Every other milestone has been a fun addition! Crawling, walking, eating solids! But weaning is the first subtraction…and I am sad.
My friend shared this over a text as I sat breastfeeding my daughter for what would be, unbeknownst to me, the last time. I watched as her feet curled and straightened, her arm swinging, eyelashes resting on her cheeks. I wanted to soak up as much of it as I could, knowing this sweet moment might be the last. I even asked my 5-year-old to take a picture (Note to self: buy a selfie stick).
Weaning is unequivocally difficult. My children, so far, have been ready long before I am. With each little one, I am shocked to realize it’s been two days and the first clue that I haven’t been breastfeeding is my sore, leaking chest. There haven’t been any tugs of my shirt or attempts at acrobatics to maneuver into a position to nurse at the worst possible time (I see you, Target checkout line). They’re enjoying solids and self-soothing, sleeping longer stretches at night, seemingly unaware that they were once breastfeeding machines, clawing at my chest around the clock.
It’s the first obvious step toward independence. It had been subtle until now…always video-worthy. “Look, he’s rolling over!” “Oh my goodness, she is crawling!” “Her first tooth!” We promptly share these with friends and family on social media, proud of the course of nature. Our babies needing us a little less, growing a little more, on the assumed trajectory toward independence and adulthood. But weaning stops us in our tracks. It’s so abrasive, physically painful. Depending on the circumstances for the weaning, it can be jarring for your child. We are not always allowed the luxury to wean when ready. And, even when we are, sometimes the baby is ready before we are.
My chest aches and I, once again, don the cloth nursing pads I thought were retired until another baby is birthed. My chest aches as my heart aches. My baby can eat without me. My baby could, hypothetically, stay away from me for several hours, even overnight. This has not been possible for a very long time. It’s bittersweet… now I can drink copious amounts of caffeine without thinking of how it will affect my daughter, yet… the 3 AM feedings, when we were the only ones awake in the house, she was the only one to hear my whispers. How I longed for the sleep and yet now, can look back fondly. The rocking as she snuggled, content to nurse herself to a place of rest. When the fool-proof way to sooth her was breastfeeding. But now, as I watch my husband rocking her, listening as her cries calm to whimpers and her whimpers calm to coos, I can appreciate some of the blessings of weaning. And now, I think I need another pot of coffee.
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.