The Dark Hole of Weaning
Weaning is a subject that doesn't get talked about nearly enough in my opinion. You can read all day about the struggle of breastfeeding and the outrage of public nursing, but never do you really read about what weaning is like. Today, I'm going to try my hardest to do justice for such an emotional and real topic.
While pregnant I knew I wanted my daughter on my milk for a year, but having a somewhat closed mind I assumed I wouldn't nurse past six months. It wasn't that I judged anyone who nursed toddlers; it's just that I was one who kinda thought it would be odd to nurse such an older infant and especially a toddler.
Don't those suckers have teeth and all?
From practically the first moment of nursing my sweet baby, I knew there was no longer a specific goal for "nursing." As things got easier for us during those first six weeks postpartum, I realized that nursing was pretty much one of God's greatest gifts to us mothers and I knew that a six month time frame was silly. Heck by a year old I knew that my goal of weaning at a year wasn't going to happen and by a year old, my child still nursed numerous times a day.
It was so much easier than bottles!
They say that some women can experience postpartum depression during weaning, and while I wouldn't say that I was close to that, I will say that I can totally understand why. Weaning is possibly one of hardest things that a mother has to do; especially when A) the nursing relationship is strong and still enjoyable B) the baby/toddler shows no signs of wanting to wean.
I've probably never felt quite as alone as I did while working on weaning. I "attempted" to slowly wean for roughly five months and my attempt was very weak since I wasn't strong enough for it. It's brutally hard to take away the most comforting thing that a child has ever known; the first and most comforting thing that they ever felt. I was taking away something from my child that was a gift to us a both, a blessing if you will, and I felt horrible about it.
Our weaning journey began because of my desire to get pregnant again and to protect the new baby if and when I did become pregnant. I felt tremendous guilt for that - guilt for taking away my daughter's comfort for a baby that didn't even exist yet. However, our weaning journey didn't even end until I did have a new baby growing inside of me...so the guilt was then lessened I suppose as I looked at weaning as a way to prevent anything happening during the new pregnancy.
Weaning can be such a dark, gloomy time for a mother. It's something that no one will understand if they haven't been in those shoes. As I would wake up to nurse my growing toddler still 2-3 times a night, I'd sit there in tears for numerous reasons. Tears for putting pressure on us to wean; tears from exhaustion; tears for thinking that our weaning was getting nowhere and tears for wanting it to end (but not really wanting it to end). Tears from guilt.
No one can understand the battle that a weaning mother faces, as all battles are different. Some mothers are anxious and ready to wean and some babies are easy to wean. I was sitting there not anywhere ready to wean (just ready to conceive) and with a baby nowhere near ready to wean herself. I was at a loss. We'd take one step forward and then two steps back again. I'd work on weaning one week and then say screw it the next. The emotional toll was too much and the pressure was getting to me. Everyone was asking how it was going and asking if my toddler was weaned yet and all I really wanted to do was just keep on nursing and say "@#%! weaning."
Then the day came where that positive pregnancy test came back and I knew it was time. A quick idea of placing cabbage leaves on my breasts to dry myself up (this really works) freaked my toddler out so much that she didn't want to nurse again. We did however nurse for closure several times that night and then the next day she saw those green leaves and decided that they were "gone" and that she was a big girl. Surprisingly there were minimal tears on her part and she moved on like I couldn't believe. I'm not recommending this way to anyone, but I can say that I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.
Do I regret weaning? Had I not gotten pregnant or was not trying to get pregnant, we'd still be nursing. However I am now approaching my second trimester and as expected, my first trimester has included more vomiting then I'd like to admit and more days of feeling like crap, so no I don't regret it. Breastfeeding + vomiting don't sound like a great mix to me. And in the event of something happening to my pregnancy, I likely would have blamed breastfeeding on it.
However, I've had numerous days where I just want to cuddle my daughter close and nurse her. That bond we shared can never be replaced, nor can it happen again in that way. The emotional toll that you face once weaning is complete, is just about as crappy as the emotional toll of weaning in itself. And again, very few understand that.
For almost seventeen months I sat there in a rocking chair nursing my sweet girl numerous times a day and a couple of times a night (she was yet to sleep all night at the time). I miss those moments like crazy, and surprisingly, I miss the middle of the night cuddles in the dark the most. Some thought I was still crazy for doing that, but now looking back, I don't regret it one bit.
Weaning can most definitely be a lonely, emotional time. While some choose to wean for particular reasons, it's not something I'd just recommend if you're not ready. There's a good chance with this next baby that I'll breastfeed even longer to savor those moments. Let weaning happen on your time when you're ready; and never wean just because of pressure from others. They'll never understand the dark hole of weaning.
And you'll never get those moments back.
I was blessed with a long breastfeeding journey and a tremendous amount of cuddles, kisses, and sweet smiles during it all. I'll never forget that and it's something I am tremendously proud of. It's not about breast milk over formula; it's just about realizing that breastfeeding is hard. And we made it and I am proud of that.
I look forward to the day that I can share our journey with my daughter and I hope that she's just as proud of us as I am. We were a team and while we'll never get that back, we'll always be a team. We'll always have a special and sacred bond and I'll always want to sneak into her room and get those middle of the night cuddles.
What was your weaning journey like?
Comment below and share it with us
And always be proud of ANY amount of time breastfeeding!