The one about weaning from breastfeeding.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Preschooler was popping in and out of the house helping The Husband when I hear a blood curdling howl.  Agony or not, I run as does The Husband.  We almost sandwich The Preschooler who's crying his heart out.  He'd trapped his fingers in the door.  Instinctively I scoop him up, perching him half on my hip and half on Moomin bump as I inspect the damage.  Not so long ago, I'd whip out a boob and he'd be near instantly placated.  It's only once you've weaned that you realise what an epic parenting tool breastfeeding was, especially in crisis.  So we soothe and cuddle him as his sobs eventually slow into wet hiccups which gulp at the river of snot and tears.  It doesn't feel enough.  It feels like something is missing.  No matter how tight or close I hold him or how fervently I soothe him, it takes so much longer for our frantic hearts to realign and reach that moment when they're beating together in the symphony of 'Everything is okay. We're okay'  I can't escape the feeling of uselessness, of not being enough.

Thing One was bottle fed, he gave up his bottle spontaneously at around age two.  he just one day decided enough was enough and since that day he'll only drink milk on cereal or if it's chocolate flavoured.

Thing Two was breastfed until she was 2y6m.  This was predominantly child led with a nudge from me seeing as I was ttc, got pregnant and then miscarried.  Considering she was boob junkie, the weaning was remarkably effortless and untraumatic.  She was ready.  In all ways.  Once weaned she never asked for it again nor spoke about it which was surprising considering she was a boob junkie.  Yet she's always been a rather practical and scarily pragmatic.

Then there's The Preschooler.  He was was four in April.  It's only with him that I began to realise that there are many types of weaning from breastfeeding, there's the physical, the mental and the emotional.    It's not simply a matter of shutting up the milk bar, there's a whole host of tangled purposes within breastfeeding other than the obvious nutrition.  He's the opposite in personality to Thing Two, everything is emphasised with him, he's our little diva.  Life seems so much larger and dramatic to him.  He explodes faster and harder be it with happiness, anger or fear and thus finds it especially hard to come back together again.

The physical was out of our hands.  Pregnancy has dried my milk up, despite his best efforts to keep it going.  It got to the point where even that tiny feed at bedtime made me curl my toes and grimace yet he just wasn't ready to stop.  We'd cut down from an hour feed to a thirty minute one to a ten minute one over the months, then it was a quick 'count to ten' which became a count to five.  Sometimes all he needed was that quick suck because it wasn't always about the milk.  It's much much more.  It's security.  It's comfort.  It wasn't so much the milk he needed, he needed the confirmation that if he needed it, he could have it.  It was a connection, a security.  Often when tired, his hands would creep towards my cleavage, just to touch it, just to again, feel that connection.  he found it calming and soothing.

For The Preschooler it wasn't just about hunger or thirst of the physical kind, it also sated an emotional hunger.  When feeding he knew he was 'home', that place in your head where if only for a few minutes the world makes sense and everything is okay.

It helped him calm down be it from tiredness, over stimulation, anger , fear or hurt.  It grounded him.

So yes, we could have simply shut up shop, no more meme's yet through him I've been enlightened into the sheer complexity of a nursing relationship from the perspective of a child.  It's an invaluable parenting tool for a parent.  It's an invaluable dealing with life tool for a child.  He wasn't ready to be weaned, we had to ride the full journey of wean-ing.

It's not just about the milk.

It was never just about the milk.

I was ready for the physical aspect of nursing to be over, as I mentioned previously my milk was drying up.  The actual physical act of nursing was uncomfortable, even painful, and that in turn had an impact on my attitude towards it.  Yet do I miss it?  Absolutely.  Thankfully he understands that the milk is all gone yet still he'll occasionally say in such a solemn little voice 'I wish I could still have meme's' and my heart breaks a little more.  It's no longer an angry or frantic need for it, it's the wistful acceptance and sadness that haunts me.  The fact I can no longer provide something he loved and wanted and on several deeper levels, needed.  It's the mature fashion in which he can talk about something from the past that meant something to him.

I'm grateful though that we had as long as we did and in a way, I'm grateful that something other than him or I instigated the weaning so that it was gradual and necessary rather than one-sided or enforced.

So when weaning, if you're finding it hard or indeed if your nursling is struggling just remember:

It's not just about the milk.

It was never just about the milk.

The act of breastfeeding, to a child is so much more.  It will always be so much more than milk.

It's their sanctuary, their safety net, their anchor and the most rudimentary direct connection they have to their heart i.e you.

Is it any wonder that some children thus find it harder to give up than others?  Even as adults, some of us need that extra bit of comfort in life.

Incidentally, his fingers were fine.  

1 comment:

  1. I am 19 weeks pregnant. My toddler daughter would love to continue nursing. However, my milk has dried up. I let her try when she asks, but she stops quickly. She knows that she can have more milk once the baby comes.


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