This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
This year's World Breastfeeding Week theme is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers. In that spirit, I'm sharing my stories in the hopes of contributing to the dialogue about real-life breastfeeding experiences.I've been reluctant to talk about Mikko's weaning, even though it's now over a year in the past. Mostly it's because I'm a sentimental fool who tears up every time I even hear the word weaning, much less speak it — in relation to my own children!
I know it's a totally natural and beneficial step toward growing up. But, dang it, my nurslings and I have had such a special connection, and it's definitely sad to see that specific type of connection end, even if it's gently and honorably, and even though life and other connections continue on.
Here, as best I can remember it, is Mikko's story of going from extended nursling to weanling.
Mikko always loved nummies. I sort of figured he'd be an average kid who self-weaned around age two. Once I'd gotten over the hump of thinking babies nursing at all was odd (which happened well before I got pregnant), and babies nursing past one was really odd (somewhere around the time we started trying to conceive and with thanks to Mothering magazine for showing photographs of older nurslings), I eventually settled in my mind that two years old sounded pretty normal.
I didn't expect we'd go five years instead!
But Mikko doesn't like to do things by halves. He's exuberant about life that way; he knows what he wants, and he's going to go after it.
At one, at two, at three — there was no sign he was slowing down.
Then I got pregnant with his younger brother. I'd been nervous about this decision — was I ruining Mikko's life? His relationship with me? His right to a gentle self-weaning?
Well, turned out pregnancy was barely a bump in the road for a determined Mikko. My milk dried up at about 10 weeks, but he kept going, dry nursing through the entire pregnancy.
However: Here's where I had to run up against my ideal of self-weaning and consider it from a new perspective — that of a tired, achey, nipple-sore mama who was beginning to think mother-led weaning might not be such a bad call.
Pregnancy was hard for me when it came to nursing. My nipples were sore, just constantly. When he nursed, it felt like tiny knives. The night nursing, I knew, was going to have to end, because I just couldn't get comfortable anymore with him latched on and dry nursing on my poor nips. So Sam and I together took steps to limit and then end his nighttime nursing. I didn't feel awesome about night weaning, but the results were worth it, and Mikko didn't seem all that put out once it was over and done.
I was still interested in trying tandem nursing, so I was willing to let Mikko continue on until the baby arrived, but I did limit the frequency and duration of the nursing sessions, a lot, because of the soreness. Again, there were parts of me that were super-duper-earth-mother that felt this was "wrong," because I was the one directing it, but the rational parts of me overrode earth mother and told her I needed and deserved a break and that Mikko could handle it. (Sometimes we have to duke it out within ourselves, yes?) I kept wondering if my restrictions would force a weaning, but they never did.
So, Alrik arrived. Woot woot! And the milk flowed back in! Sweet! Mikko was ecstatic. I was so freaking relieved my nipples no longer hurt — hooray! Until … nursing aversion set in. Oh, my. I had not been prepared for that.
Not during my whole pregnancy, not during my whole four years so far of nursing Mikko, had I ever experienced this nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling. It was awful. My skin crawled. My sphincters clenched. My whole body wanted to writhe and move out from under him — or toss him off me. To my alarm, a couple times I pretty much did just that. Don't worry — I never hurt him — but I definitely ended some nursing sessions abruptly.
I tried relaxation. I tried hypnosis techniques from my Hypnobabies. I tried Amy's magnificent aversion strategies. Sometimes something worked, and sometimes I had hope that my aversion was diminishing or disappearing. But then it would be back.
I didn't like the mother I was becoming with regard to nursing Mikko. I didn't like dreading his requests, or feeling I was constantly denying them. I didn't like worrying about the associations I was now having with my precious son. The aversion was making me feel psychologically resistant to nursing him, making me obsess that it was abnormal for him still to be on the breast, even though I knew or knew of many other similarly aged nurslings. I started thinking more intentionally about: weaning.
I had wanted him to self-wean. But I was finally able to admit that, as his fifth birthday loomed, self-weaning might not be in the cards for Mikko anytime soon, but it was in both of our best interests, to preserve the other positive aspects of our relationship and be able to build a new connection not centered on breastfeeding. I also felt good that I'd worked hard toward calming my nursing aversion so that the weaning could be separate from that — influenced by it, certainly, but made gradual and gentle and not just as a knee-jerk reaction to those responses.
I followed the same tactics I'd used during pregnancy: I limited, more and more. I never offered, and I often now put him off till later or straight out refused if he asked. We'd long been nursing only at home, but I now began avoiding trigger locations. We were down to one night and one morning session. I started cutting out sessions by having his dad put him to bed or wake him up. Mikko started asking less and less. I even went on a two-night trip with just Alrik, trusting that this would break the bonds even further. Sam and I began talking with him about how everyone stops having nummies eventually – that we did, for instance, and that he would, too. I would suggest five years old as a good stopping point, and he'd counter with seven, but I suspected it would be soon.
A couple months after his fifth birthday, I knew it had been awhile since we last had had nummies.
|I believe this is our last breastfeeding photo, one I took|
shortly after his fifth birthday with my phone.
For awhile, too, I had to keep him from getting handsy with me. Again, I know some mamas feel comfortable having their weanlings continue to hold or caress their breasts for a time. Due to my aversion, I really needed all touching to just stop. So I did have to defend my chest against him for awhile, but now he knows my boundaries.
And that's that. My Mikko, my firstborn, my extended nursling, is weaned. Before college, as promised. I love that I had several positive years with him before the pain and aversion set in, and I'm glad we managed a weaning together that — while not the ideal for either of us — still met our needs sufficiently. We now do a lot of hugging and cuddling (he's still very physical in his needs for affection), and our relationship has continued on in a positive and connected fashion. I'm glad he has his memories of enjoying nummies, and I'm glad we can enjoy each other in these new ways now as he grows.
I wanted to preserve our relationship with a keepsake of some kind, such as a breastmilk necklace, maybe one pendant for each child with the milk each literally drank. I couldn't arrange a review in time before the weaning happened, so I've let that somewhat arcane desire go. I think I'll wait now till all my breastfeeding is behind me (or about to be, more like) and then do one combined pendant to represent this special and important time in our lives.
For now, I will just present you with a slideshow of nursing Mikko from newborn through weaning, these photos our joint mementos:
Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today's participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)
- An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
- It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
- Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
- Mikko's weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
- My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - Celebrating Each Mother's Journey — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
- Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters breastfed for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband's deployment to Iraq, and Baby J's nursing strike.
- So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
- Milk Siblings: One Mama's Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
- Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
- When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She's still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she'd always hoped.
- Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams's first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son's survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk - then she started giving it away.
- The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona's Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
- Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship.
- Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson's Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam's milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom's life too!
- Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
- Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen's collaboration of a few dear mama's reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
- A Pumping Mom's Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.