Wednesday, June 29, 2011

End of an era

I always knew that the Eskimo would wean at some point. It's inevitable. Babies grow into toddlers, toddlers grow into children and at some point, they have to quit nursing. I just didn't imagine that at 13 months, the Eskimo would be finished with nursing. Let's go back and give a little history.

When the Eskimo was born, I knew very little about breastfeeding. We had a very difficult start and I set an early goal for myself of six months. Six months came and went and I set a new goal of one year. As I became more educated about and comfortable with breastfeeding, I decided I'd let the Eskimo guide the relationship and self-wean. But I never imagined he'd do that at just 13 months of age. From what I've read and gathered from other mamas, most babies will self-wean somewhere between 18 and 24 months, so I figured we had time.

But, over the past few weeks, the Eskimo has shown little to no interest in nursing. I treated it like a nursing strike. I figured maybe he was getting some new teeth and we've been through this before. I started pumping again. But days turned into weeks, and I was lucky if I could get him to nurse decently a couple times a day. Then, yesterday as I was attempting to nurse him and put him down for a nap, he bit me. He's bitten me before, many times, but yesterday he drew blood. Naturally, I had a very strong reaction. He scrunched his face up, started crying, I put him in his crib and walked away. He was asleep within two minutes, so I'm guessing he bit me because he was very tired, not out of anger. But the damage was done.

Lately I've had the most success getting the Eskimo to nurse in the morning when he first wakes up. That's usually the only time he'll settle in and take in a decent amount of milk. But this morning, he flat out refused me. Combine that with the whole "once bitten, twice shy" complex I've developed, and there's not much to be done for it. He doesn't want to nurse, and I'm scared to nurse him. So, it's over.

Part of me is very, very sad. I didn't know that the last time he nursed would be the LAST time he nursed. And I know that he could still benefit greatly from nursing. It provides him with balanced nutrition and antibodies to support his immune system. And after the first year, breastmilk actually increases in fat and protein to support your growing, active toddler. Not to mention the fact that a nursing relationship is completely unique. You are providing something amazing for your child straight from your body, and that cannot be replicated with a bottle or a sippy cup. Also, it is SO much easier to put a toddler down for a nap when he's nursed first. He drifts off into dreamland with a belly full of warm, yummy milk.

Now for the flip side. I also feel relief. I no longer have to wear a nursing bra or tank everywhere I go. Soon, I can wear an underwire again! I don't have to worry if this will be the time he bites my nipple off (can you imagine that trip to the ER?!). And I don't have to be the one to put him down for naps and bedtime anymore. Anyone can do it. My husband and I could have a weekend away (yeah, right!) if we wanted to and I wouldn't have to drag along my breast pump. All of these are good things.

All things must come to an end. The end of my nursing relationship with my son is being met with some tears and some relief. And I'm not going to lie. I'll probably try to nurse him again a couple more times before I truly give up all hope. But based on the past few weeks, I think we may have entered a new stage in our mother/son relationship. And that's okay.

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