Last night, after 2 years, 9 months and 3 days, I nursed Julia for the last time. I have so many emotions surrounding this important milestone but most of all I’m feeling lots of love… love for Julia, love from so many other moms who have supported me along the way (including my own and Ken’s), love from Ken, and love for our family. In the beginning, breastfeeding was not easy and I remember thinking, “If I can just get through this next week of breastfeeding, I’ll be happy.” Well one week turned into two, turned into a month, then a year, then two years and then Julia and I were both enjoying nursing so much that we just kept going.
Some kids wean on their own, naturally… around 18 months or 2 years they’ll just decide they don’t need breastmilk anymore and they’ll stop asking for it. The last nursing session comes and goes without really realizing what’s happening. Well Julia is almost 3 and as far as I could tell, there was no slowing down, no end in sight and I’ve been feeling like it was time to give her a little push towards weaning. We’ve been talking about trying to have another baby (sometime in the not-too-distant future) and I would like to have my body back for a little bit before I become pregnant again and start nursing another baby. Some mothers feel totally comfortable nursing through a subsequent pregnancy and even enjoy tandem nursing (nursing an older toddler while also nursing a newborn), and while I give so many props to those moms, I did not feel that was something I wanted to do.
Over the past couple of months we cut out the morning nursing session (except for a few exceptions here and there), then we cut out the naptime nursing session (again, except for a few exceptions here and there) and we just continued with the bedtime nursing session. Well for the past couple of weeks we warned Julia that there would be a day when she would have her last mommy milk. As much as I loved our nursing/cuddle sessions, it’s time for her to take another step towards independence. My mom has always told me that our job as parents is to help Julia become independent–to give her the tools and the decision-making capacity to make her own decisions about right and wrong, about safety, etc. and this is one small step towards becoming independent, towards becoming a big girl. So for the last week we talked about how on Sunday, she was going to have her last mommy milk and that after Sunday there would be no more mommy milk. I think she understood it for the most part because this morning when I asked her about bedtime, I asked what we’re going to do… I said, “we can cuddle and read stories and sing songs, but there’s no more what, Julia?” And she responded, “no more mommy milk.” We’ll see how she actually does with bedtime tonight. I’m sure that if she asks for mommy milk I’ll cry my eyes out but I’ll remind her that it’s okay for us to both be sad together but that we can always snuggle, there’s just no more mommy milk. It’s very bittersweet… I’m sad that she’s not my baby anymore, that she’s growing up, that she won’t fall asleep nursing in my arms ever again, that we won’t have any more nursing/naps together, but at the same time, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want her to grow up, I want her to learn, develop, become independent, and learn to do all the things big kids can do on their own. With time, we’ll develop new routines–for bedtime and for naptime–and with time she’ll learn to appreciate our cuddle time, even when she can’t nurse, and hopefully she’ll still want to take naps with me!
Last night as we sat down to nurse for the last time, I asked Ken to take a picture of us. I love this picture! I think it shows all the emotions I was feeling at once… joy, love, happiness and sadness… She was giggling, being silly as she often is before bedtime, and was playing little games with my hands. Ken and Julia did their bedtime routine… “Goodnight, I love you, I’ll see you in the morning. Sleep well, sleep tight. Feel daddy’s scratchy beard? Hug, kiss, squeeze! And now it’s time for Mommy Milk! and night night!” and then she nursed. She was so exhausted after a busy day at the Orioles game so she nursed on one side, asked for the other side and then fell asleep nursing. I stayed in our chair, holding my sleeping baby for a few extra minutes as tears rolled down my cheeks and then I put her down in her crib and said, “Goodnight, I love you and I’ll see you in the morning!”
And now we move on to the next stage and the next big milestones… potty training and transitioning to a toddler bed and then a big girl bed!