Sometimes it is difficult for me to be open and honest about my breastfeeding experiences. Our culture often shuns extended breastfeeding, and I can feel like it’s easier to just make my decisions quietly and even secretly. Sometimes, I just don’t want to have a conversation (or debate!) about something that has been so beautiful and meaningful to me. Yet, I often make the mistake of not fully representing this dimension of my life. And, in this case, I just couldn’t let this sweet story slip by without sharing it.
Lilia Mercy has been a happy, eager nurser from the first moments of her life. My doula called her “determined” from her first suckle. Our breastfeeding relationship has been a source of security and peace for a very busy and adventurous little girl and a source of slowing down and being present for me. I looked forward to her sweet nursing-to-sleep every evening for years. It was her chance to be still and let go of the explorations of the day, and my chance to reflect on my own day and stare down at my sweet little gift from God.
Several months ago, I had the sense that I was about ready to stop breastfeeding and that Lilia might be ready to wean. I began telling her that when she turned 3, she would not have “mommy milk” any longer. She totally internalized this and talked to many random people about it. We often try to prepare her for bedtime with a babysitter or getting ready to go quickly after breakfast with little success. I was unsure if my little plan that worked so well with her big brother would work with her.
All too soon, it was the day before her third birthday. I reminded her that tomorrow she would be three, and she recalled that she would then be done with mommy milk. Then, she boldly declared, “But I’m STILL two today!” She enjoyed many sweet nursings on that final day, and I wondered if she would really be able to go “cold turkey.” I will never forget her last precious nursing when she asked her babysitter to please leave so that she could have some mommy milk. Her very last nursing was actually just a cursory sip before bed and rushing over to peak at brother’s bedtime story before scurrying off to bed. Ahhh…what a joy this experience has been, even to the last drop!
The next day, she would simply say “Oh yeah, I’m three,” when she would think about having mommy milk. She only asked once or twice in the coming weeks, and a simple “You’re three now!” was all that was needed to redirect her happily to some other activity…no tears, no heartache – just a sweet transition to a new phase of life.
And so, after five and a half years of breastfeeding (two kiddos back to back & some overlap in the middle), I am not a nursing momma anymore. And, it feels okay. In a way, I already miss it, but in another way, it’s okay. And, maybe that’s just how parenting is: even long stages go by in the blink of an eye, and it is sad but normal and precious and good and heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time.