I miss breastfeeding

When I look at my tired old breasts now I see vestiges of what they once were – what they could be. Light and empty, they hang there useless against my chest. I miss breastfeeding. When I see both new babies and older toddlers at their parent’s breast for nourishment and comfort, I feel a pang of guilt in my stomach. My almost-2-year-old still asks for milk at bedtime every now and then, even though It’s been over a month since we weaned. She asks with a sadness in her voice, because she knows I have no milk left to give. Instead, I let her rest her hand on my chest and I listen as her mouth starts making that nursing sound into the darkness. She would still derive so much comfort and connection from breastfeeding.

There have been very few moments since weaning that have made me feel thankful for being done with breastfeeding. Ocassionally I’m happy to have a bedtime to myself, but mostly I just miss laying with her anyway, and my poor wife still struggles with being our daughter’s second choice. I listen through the monitor as she drifts off to sleep next to my wife, muttering “mommy on other side the door? Mommy missing?”

I thought I’d be thankful for the freedom of having my body back, but all that freedom afforded me was the ability to have more than one drink before bedtime, and it turns out that two drinks makes me feel rather nauseous now. I’d much rather be able to feed and comfort my child with my body than to have my body all to myself for the purpose of having more booze.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say with this post – I’m just writing down my feelings. I don’t regret weaning, per say, but I do now question my motives for weaning when we did. From the moment breastfeeding started to become second nature to us, I assumed we’d continue on until she weaned herself. I assumed that would be well after the age of 2. But I wanted to help my wife feel like less of a “second” parent. We felt that ending the breastfeeding relationship that bonded us together so powerfully would create more of a level playing field between parents. But the truth is, I’m still in the role of primary caregiver. I spend way more time with our daughter, and that makes me more in-tune with her needs, and that makes me the natural first choice to come to when she needs something.

I also question myself now for being motivated by social pressure. I felt it as soon as she turned one. People were often surprised to hear that our daughter still nursed to sleep (or nursed to sleep at all, since that’s frowned upon by more conservative, by-the-book parents). When I expressed some mixed feelings about weaning, a family member told me that she was too old for that anyway. I heard a lot of comments about independence, and how breastfeeding a toddler was effectively keeping her dependent on me, like I just couldn’t let my baby go even though she wasn’t a baby anymore.

I know there’s no turning back, and I’m ok with that. I’ll always let her rest her hand on me, where she once got all of her nourishment, comfort, and that rush of love hormones. I’ll always smile when I hear that tongue clicking noise in the night, as her muscle memory lives on. And when she looks at my chest now with love in her expression and asks to plant a kiss on a part of me that was always there for her, my heart will always melt into a puddle on the floor. Despite society’s perverse warning that breastfeeding toddlers and older children will leave them with inappropriate memories of nursing at their mother’s breast, I know that my daughter has happy memories of our breastfeeding relationship, and I hope she’ll always feel that special, nourishing, connection to me.

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I am not a breastfeeding parent.

We had planned for Sunday night to be our last time breastfeeding, but I got cheated out of that one last time, and my sick and vomiting child had to get through the night with no milk earlier than we’d planned. And now there’s no turning back. Let me explain…

Saturday night was my wife’s night to do bedtime. We were at the cottage. Avery seemed to understand what we’d been telling her about the milk supply soon coming to an end. She seemed to be starting to accept the fact that her Mo would be putting her to bed more and more. Usually, when my wife puts her to bed, she cries and calls for mommy for about 5 minutes before giving up and happily reading books and cuddling with her Mo until she falls asleep. The easiest way to get her to settle is for me to say a super quick goodnight and leave. I can’t even hug her goodnight or she’ll cling to me like super glue and it’ll make my departure much harder.

But Saturday night, she sat on her bed next to her Mo and turned red in the face as she held in her tears, and she extended her puckered lips toward me for a goodnight kiss. I got to kiss her goodnight and leave the room and she didn’t cry, for the first time.

While my wife did bedtime, I was watching the sunset over the water and drinking Prosecco (because cottage and no breastfeeding duties). I’d had 3 drinks. My wife rejoined me after Avery had fallen asleep. All was well with the world.

And then we heard a cry. It’s now unusual for Avery to wake up again in the evening, and we knew it was a cry of “something’s wrong.” My wife investigated. Minutes later, I was called to the scene to change her vomit-covered sheets. Avery had a stomach bug (thankfully a mild one). She vomited three times. I quickly changed her sheets while my wife changed Avery’s pajamas and washed the vomit out of her hair and off her face with a damp cloth. Avery reached for me. Because of the situation, my wife and I agreed that I could step in. I hugged her. I sat with her until we knew the vomiting had stopped. I laid down with her. She asked for milk, but I couldn’t give it to her because I’d had three generous glasses of alcohol. I simply said “I’m sorry, I know you want milk because you’re not feeling well, but there’s no more milk.” (She did have water and almond milk right beside her). She didn’t even whimper a protest. She simply wrapped her arm around my neck and snuggled.

She lay there with her eyes open for about 15 minutes, and eventually fell sound asleep, for the first time (with me) not on the boob.

So we decided to take that win and not turn back. If she can fall asleep next to me without freaking out for milk when she has a stomach bug and has just vomited all over herself, she can fall asleep this way every other time.

Theoretically.

For now, I miss her intensely at bedtime. I ran an errand at bedtime last night just to get out of the house, and I cried in the car.

And although bedtimes have been going well so far, our first nap (not in a car) did not go well. That’s on me because my wife is at work over nap time. I’ll wait out the week before writing about the nap situation.

Reflections on Night Weaning (at it again…)

*Photo from Pixabay.com

Night weaning is hard, even when it’s easy. Avery’s only nursing twice a day now, to sleep at nap and bedtime. It’s a big change from nursing all night long, snuggled beside me. We’re doing this to give her a gentle nudge toward sleep independence, but it’s just as much about me breaking my dependency on nursing away her every tear, every cough, every nightly stir. That has been such a wondrous gift, and although I’m theoretically ready to make the separation, my heart never will be.

I miss her as I lay in my bed and listen to her snore through the monitor. I feel jilted that I can’t lay with her all night anymore (part of our night weaning plan). I feel anxious waiting for her next wake up, wondering how difficult it’ll be to get her back to sleep, how many tears she’ll shed, how long the protest will last.

We have officially been one week without night nursing. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before claiming that the transition period is over, but so far Avery’s doing a really good job learning to get back to sleep without nursing. Last time what broke us was her 3-5am insomnia, and her being sick. Both of those things are happening again, but we’re powering through this time. With every month older she gets, she can also understand better what’s expected of her at night, and that makes me feel better about it.

With the huge decrease in nursing comes a change in hormones. I’m getting some signs that I might be ovulating for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Yes, you read that right – I haven’t had my period since we conceived Avery. It has been a wonderful, crampless, dry, and clean part of my life. I’m not eager for it to return.

One final reflection on night weaning: choosing to night wean was a decision I made for my marriage over my child. That alone has a lot of complex emotions associated with it. And while my wife is purely excited, I have to keep reminding myself that my marriage deserves to get priority over the child this once. It will all trickle down to benefit Avery in the long run. If my wife and I are a satisfied, happily married team, Avery will have a good relationship role model to look up to in her parents.