Thursday, January 19, 2012

For My Friends with Weaning Regret

When I post about breastfeeding older children, I expect criticism.  Hate mail, even.  What I didn't expect was to receive so many emails and comments from friends who regret weaning.

For many, it was a result of pregnancy.  Either misinformation or lack of information about nursing during pregnancy.  For others, it was simply too miserable to continue.  Some had health reasons for stopping.  Some found it too difficult to keep pumping.  Some simply reached the point where they were done.  The reasons are individual to each nursing dyad, but that doesn't make them invalid.

I want to make something clear.  I don't blame you for weaning.  I am not here to make you feel sad, or worse, like a lousy mom.  You aren't. 

You know why I post about the tender, mother-Mary-halo moments of breastfeeding?  Sure, they are frequent and real.  But I post about them so that I will remember and focus and not get overwhelmed by the teeth-clenching, stop-touching-me-PLEASE! moments.  The moments when I am fed up with food allergies and just want to eat what I like FOR ONE FREAKIN' DAY!  The moments when my toddler's latch got lazy again and I feel irritated and sore and will scream if she does that latch-and-lick-for-a-split-second one more time. Ahem. 

Breastfeeding is wonderful, truly.  Those blissful moments are real, too.  But I don't want to romanticize the whole idea of breastfeeding into some soft-focus commercial of a gently smiling earth mama gazing tenderly at her newborn as the way it is all the time.  That is *a* reality, but not *the* reality.

I love the idea of child led weaning or I wouldn't do it.  But I don't think it is for everyone, and that is OK.  I am not a better mom than anyone else because I breastfeed, although breastfeeding makes it easier for me to be a good mom. 

Sometimes there are no easy choices.  Sometimes we choose the less than ideal because it is still the best alternative.  Sometimes we learn things later that we wish we had known then. 

My goal is simply to do all I can to support moms and babies.  I speak out a lot about nursing beyond infancy and tandem nursing because I think more people need to hear that it is normal.

One thing that has interested me is hearing from several moms who are interested in allowing their children to resume nursing after they have weaned for awhile.  I admit, I don't know much about it, although I have heard some beautiful stories.  I want to hear more!  If you have had a nursling begin to nurse again after weaning, would you please share in the comments?  My own daughter tried a few times after weaning, but was never able to latch again. 

My favorite resources for breastfeeding are: and their Facebook page
and of course, La Leche League 

I also have some fabulous online communities where I can get encouragement and advice from other moms.  You are a part of that.  Thank you for being supportive of breastfeeding relationships.  Regardless of whether you breastfed or not, or whatever age your child was at weaning, your attitude towards breastfeeding is making a difference in countless other moms and children.  You may not see it, but I do.  Thank you.  You rock!

ETA: After posting, a friend of mine shared this story of coping with breastfeeding loss, and I was in awe of the wisdom, encouragement and support.  Please read it.  <3


Elizabeth Spence said...

Well, I won't send you hate mail even though I am one of those people who HATES breastfeeding and is just trying to survive nursing a third baby as long as possible (a year? 6 months? 3 months? Can I make it 3 months?!?!) I just wanted to say that I appreciated the way you wrote about breastfeeding and weaning an older child simply from the perspective of your personal experience rather than a this-is-the-only-and-best-way-to-live perspective. I'm fairly in awe of someone who has stuck with it and enjoyed it for so long.

Also, Kellymom is totally keeping me from throwing in the towel and helping me troubleshoot random situations.

Elizabeth@Virginia Is For Mothers

dulce de leche said...

((((Hug)))) Thank you. I know it has been extremely hard each time, and I hope that this one somehow gets easier. Regardless, I admire you for trying again and for your perseverance. <3

Mike and Christie said...

We never made it through a whole year. Our 3rd son weaned himself straight to a cup at 10 months, which really surprised me. His children are nursing MUCH longer.

I had to pump for our second son because he had no sucking reflex, and finally succombed to not being able to provide enough milk.

Our oldest son ate so much that it was UNREAL....I could not keep weight on.... Loved nursing him.

Our 4th son was a DREAM.... 20 minutes every few hours and he was done. He was also weaned before a year.

I loved snuggling with those guys. :)
Because our girls came to us at older ages, we didn't nurse, but one of our girls was fascinated by it and would jump out at me when I walking down the hall and pretend to nurse. It cracked me up.... She pretended when I rocked her off and on for several months and then she ceased. She is such a sweet heart. :)

Sheila said...

I weaned my son because of pregnancy at 19 months. It was excruciating for me and I had lost a bit of weight. He was fairly ready, too, and we did it with no tears. But I still felt ... inferior. I kept reading article after article saying "You CAN nurse through pregnancy!" and feeling like, "But what if I don't WANT to?"

Once he was completely weaned, he started to do something he'd never done -- actually snuggle with me. I really felt I had made the right decision.

But the other day he was lunging at my breasts, I think in a teasing way, and I thought, "Maybe I could just let him try." And then I remembered the agony of nursing him two months ago and thought "No WAY!" But there have been moments when he's overtired and inconsolable and I really wished I still had that option. I'm thinking I'll let him try once the new baby's born, though I doubt he'll be able to.

I mean, it's never so simple as to say "I'm glad I did it" or "I regret doing it." Weaning is so complicated and comes with a lot of complicated feelings. I don't even know if I might try to nurse through pregnancy next time. I guess I'll do what I did this time -- play it by ear and try to meet both of our needs without making either of us cry.