16 January 2014

Num Nums are Not Forever

This week I said goodbye to an important part of my parenting life up to this point. Jane stopped nursing, after just over 26 months. I'm feeling lots of feelings about it.

I have thought of myself as an accidental hippie mama in this respect, but really I am an intentional lactivist and wholly believe that extended nursing has been a boon to her health and development. It's also been pretty great for me, what with regular releases of feel-good hormones (and you know I need all the feel-good-ness I can get!).

Now that weaning is over I can feel the difference, but at least our weaning was gradual. I haven't had any engorgement or pain issues. When I started drafting this post, everything felt fine emotionally. But a couple days later and the hormonal bottom has dropped out so to speak. I've had a terrible, no-good, horrible day with lots of crying and am trying to regain equilibrium. I'm chalking it up to the hormonal shifts that come with completed weaning, although it is probably a lot of things together. I just didn't know it would hit me so hard.

I'm quite proud that we made it so far, but I'm actually more surprised that we've completed weaning! I was starting to think it wouldn't happen, mostly because we both love it so much. It had started getting more challenging, with her being so big and unfocused about it.

I wanted the perfect children's book to say goodbye to nursing, but I never found a good one. We did read "Ready to Wean" a lot (affiliate link), and talked about the concept, so it was at least partly an intellectual assent on her part too. She did understand why we were going to stop and was able to agree to "no more num nums."

We didn't set a firm deadline, but it just sort of happened, as I suggested not nursing one night before bed (extra singing and cuddles in its place), and we kept dropping until even the nap nursing was gone. The last time we nursed was very briefly on Sunday 1/12 before her nap.

My body had a very difficult time getting pregnant, and it's never been a well-oiled machine. But I found out that it can feed a baby to perfection. For the first 6+ months of Jane's life she was all breast milk all the time, and she was the chubbiest, most beautiful and healthy baby. Her doctor often proclaimed her "perfect" and pointed out how proud I should be for providing her with that nutrition.

But it was really just the easiest thing. I didn't have to think about it after the first month or so, and after six weeks we stopped tracking and just went to feeding on demand (mainly because Christmas travel screwed up my note taking). It's the feeding her food that's been so much more difficult!

Jane's been pretty healthy, avoiding most fevers and colds thanks in part I'm sure to the protective qualities of breast milk. I'll be interested to see if she gets sick more often now, although it's not a fair comparison since she's much more out in the world these days and her immune system is more mature.

It's a bittersweet time, as I'm going to miss the special bond -- and the guaranteed soother. But I'm glad to have this baby girl continue to grow into childhood.

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