There are milestones to be met that mark both the start of a new thing and the ending of another. Some of these milestones are more or less easy to identify: At 6 months old you’re given the green light to start trying solid foods and around the year-old mark, you can make the switch from formula to whole milk.
Other milestone achievements aren’t so easy to pin down. Rolling, walking, talking. Every baby and every situation are so wildly different. Breastfeeding has been one of those blurred lines, clouded with uncertainty kind of milestones for me. I know that nursing a 3-year-old definitely isn’t the route for us, but I’m not so sure when to stop. When do I wean him off? Or will he be the one to wean me from him?
I know there is no “official end date” goal to aim for. This is an area left up to the mom, her supply and largely, her child’s need. It’s a relief and also anxiety-inducing. He is the first baby of 3 that I breastfed…and he is my last baby. I’m not ready for this. It went by way too fast. I savored every single moment. Yet I still feel like I have missed out on so much.
We fought so hard for this. All the painful feedings, latch issues, tears from both of us desperate and exhausted, engorgement from oversupply, forceful letdown, feeling like a failure. We fought through all of that to reach this point. The joy and the comfort and familiarity of each other. The way his tiny little body nestles perfectly into mine. Watching his blue eyes, heavy with sleep, stare into mine as they finally close for a nap. Drooly fingers reaching for my face and pulling at my hair while a chunky leg kicks lazily on my thigh.
From the outside looking in, it’s madness to want to keep nursing at 2 years old. “Just give him milk.” “If he can ask for it, it’s time to stop.” “Won’t it be nice not to have the hassle anymore?” I don’t know if it’s just because this is such an intimate, sensitive part of my motherhood or I’m just emotional, but the comments feel judgmental, harsh and unkind. Quite frankly they’re just heaping on a thick layer of mom guilt. Something I assure you; I have plenty of on my own. Do they know how big of a blessing it has been to provide nutrition for my son? Do they know that most women struggle with breastfeeding? Or that most don’t get to choose to stop, their bodies just can’t? And why is it ok to comment on what other Mama’s have chosen to do with their children?
There is such a stigma about breastfeeding that I honestly didn’t fully understand until it was cast mercilessly upon me. How can something so beautiful, holy and natural be so demonized and judged and sexualized in our society? I will never understand why feeding my baby garnered so many dirty looks and judgmental comments. All I know is that I will forever encourage and uplift other Mamas I encounter who are breastfeeding in public. A smile and kind word goes such a long way.
I am typing all of this on the note’s app on my phone, nursing my little one at 3am. It’s pitch black around us except for the glow of my phone light on his little face. The little face I have spent 2 whole years memorizing, kissing, and praying over. I have loved every second of this. Even the hardest nights and all of the struggles I would do over and over again. All for him.
I sense our journey coming to an end and I’m making peace with that reality. My baby is now a toddler. He is brave and smart and independent. He is ready for his next adventure, and I will encourage every tiny step.
I don’t know how much longer we have, how long he will seek comfort this way.
I know the time to release this breastfeeding journey is coming…
I just never expected that I may be the one reluctant to let go.