On Weaning

I never imagined I would be the one to initiate the weaning process with my son. I have always loved breastfeeding him, it was our haven. We would find a quiet place to sit, whether it was an Anthropologie fitting room or a table in a coffee shop or at home in our bedroom getting ready to go to sleep for a nap, and wherever we were in the world, when we nursed we were in our own little sanctuary.

I breastfed my son for 28 months, and it feels like my breastfeeding journey with him was cut short way too soon. About two weeks after I gave birth to Clementine I developed a horrid nursing aversion. It started small, a strange, foreign feeling of being, and I can only think to describe it as, violated. I felt tingly all over my body, my muscles tensed up, I felt an intense need to end the nursing session right then. I didn’t understand what was happening at all! I googled it, prayed through it, and as soon as he drifted off into dreamland I was able to unlatch him and take a deep breath. And just like that the feeling was gone. It went on like this for a few more weeks, I was able to nurse him as much as I always had and occasionally the nursing aversion would strike but I would power through knowing that as soon as he unlatched I would feel better again. When I was about two months postpartum I was beginning to lose hope that it was ever going to get better. I had read online and talked to other moms who said that with time it usually gets better and they were able to keep nursing a while longer. But for the moms who continued to have an aversion to breastfeeding their older children were forced to wean. I was stubborn and told myself and my husband that I was not going to wean him myself, my plan had always been to let him wean himself when he was ready. By the looks of things, that wasn’t going to be anytime soon. He was, at the time, nursing as much as Clementine and quite attached to nursing as a comforting thing (which I adored).

Over time it didn’t get better, it got worse. I was usually able to nurse him if I was in a public place where the atmosphere around me was a distraction, or if I had a friend sit with me and talk. Occasionally I would try to read or watch a video on my phone, but usually that wasn’t enough. At about three months postpartum nothing helped anymore. David would rub my feet while I nursed Judah to sleep at night and I would be crying the whole time. Our nursing relationship wasn’t sweet anymore, instead it was full of tension and confusion on both sides. Judah didn’t understand why I was telling him no so often and he also didn’t understand why I kept letting him nurse just to ask him to stop a few minutes later.

I was sitting with a friend on a play date and Judah walked over and asked for “boobah” (his word for breastfeeding). I sighed and picked him up and proceeded to nurse him as I took deep breaths, squirmed, and tried to keep the conversation going to distract myself. Nothing was helping. My friend, a wise woman and a huge advocate for extended breastfeeding, said to me “Isabelle, it’s time to wean.” I knew she was right. But where do I start? He sobs when I tell him no and no breaks my heart to tell him no when we have always nursed on demand. But when I really thought about it, the bond I loved so much that we shared in breastfeeding was already gone because of this wretched nursing aversion. I began by simply only letting him nurse first thing in the morning, at nap time, and bedtime unless David was home to help put him to sleep.

It’s been two weeks since we first started weaning and I nurse him now probably once or twice every other day. Usually it’s because he’s extra tired and overstimulated while we’re out in public or maybe he fell and got hurt. I’ve been giving him almond milk, coconut milk, or hemp milk first thing in the morning, naps, bedtime, and any other time he would ask for “boobah”. He fondly calls it his “milky” and it’s been a sweet comfort during this hard process for us both. He will drink his milky and snuggle with me while we read a book and that’s how he falls asleep or wakes up in the morning, and now the sweetness that the nursing aversion stole has returned. While I miss the sweetness of breastfeeding my firstborn, I know it was the right decision for everyone. It’s best for Judah that his mother isn’t pushing him away, becomes anxious when he’s near because he may ask to breastfeed, or even has a full on panic attack when he is at the breast doing what they have done for two whole years.

A week ago I was deeply struggling with the decision to wean. I knew he wasn’t ready because of his constant requests and strong attachment to nursing. Emotionally I wasn’t ready to wean but sadly physically and mentally I was. I was pouring my heart out in prayer and I went into the scriptures to do my usual reading. I was reading in the psalms as I always do and then this verse was in front of my eyes. I burst into tears and thanked God over and over for the beautiful confirmation in this simple verse!

Right now my son rests against me, totally peaceful and fell asleep without hurt or confusion over why he couldn’t nurse. I was so worried but God had a plan, and even though we didn’t nurse nearly as long as I had hoped, it was ordained by Him and because of that I have peace.

My soul is indeed quieted and my heart at peace knowing this is God’s best for me and my boy.

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