Breastfeeding-Addicted Toddler Needs Tough Love

weaning
You're cut off, little dude!
The day comes for every nursing mom: The day her baby stops breastfeeding. When I first started nursing my son, I made one of those fateful pledges that's up there with promising your first-born child to Rumpelstiltskin. I pledged to keep nursing until my son self-weaned. Baby-led weaning is an extension of on-demand nursing -- and it's an extension all right. That magical day could come at any time -- at 9 months or at ... oh Lord, what if it never comes at all?!?

This was the question I faced as we reached my son's 3rd birthday. He showed no signs WHATSOEVER of losing interest in "nursie." If anything, he was as enthusiastic as ever.  

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Meanwhile, I was done. Don't get me wrong -- I loved breastfeeding my son. It was an unparalleled bonding experience and I have no regrets. But as we approached 3, I was beginning to have those "I want my body back" feelings -- you know, when you kind of start resenting the daily claims on your body that force you to immobilize yourself so you can "feed" someone who now has teeth and drinks cows' milk? 

And yet, I couldn't bear to break his little heart. Nursing still meant so much to him! It wasn't just a source of comfort, it was a source of joy and connection. Because I'd limited nursing at that point to right before bedtime (and that was a huge struggle), it was something he looked forward to. The magic was wearing off for me -- but how could I deny him this little happiness?

I decided his 3rd birthday would be the day. We talked about it. We planned his outer space-themed birthday (this was the kid who knew all about black holes and yet ... still nursing). And then I hit a wall. It was about two days away from his birthday and I just couldn't bring the boob out another time. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my reptile brain, behind all the mushy mommy compassion clutter, there arose a fury and refusal the likes of which I never even knew existed inside of me. My husband put our son to bed and I tuned out the crying.

And we survived. He turned 8 just a few days ago, a strong, independent little man. He still loves his mama -- in fact, he tells me every single day how much he loves my smell. (Is that creepy?) Our bond is strong as ever and there's no limit to the hugs and kisses I'll keep giving him for the rest of his life. I have no regrets about nursing him as long as I did, but man, I do not miss that breastfeeding one bit!

What do you think about extended nursing and baby-led weaning?

 

Image via Adriana Velez

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