Weaning Woes

breastfeeding_2_edited

She looks up at me, her eyes red rimmed and tear filled. I watch as one single tear slides up and over her eyelid and then down her cheek. Once one comes, they’ll keep coming, until her t-shirt is wet and her upper lip shiny with despair, until she folds into my arms sobbing, drenching me along with her. It’s bed time and she wants to nurse.

My 17-month old daughter makes the milk sign yet again, her tiny hands opening and closing, opening and closing, as if she’s attempting to conjure milk from thin air. What once made me think of a barnyard, spotted cows lined up, silver pails full of white frothy cream, myself relegated to their ranks, an under appreciated and overworked factory farm animal, a part in the production line of life, now just makes me sad. The little palms wanting, the little eyes pleading, when I have nothing left to give, it makes me so very very sad.

“Everyone talks about how hard breastfeeding is,” my dear friend said via email the other day when we were swapping notes about stopping, “but no one opens up about how weaning is just as difficult.”

Once I overcame the blood curdling pain of the first weeks of nursing, once I overcame the fear that I wasn’t making enough, I planned to nurse my daughter for six months at first, and then one year, then “for as long as I can,” until finally, at around 15-months in, I settled on two years old, the age to which the World Health Organization recommends, the age when I hoped she’d better understand that it was time, or better yet, decide to stop on her own. I felt blessed to be able to breastfeed at all, but truth be told I didn’t think I loved it, or even liked it that much. Nursing pads. Nursing bras. Nursing covers. Nursing nonsense. But then, out of nowhere, when I truly least expected it, especially with a less than stellar fertility history, I found out I was pregnant.

In those first fragile weeks of this new pregnancy, I worried and I researched, but all together I still felt fine. My supply hadn’t changed. I was still as okay as one can be about getting woken up in the middle of the night by a breast hungry baby-toddler vacuum. But when the nausea/vomiting combo hit me like an avalanche and the night nursing was making me so tired during the day I could hardly keep my eyes open, let alone care for a walking, talking, running, climbing mini-person, I knew that weaning was necessary for my sanity and my health.

All the while, my friend, with whom I share a similar past with infertility, and whose toddler was nearing the golden age of 24-months, was told that to begin treatment to conceive a second child she’d also have to wean.

And that’s when, to my surprise, I realized that had I weaned at 12-months or 20, before she was ready or when she was, that I’d still probably feel like this – wistful and reluctant, mournful and a little bit heart-broken, me who didn’t “love” breastfeeding. It was then that something dawned on me: in many ways I actually needed breast-feeding just as much as she did. When I imagined stopping, being totally done, drying up for my daughter, to make room for my son, I started to cry.

I cried because so much was going to change. I cried for myself, always the one who could soothe her best, filling her belly with warmth, encircling her tiny body with love, just us swaying back and forth in the rocking chair, the sounds of the night mingling with the low rumble of “ocean” sounds we’d put on to help her sleep. I cried because I was her only mother, and she most likely my only baby girl, ever, transformed back into a newborn each time she latched on, her soft sweet face squished into my flesh, a reminder of where she came from, part of me, and now finally  asleep in my arms where it truly felt like she belonged.  I cried for the stages of her that had already slipped away, and for the ones I would soon be losing. She was already growing farther and farther away from baby-dom with each scaled slide, each step ascended like a “big girl,” each new word spoken quietly at first and then so loud and proud it was as if she’d known it all along. In many ways I realized that it felt like breastfeeding was all I had left, aside from baby pictures and saved baby clothes, of those first magical months as a mommy.

As we continue down the path of saying goodbye to nursing, with only one brief session each day, I try to remember that this is the point of it all, that babies don’t stay babies forever, that we love them, care for them, and feed them so that they go to preschool, learn math, have their first kiss, and so that finally, they grow up.

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52 comments

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  1. hopingonhope

    Yeah weaning is harder on the mom because we will remember while the baby wont. I stopped nursing at 13
    Months purely to start trying for baby #2 and frankly I was done with it. Good luck sweetie! And baby #2 is a boy?

