It looks like we’re here. At four years old, my baby girl has decided she’s a big girl and won’t be nursing anymore. She made the choice all on her own, with no prompting or influencing from me. It’s not as bittersweet as I had imagined it would be. Maybe it’s because I know her needs were fully met or maybe it’s because I was ready, too. Or maybe I was ready, because she was ready. Whatever the reason, I’m very at peace and happy for my daughter. Because full-term nursing is not nearly the norm in our society and because I want to remember this experience, I would like to share our weaning story.
I committed to full-term nursing somewhere during Ava’s second year. You can read about that HERE and HERE. By then, I’d learned enough of the benefits to know it was what I wanted for her. As long as she needed it, nursing would be there. Ava’s food allergies also helped me in my decision. With the nutrition and calories she was missing from foods she couldn’t have (Eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, banana, and coconut for 1 year. Just dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts after that.), my milk was the perfect supplement. I even pumped until she was almost three to help her as much as I could.
Around age 3 is when our nursing sessions got shorter and shorter. First, they decreased to only nap time and bedtime nursing. Then, it was just bedtime. Then, only sometimes at bedtime. I always offered and let her make the decision. It was really beautiful to see her ponder and decide…to see her really thinking about whether or not she needed it. And she always knew. Most of the time it was, “yes, please.” And a few times, “no, thank you,” as she plopped into bed. Letting her make those decisions has helped her learn to pay attention to her needs and make other choices. At some point after age 3 1/2, Ava really started to spread out her bedtime nursing sessions and they kept getting shorter. “Could she be weaning?” I thought multiple times. “Will I be eating real pizza soon?!” Because of Ava’s allergies, I couldn’t eat what she couldn’t eat and I kept a “dream food” list in my phone of all the horrible things I was going to consume as soon as I was able.
Eventually, I was pretty sure she wasn’t getting any milk, but Ava still chose her bedtime nursing sessions at times. It was for comfort and I was ok with that. Those needs are just important as the nutritional ones to me. Suspecting that weaning was near, I tried really hard to remember each time we nursed. It’s funny. With the countless times she’s nursed, the last one seems so important to me. Sometimes I would forget and panic…What was she wearing? Did she say anything funny? Did she hum Star Wars?…until she decided to nurse again. Then, I would commit the scene to memory, not knowing if that time was the last. Well, the last time finally came and I’m happy to say I remember it! The last time my little Ava decided to nurse, she wore her Wonder Woman jammies and stroked my face, as she looked into my eyes. (Yes, I realize how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true!) It’s been several weeks since that last time. I wonder what she was thinking? What she was feeling? Whatever it was, I can rest assured that it was what she needed and now…we move on.
Farewell to breastfeeding – This perfect gift from God that provided my children with unparalleled nutrition and physiological development. The gift that helped us bond in infancy, carried us through the emotional roller coaster of toddlerhood, and re-centered us during the preschool years. The gift that taught me more about myself and what I’m capable of than anything else in my life. I will forever be humbled and grateful for this experience.
My thoughts from a previous piece echo in my mind.
“She will know when she’s ready and I will follow her lead. She will know when she no longer needs the security of nursing, after hurting herself or to settle in at night. She will know when she no longer wants to hold my hand in the store. Every step of her developmental journey, with God’s will, I’ll be right there – cheering her on. From birth, through toddlerhood, and until she’s ready to stop – I will not give up on her. I will be everything she needs me to be – always.”
P.S. And in a bizarre twist, that dream food list I kept…yeah, I don’t even care about it. With the exception of tasting some real pizza, I’m good. My girl and I are in this together!