to cup. A one-size-fits-all approach to weaning doesn't exist, so I'm not about to try creating one for you.
However, having gone through this twice now, I can offer some tips that may make the transition a bit easier:
--Introduce a bottle or sippy cup long before you wean so your baby will be familiar with their new source of liquids once the process begins. It can be hard for a baby to learn to drink from a cup, so it's helpful to establish this skill before they must rely on it to quench their thirst.
--Eliminate the less ritualistic mid-day feedings first; then, move onto the harder ones (first morning and bedtime).
--Heed your baby's cues. If he or she doesn't express a desire to nurse, don't push it. It is common for babies to drop feedings once they start eating solids. A baby knows when to eat and will give cues if they are hungry.
I do NOT recommend quitting cold turkey. As with any major change, weaning should be a gradual process. Drastically dropping feedings can lead to clogged ducts and mastitis for you and emotional distress for everyone. I understand sometimes it has to happen this way, but try to avoid hurrying things if you can.
Also, unless your baby is demanding to be done, (like my Carson did), try to nurse at least a full year. Though babies receive most of their nutrition from solid foods by then, breast milk is still a reliable source of important nutrients.
And most importantly ... don't force anything. There's no rule that says you MUST stop breastfeeding your baby at a year. If you're both not up to it, keep going! Who cares what people think? Like I said before, every baby is different; every mom is different. Do what works best for you both.