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  2. cassiedash

    So beautifully written on how heart-wrenching it is to let go of those wonderful (and sometimes ugly) breastfeeding days and move forward with a different sort of relationship… It will get easier for both of you, I promise, but that doesn’t make it any easier now. Hugs to both you and your sweet girl.

    And a BOY! What wonderful news! I’ve been thinking of you and this pregnancy, hoping you are feeling better with each passing day and feeling some peace and so much joy too. I’m so happy for you!!

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  3. La Quemada

    I had always thought that you couldn’t nurse and be pregnant, but my sister actually nursed her daughter throughout her entire second pregnancy (her daughter was two and a half to almost three). She didn’t always love it but seemed to feel guilty to stop before my niece wanted to. Then when her son was born, her daughter wanted to nurse even MORE often–those were hard days.

    Anyway, random story only vaguely relevant to your post.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy, and on the bittersweet transition to a new and different stage of mothering your daughter.

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    • Steph Mignon

      Excatly what I am trying to prevent! Your sister is a rockstar, but nursing into the 3rd trimester and then nursing two at the same time just doesn’t seem like an action plan for us. Thank you for stopping by! I look forward to perusing your blog as well. 🙂

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      • La Quemada

        My sister is a rockstar mom and yet also a bit of a martyr who wears herself down. It’s important to recognize the fine line and leave enough for yourself that you can keep going. It sounds like you have a very healthy sense of where that line falls for you.

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  4. D. Wallace Peach

    Oh, what a beautiful post and so full of love. Love will see you all through. Love is what makes the rocky road of growing up bearable for our children. They’ll face many trials and disappointments along the way and knowing that they are deeply loved will sustain them. And congratulations on the second! More to love.

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    • Steph Mignon

      Awe, thank you so much! It’s hard to see her cry, but my instinct tells me this is the right choice for our family. And you’re right, parenting isn’t going to get any easier, but as long as I do it all with love, compassion, and respect it should be all right.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Bugsmetwo

    Beautiful. I ended up tandem nursing my youngest three, two at a time, until the oldest weaned himself and then just had the middle one until the baby was born…..if that makes sense…….weaning is definitely heartbreaking and I think more difficult than actually breastfeeding itself. I was very thankful for the toddler still nursing once the baby was born to help ease engorgement issues.

    Congratulations to you on your new lil one!

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  6. Daryl

    This is so beautiful and a little bit heartbreaking. We’re nowhere near weaning, but we’ll most likely have to before we can try for #2. Every time I think about it I’m so torn because she’s the child we have now, and I don’t want to hurt our breastfeeding relationship in favor of a child that may never be. It’s so hard, but it sounds like you’re doing the right thing for your family and your little boy! Congrats!

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    • Steph Mignon

      That’s exactly what my friend is going through… trying to wean to start treatment, but unsure of doing so in case treatment doesn’t work. Hang on to your beautiful breastfeeding moments with that your gorgeous girl of yours… tear… it really is sad to think about never nursing D again.

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  7. mexanmommy

    I love it. I also hate it. Your post. It’s wonderfully written, it’s beautiful, but it’s just SO real, it hits home. It’s the kind of thing I’ve been trying to not read. “Ignorance is bliss is” and all of that. You have me in tears, you’ve shed light on all my fears, on all the feelings I know will come but refuse to acknowledge. Now that I have read it I will store it in my memory to conjure up in the future when I’m feeling like no one could possibly understand how hard weaning can be.

    On a happier note, congrats on joining the group of brave mothers who’ve made it past weaning, also congratulations on your baby boy!

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  8. gardengirl29

    Well-said! I love the second-to-last paragraph. It perfectly describes how I, too, feel about weaning. When you start breastfeeding, it seems like you have so many months ahead of you of doing it, so when the time to end it feels like it arrived so fast, it makes you sad thinking about how fast the other stages will pass, too!

    I identify with the things you said about breastfeeding your only girl. People often say that you can breastfeed again with another child, which is true, and that’s great, but I’ll miss this special bond with THIS baby, my first child, my son.

