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Although my little guy was nursing less frequently by his first birthday, we were still on a three-times-daily breastfeeding routine. He nursed when he woke up around 5 a.m. (or as I call it, the middle of the night), before or after his midday nap, and before bed. Although I was in no rush to wean and truly enjoyed breastfeeding, sometime around the 14-month mark, I looked down at my hulking toddler standing up, doing squats, while hanging off my nipple (this was after he screamed, "Boobie!" at the top of his lungs), and thought, "Maybe it's time to cut down."
It started out smoothly. The midday feeding was easy to drop. I distracted him with yogurt and snacks after his nap. We stuck with two times per day for the next few months, and that was okay by me. I was pretty depressed when he stopped wanting to breastfeed at night. But no matter how I tried, he refused to give up his morning boob. It was like my morning coffee: nonnegotiable.
Then, one morning, he slept a little later than usual, and we were running desperately late to get his three older sisters to school. I stuffed a cup of milk and some snacks in my son and rushed out the door. Amazingly, he accepted this peace offering and, just like that, we didn't breastfeed all day.
The next morning, my son woke up and didn't ask for boobie. It wasn't until another painful (for me, physically) day later that he (mercifully) latched on.
For about a week or so, he nursed only once every few days. I felt a mixture of accomplishment and wistfulness. Evidently, I celebrated too soon. Because just days later, my little guy came down with a tummy bug (as did the entire family). My queasy cutie wanted to breastfeed constantly. The first day of his illness, he nursed six times. The next day it was eight. Just like that, we were completely back to square one with weaning. Sigh.
It's been about a month or so since then, and we are still doing a delicate dance with breastfeeding. One week my son seems to have little interest and nurses only once or twice. The next week, he's ripping my shirt off and, every few hours, demanding, "Boobie!" Sometimes in public.
The back and forth has played on my emotions. If my son hasn't breastfed for a stretch of time, then decides he wants to, I can't help but give in – I miss the closeness and how delicious he smells as he's cuddled into me. His hair is a little sweaty, and his teeny heart is beating right against my skin. I figure each time could be the last time. And that kind of breaks my heart.
Except, it's never the last time. The pattern of progress, then backsliding, is super frustrating. As I write this, he's asked to breastfeed twice so far. It's 10 a.m. And it's not that I don't want to nurse him. I've been nursing for 17 months at this point. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to a part of me really wanting to move on.
No one tells you that you might breastfeed well past a year. Many of my friends say their little ones gave up the boob shortly after their first birthday, if they even made it that far. With my first three children, I didn’t even make it past our hospital discharge before I was reaching for a bottle.
I guess I could go all hard-core and deny my son any further sessions with his beloved boobie. But you try saying no for more than 10 minutes to a toddler who is literally biting your skin, feverishly begging to nurse, and crying like he just lost his best friend. I'm just not able to dole out that kind of tough love. Besides, the only real reason I'm looking to wean is that I figure we should. I worry he'll never lose interest, and while I don't begrudge anyone who wants to breastfeed an older child, offering my boob to a kid who wears braces on his teeth isn't for me.
I wonder why no one told me how physically and emotionally grueling and destroying weaning can be. I'm impressed my body can keep up with the backsliding. And here's another worry: Will I just stop producing at some point? Will my son be ready to give up nursing then?
I have so many questions, and only time will tell. All I know is that one day, when my son is grown and doesn't even remember breastfeeding, I'll probably look back and wish I could do this crazy weaning thing all over again.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.