I’ve got my library copy of The Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning. We’re done with travel (during which time I got two plugged ducts…!), and Scout’s just about done with her cold. It’s time. Time to wean.
But I find myself hesitating, half elated, half devastated. It makes sense, I guess. When I stop to think about it, this project of breastfeeding extends to almost all aspects of my life. Weaning is a big deal.
Because I’ve always had an open door policy on breastfeeding, nursing on demand, the scope of nursing is bigger than it might be for mothers with more structure. Almost everything is affected. With Scout, I didn’t even bother introducing a bottle, so I didn’t spend more than a couple hours away from her until she was well over 1. I buy my dresses for breastfeeding access. My treatment of everything from strep to a cold is affected by breastfeeding, as is my consumption of alcohol. Because I’m nursing, I’m skinnier, hungrier, tireder.
Weaning will mean I’m less tired, less shakily hungry, less scrawny (a good thing, for sure). I will be able to wear normal bras and jeans I haven’t fit for a year. But I won’t have as much time for reading — one arm cradling baby, one holding a book aloft — or for cuddling a sleepy toddler in the middle of a quiet night. I won’t have nursing in my arsenal of comfort measures when she bumps her head, or to help her fall asleep and stay asleep in a new place. Looking back on my old tumblr, weaning was a big deal for me with Pippin, too. Despite predictions I might have made in those scary early weeks with Pip, I love nursing — unlike pregnancy, it feels like something I do well, that comes easily to me and overcomes my myriad failures as a mother.
I’m in no rush to wean my infants — there was even a time when I worried Scout would wean early — and letting them nurse past a year has meant 18 month breaks from my period and breathing room between pregnancies. I’m in no rush to wean my infants, but I have no interest in nursing an unwieldy preschooler, either. While several close friends have successfully nursed far into their pregnancies, I worry about how I’d balance everyone’s needs (good for you, not for me). And so now feels like the right time, even if Scout will take some gentle convincing.
So now I try to think of the Dress: a pretty, comfortable blue one (with pockets!) my mother-in-law let me pick out for Christmas, one I currently have to save for date nights away from Ms. Neverwean. It’s symbolic of all that’s waiting for me when I let this door close. If I can get us to the other side of nursing, I will have said goodbye to Scout’s babyhood, but that’s something we really left behind when she finally started walking and talking around 16 months. I’ll be as prepared, physically and emotionally, as I’ll ever be for if a third baby decides to grace our family. And I’ll be able to wear the Dress anytime I please.
For the most part, I’m not usually sentimental about my kids growing up. I’m excited about each new development, and optimistic about the future. I’m not hugely a newborn baby fan, and I like seeing the people they’re becoming. Sure, I feel nostalgic when I look back at pictures of Pippin as a white marshmallow baby and Scout as a tiny pink bean, but I don’t long for time to slow down or anything.
The exception, for me, is weaning. I mean this in the British sense of introducing real food, not in the American sense of completely leaving behind nursing.
The thing is, I really like breastfeeding. I’m good at it (though it’s nothing I can really claim as an accomplishment; a lot seems to be luck and disposition), and I don’t mind it — though I might tell you differently at 2 a.m., or when positioning a noodly newborn. What’s not to like? I could handle more hours in a quiet room by myself with a cuddly baby and a book, I’m pretty sure.
And introducing a baby to real foods — it’s messy, and it’s another thing I have to remember to pack, and it generates a ton of waste, and there are lots of conflicting opinions, and it all seems so fraught.
Our pediatrician (DR. LITTLE, BEST PEDIATRICIAN NAME EVER) told us to start solids with Pippin at 4 months, so we did, with pureed sweet potato, and he hated it and pretty much kept on hating everything. (See photo below.) I had planned to wean him (in the American sense) at 12 months, but if I had, he would have been forced to subsist on boogers and raisins (pretty much what he lives on now, along with peanut butter). He seems to have inherited my gag reflex, which sucks for all of us. Recently, we bribed him with ice cream to try Scout’s avocado. When he finally did, he promptly puked all over himself. J was appalled. “Can I have my ice cream now?” he immediately asked, unfazed.
With Scout, we are doing things differently. We didn’t bother starting her until a bit after six months, and we’ve been loosely trying Baby Led Weaning principles. Things are going well, and it could be because we are so wise, but is probably just because she’s her own person (and maybe because she takes after her father, John “I Like All Food” Bowers). This weekend at book club, I wouldn’t give her any brownie or tea cake and she kicked her legs with energy and indignation. FEED ME!
Cool it, girl.
But it turns out having a baby who’s an enthusiastic eater carries its own challenges for me. And so, just as I felt weird and conflicted about my reluctant eater, now I feel weird and conflicted about my enthusiastic eater. I worry that she’ll choke on something I’ve prepared incorrectly (unlike Pippin, at the same age, she still has no teeth and enjoys nomming on such exotic fare as pesto meatballs and smushed blueberries). I worry about all the food stains I’ll have to get out of her clothes, and mine. I worry that she’ll stop nursing entirely before I’m ready.
In the early months, nursing feels like a project my baby and I tackle together, and it takes both of us to make ecological breastfeeding work. Moving on to the next chapter is a tricky, messy transition to navigate.