    But you’re right that our mission is to help these little toddlers grow up. I’m sure we have many more wonderful stages to look forward to. I’m enjoying this stage but looking forward to someday having full-on conversations, watching movies together, etc. But still- yes, weaning is sad!

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      • Steph Mignon

        Wood officially knocked on! I can only imagine that makes weaning even HARDER, which seems impossible. BUT, there are so many amazing stages to look forward. That does make it a tad easier, but not much. Even with another one on the way, it’s so hard to wrap my brain around loving another child as much as I love Daphne, or even considering I might feel this same way about breastfeeding him. I’m sure I will though. Just as you’ll look back and say it was totally worth it to stop so you could start treatment. I know there are no guarantees, but I think the outlook is good for a second for you. Again, doesn’t make it any easier :/

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      • gardengirl29

        It does make it easier! Yes, knowing there is a good chance helps, and regardless, I have to remind myself that I initially never intended on BFing past a year, and here we are at almost two years. In all likelihood I’d be weaning at this point anyway! I’d probably be sad no matter when it happened. But, yes, there is so much else to look forward to in our growing relationships with our kids.

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  9. Vickie Ceccato

    This is a beautiful post Steph. You have nothing to worry about having it featured on Scary Mommy. Even though we’ve just connected, I firmly believe you’ll receive nothing but praise for this, rockstar mommy!😉

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  10. josamarie

    I love every word of this! Max also recently weaned (9/29 was our last time). I cried intermittently for weeks leading up to it as he nursed less and less, and sobbed uncontrollably when I realized it was because I’ve got nothing left to give him as my once abundant milk has changed to drops of colostrum. I cried on and off for several days after we were done, sad that this wonderful thing that is my new pregnancy stole something from him and from me that we will never get back. Then of course I felt horribly guilty for thinking any such thing. 2 weeks on, I still struggle with it almost daily, even though he seems fairly content with it now and only occasionally asks and not with any conviction (cars are cooler than momma milk these days anyways), and I miss my tiny baby boy so much even as my heart swells with pride watching the amazing little person he’s become!

    Thank you SO much for sharing, it has me in the good kind of cathartic tears that help heal sadness, and I certainly have needed that lately!

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    • Steph Mignon

      Hi friend! SO happy to hear from you. Can’t believe we are both expecting new bebes. You having a girl, and me having a boy. It’s beautiful isn’t it!? As for us, we’re also officially “done,” I’m just trying to look forward and snuggle my little bug as much as I can instead. It works “most” of the time!

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  11. Taara Donley

    Hi Steph, congratulations on your post on Scary Mommy! It was REALLY well received, if you go by Facebook “Likes” (which I do)! Congratulations!!! Good luck with your book publication!

    Like

    • Steph Mignon

      Hi Taara!!! Thanks so much! I saw that yours had many many likes too. Go us! I’m going to read over the comments now. But based on mine, which were mostly positive, people want to be jerks SO BAD. It’s like everyone is looking for an angle to find something to be pissed off about!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Taara Donley

        ??? I didn’t see any negative comments on yours… What on earth would they say that was negative about your post? Point it out – I’ll be happy to help you to deal with any trolls… 😉

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      • Taara Donley

        Oh, believe me, there were at least 3-4 negative comments that fairly oozed with venom on Facebook….. I set up my “chair” meme right after my article posted to signal that I was actively watching what was being posted. I think it scared off some people…. hee, hee, hee.

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      • Taara Donley

        Well, on mine, I kind of understand, because immigration is a hot button topic right now. I’m actually surprised that there weren’t more vicious comments, but I’ve been on Scary Mommy commenting for almost one year. They’ve seen me in attack mode…. (grinning). But why on earth would someone post anything negative about weaning???? If you see something, let me know. I’ll get your back.

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  12. N.

    Beautiful post.. I only breastfed for about 2 months, partly because my supply just wasn’t enough for her and partly because I developed a skin infection on my chest and didn’t want her to get it from snuggling against my bare skin 😦 I always felt horrible for not having been able to do it longer, like somehow I was a bad mother go now breastfeeding. The comments people tossed around didn’t help either.. It’s difficult either way I suppose: breastfeeding, not being able to breastfeed, weaning, and all the rest

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