Weaning Is A Let-Down

by Honest Mom contributor Carisa Miller – blogger at Do you read me?

When I first suggested she not nurse constantly, my daughter behaved as though I was withholding her will to live.

I could offer little consolation, since bringing her near me only made her think I was about to offer her a nip. (If ever I wished my breasts were detachable.) I tried my best to let her know that she deserved to mourn and that I was sorry for her loss. Very soon, her fits of devastation adjusted to less severe displays of displeasure. As she worked out a way to comfort herself, I did my best to pretend it wasn’t killing me not to nurse her.

Over the last month and a half, I’ve worked at taking my die-hard-boobie-baby from an on and on suck-a-thon to a set number of times per day. Four … three … two…

Two days ago, without warning, I hung up my mammaries for good.

It was the first morning I denied her request to nurse upon waking. She didn’t fight me at all and my heart broke outright. Apparently she did not fully understand my intentions. She was supposed to sense a half-heartedness in my effort to stop breastfeeding, not take the hint and actually give it up. Stupid baby.

I knew, right then, I had to pull the plug. (Pun intended.) I couldn’t bear to drag weaning out over several more weeks with the tapering method I had been using. I’d had enough of this killing-me-slowly bologna.

When she got up from her afternoon nap, she asked to nurse. And I breastfed her silly. I let her stay latched on for as long as she could stand it. She switched sides over and over, for an hour while I cried.

It was an ideal setting, alone in rare silence with my baby, to take one last opportunity to cherish our breastfeeding relationship … and then give it up.

‘Twas no stroke of brilliance, that last extendo-feeding session. It set my mammaries into a production rush. My breast tissue currently resembles densely packed gravel. Whatever. Since this whole deal sucks (additional pun fun), mind blowing pain for a couple days doesn’t make a huge-heckuva-clogged-duct difference to me.

I am so far from over this. Whisper the word “hormone” to me and I’ll cut you. I feel like an addict. All I can think about is giving her a hit. This is harder than when I quit smoking.

I am letting out a breath I have been holding for five years: through two pregnancies, a several-year bout with horrendously painful pelvic dysfunction, a case of pre-eclampsia, two birth experiences (the first of which was traumatizing), and breastfeeding each child beyond one year.

Weaning marks the end of my children’s claim on my body. <Insert enormous exhalation here.>

Gone are the excuses for not spending a night away from the children. Without a baby attached to my breast, I will be expected to venture out into the world and see what everyone else has been up to. I’m not sure I want to. I’ve gotten used to life this way.

Since the moment my children were born, no word has defined me more than “mother.” While I still have two lifetimes of mothering ahead of me, without breastfeeding, I am no longer a mother to babies. My heart sinks at the thought.

There’s a new me coming on, but I don’t know her yet. It has been such a struggle to keep my independent self above water in the midst of all this mothering.

When I got up this morning, my I-won’t-hold-still-for-nothin’-or-nobody sixteen month-old daughter crawled into my lap, reclined to let me cradle her and stared up at me contentedly. She held my nipple for comfort (her favorite party trick) and didn’t fuss or try to swoop down to latch on. She understands breastfeeding is over for us and gave me exactly what I need to make it through to the other side: A baby in my arms while I sort my new self out.

If you breastfed, did you, like Carisa (and me), have a hard time when you stopped nursing your baby?

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29 Replies to “Weaning Is A Let-Down”

  1. I experienced this with my first child and am now in the process of it all with my second. I want to be done….but I don't…..but I do……but I don't. *sigh* heartbreaking and freeing at the same time!

  2. Such a beautiful, heart-wrenching, achingly honest post Carisa. So glad to see you featured here. I mourned it a lot with my 2nd daughter, because I knew she was my very last baby. I totally related to this post.-Ashley

  3. I weaned my son at 27 months. Even though I was fully ready to wean (and had been for a bit), I still felt sad. Blame the hormones, blame the mommy guilt, but also that it marked the end of this special relationship. Breastfeeding was the only thing I could do for my son that no one else could, and it was over.

    You gave your daughter space to grieve her loss – now give yourself space to grieve YOUR loss. Hugs, mama.

  4. Wow I SO feel this post. I recently weaned my last baby a few months ago (and I love your “pulling the plug” pun because that’s exactly what I named my post about it). Although I was much less reluctant to be done with it as you it was still an emotional threshold to cross for both of us.
    I too am now navigating life without the human leech. Good luck on this new path!

  5. I ursed all three of my girls and each one weaned herself – just decided one day they were done. I was not someone who particularly enjoyed breastfeeding, but, when I realized they were done with it, there was definitely a moment (or two) of sadness.

    1. I have a few close friends who have had a similar, child-led weaning experience. I imagine the sadness is very similar but without the battle. (Unless maybe you are fighting to keep nursing.) My little one would have suckled through college…

  6. Weaning was heartbreaking and freeing all rolled into one. I'm 3 months in with #2 and dread the day. It will be the end of an amazing (but tough) period of my life.

    Now excuse me while I go pump (I HATE pymping at work. 36 more weeks, not thatmI'm counting or anything. Ugh.)

  7. I was lucky enough to have a very very natural weaning process with my first as I was entering into my third tri with my second and my first was 15 months. He naturally went from 4 feedings a day down to two and then one pretty quickly. I choose the last night time feeding as the final feeding. Now onto my second and I am again lucky enough to have an over supply this time, so hope to keep nursing into the second year, but hope for a natural wean process again. I can understand how it can be heartbreaking and freeing at the same time.

  8. Carisa I really felt for you and your daughter! I remember being so sad when my firstborn decided to wean himself at 11 months. Then I was so sad when I decided to wean my daughter at 5 months so I could go on some much needed medication. I felt that primal need to hold and rock my babies. Each milestone is always so bittersweet for me!! I do remember the first thing I did when my son weaned I went out for sushi and felt like I belonged to just me!! That part is nice!! Thanks for sharing this lovely post!

    1. Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comment Kathy. I am so affected by each new phase of mothering. Maybe without my milky hormones in play, I’ll be a little less sensitive now. At least until next year… sending my older daughter to kindergarten is going to be brutal.

  9. As a momma who weaned a couple months ago, and felt the same heartbreak and addict-like feelings for the first week, I can promise you it goes away and you'll be psyched about the body-is-your-own bit. I got a cold the other day and was pumped to take an irresponsible combo of medications to try and knock it out. Kinda nice to be able to do dumb things to my body since it's now just mine!

  10. I totally understand where you are coming from. My baby was 16 months old when I weaned her. Although I thought I was ready because I was tired of feeding on demand, it was very difficult to give up that time with my baby. She was very upset at first, but adjusted pretty easily. Unlike her mama.

  11. Wow, It was devastating having to realize that I was “a failure” at breastfeeding. Until reading this I never thought about how difficult the weening process could be. Thanks for the whole new insight.

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