***Pre-post disclaimer. This post is in no way undermining the feeding decisions others have made for their babies. It is merely our story and my thought process. There. Disclaimer made.
I'm a big advocate/fan of breastfeeding. If there is no medical reason why I could not breastfeed, then by all means, I was going to do it. When my original pediatrician told me Claire wasn't gaining enough weight and I had to supplement, I promptly found a supportive pediatrician who did not send me home with formula samples. Claire was just fine. My internal motto when Claire was little was "why on earth would I pay for something can make better myself?" And I never did. Despite working (albeit part-time) and pumping (hate pumping) and a baby who, adamantly, refused a bottle and all the stress that caused, I never thought about doing anything but nursing. I plan to do the same with the next baby. I'm a pretty big believer.
I had planned to nurse until Claire was, at least, 2 years old. I remember when Claire was 6 or 7 months old the questions started coming up from friends and outright strangers, "how long are you going to nurse for?" implying that I was already past someone's timeline. I always thought the question was awfully premature. "She's a baby" wanted to say. I don't know. We'll see. . . But then I got pregnant when she was around 15 months and I had a few choices to make. Claire was still pretty attached to her nursing sessions. Although, we really only nursed before naps, at bedtime and, occasionally, in the night when she had a particularly rough night. When I first got pregnant, this wasn't really a big deal. I've never brought it up with my OB. I was pretty low risk and felt as though it was not something I needed to talk about with him. But the further along in the pregnancy I got, the more painful breastfeeding became. I starting thinking about my "nurse until age two" timeline and thought about how Claire would be about two when the new baby came. I'd knew I'd, definitely, be going beyond my "two" mark and wasn't sure how much longer than that she'd go. I started emailing and talking to trusted friends about their experiences tandem nursing and really thinking through whether I thought it was for me. I thought about weaning. Considered when the best time would be to do that and considered all the options.
What happened was a little unexpected. Nursing became increasingly more painful the longer my pregnancy progressed to the point where every time she latched on, I held my breath and nearly cried. It was starting to get to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore. This made me lean pretty hard toward the "weaning" idea. If she had been younger (7, 8, 9 months or so) I think might have just grinned and bore it, however, since she was nearly 19 months and only nursing twice a day for only a few minutes, I was less inclined to want to continue. I vacillated between really not wanting this nursing to end and outright resenting our nursing relationship.
Yet, I also believe that weaning should be a gentle, preferably child-led process. I thought ours would not be "child-led" but I wanted to make this gentle as possible. My plan was to have Christian put her to bed for naps and bedtime for a few days when he was off work. She'd have her daddy. There might be tears, she would probably be mad but at least she wouldn't expect to nurse. Up until this point we'd been following Dr. Sears' advice with "don't offer, don't refuse" and it got us down to the two feedings and occasional nights. I thought I would have to change our strategy.
However, a week before he would have been off work, we went to an early family Christmas party in Simi Valley. We got home and Claire had fallen asleep in the car on the way home. She woke up when I went to put her in bed. She was so overtired she had a really hard time settling down to sleep. I rocked her and sang to her and in my mind I dreaded her asking to nurse. I would have, definitely, but, for some reason, that night my breasts were KILLING me. But she never asked. Ever. She cried in my arms and struggled to calm down, we sang and rocked until she was calmly sucking on her stuffed bear. She fell asleep and woke up a few times that night. Each time, was content to be rocked and sung to, but never asked to nurse. The next day, at naptime, same thing. We read, rocked, sang, I held her tight. But she never asked. She got a little distressed like she knew something was missing but never asked and went on to take a long nap. I didn't offer, she didn't ask. Everything went peacefully.
The last day we nursed was Saturday. Today is Tuesday. What is so great about this mostly "natural weaning" is that I never got engorged. Never felt pain from weaning and missed feedings and Claire was never suddenly, shockingly, tearfully, forced to wean. I love the verse in the Psalms that says, "But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me." (Psalm 131:2 ESV). Images of weaning here are not of pain for the mother and terror for the poor child but of peaceful love and calm assurance for both mother and child. I won't lie and say I didn't shed a few tears when it really hit me that our nursing was over. But there's so much peace surrounding our decision. I'm proud of both of us for making it thus far. I look forward to nourishing another baby soon.