Friday, August 8, 2014

To Wean or Not to Wean, episode 2

The first pic of Mr. Man I've ever posted to this blog and he's got a boob in his mouth.

It's National Breastfeeding Week, so let's talk about ma bewbs.

A while back, I talked about my ambivalence? confusion? frustration? with weaning, or the potential for weaning, or the general mommy guilt for even thinking about weaning*...obviously it still isn't very clear to me.

*For the record, I wasn't thinking about weaning him before a year, just realizing that a year was coming up fast. The fact that I even had to write that shows how deep the mommy guilt goes. Ack, don't judge me!

Mr. Man was 10 1/2 months old then.

I just stared at that sentence for a full minute. It seems like I was just writing that post. Now my baby is not a baby. He's a toddling 13 1/2 month old. And he's still suckin' on the boob.

When I wrote my original post I was all, "he doesn't even ask to nurse." BAM. He started asking. There for a while, he was asking A LOT. Then we stopped nursing in the middle of the night **throws confetti into the air** and started offering him a sippy cup more often.

By the way, when he asks to nurse, he gets a very surly expression on his face, plucks at my shirt, and says "drink." I like to imagine it's the toddler version of walking up to the bar in a saloon and demanding whisky in a dirty glass.

For the last 2 months, Mr. Man usually only nurses 3 times a day. First thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, and before bed. Unless he's sick (we experienced our first bout of flu a few weeks ago, a.k.a. The Exorcist Experience). Or, like yesterday, he's teething up a storm and really needs his mommy. Or her boobs. Whatever. I've decided to equate the two. He loves me and my boobs.

So, how do I feel about breastfeeding now?

I still don't have strong feelings. Sometimes I super love him all cuddly and sweaty and pressed against me while in his jammies. Also, he stopped trying to do head stands while he nurses, so that makes things more pleasant. However, sometimes he wants to bob from one nipple to the other and back again, or insists on pointing out my eyes/nose/mouth/teeth/tongue over and over, which translates to getting repeatedly jabbed in the face. But this is balanced out by the special smile he gives me while nursing. It's always the same and I only ever see it when he pops off mid-nursing and grins up at me. Just thinking about it makes me all teary.

For those of you out there who are nursing or thinking about nursing, let me throw my two cents your way. In the beginning it can be hard. Your nipples hurt. It's messy. There's a lot riding on your tired shoulders. Over time, at least for most of us and I sincerely hope you can be included in that number, it gets easier. Get help if you need it and sooner, rather than later, Mama and baby will learn how to navigate the process.

Then, over the course of your nursing relationship, problems crop up. Biting. Distractions that cause baby to stop and start over and over. Growth spurts. Illness. Schedule changes. In my experience, there's a lot of ups and downs. Things will go very easily for a while then a new challenge springs up.

I'll admit, other than having an insatiably hungry child, my experience went pretty smoothly. I've never had a blocked duct or mastitis (thanks to the insatiability of said hungry child). The flip side is the time it took to nurse and pump and nurse and pump enough to satisfy him. Happy tangent: R is watching Mr. Man over the summer and I haven't had to pump in 2 months!!!!

Now that we have over 13 months of nursing under our belts, or diapers, or whatever, the process of nursing is easy. Our nursing schedule is predictable and I don't have to nurse in public so I largely avoid judgement for nursing a toddler. Of course, I get asked all the time by family and friends if he's still nursing. Mostly people just seem curious. I've never gotten any negative comments (yet), though friends who have already weaned obviously feel defensive, which is just weird and makes me feel the need to justify. I almost just wrote justify my decision, but it hasn't been a decision. If anything, it's been an indecision. I haven't tried to wean (except that middle of the night weaning, which was a gradual prolonging of when I would go to him, and within a week and a half he'd stopped waking up at all *throws confetti into the air again*). I don't want to take away something that brings him comfort. I also don't want to feel guilty when this part of our relationship comes to an end. But I know I will.

There's a lot of back patting in the breastfeeding community. I have seen several facebook posts where friends announce how long they have nursed or are still nursing. I also have friends who couldn't nurse and I can only imagine how that feels to see the virtual high-fives. I imagine they feel a lot like slaps to the face.

I feel hypocritical to tell anyone not to feel bad about how they fed their baby when I already cringe with anticipated guilt. I doubt we'll still be nursing a year from now. I hope Mr. Man weans himself and, though a bit of me will miss nursing, we will be able to just cuddle without the necessity of a boob in his little cherub's mouth. He's a very cuddly boy. I get lots of hugs and kisses throughout the day. He likes me to hold him and he hums while a sway back and forth. I think this will be enough to ease my guilt.

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