The End of Breastfeeding
I knew it would happen one day. I knew I wouldn’t be breastfeeding forever. But I had no plans to stop any time soon.
Lucy is almost 18 months old. She is my fourth baby. My last baby.
No matter what milestone she passes, there will always be this little voice in my head whispering “This is the last time you will see one of your babies do this”. I try not to listen to that voice. It’s depressing. It tells me that my baby years are passing. That I am getting older. That the best years of my life are whizzing by, no matter how hard I try to hold on to them.
But this is a big one.
I have LOVED breastfeeding. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. I’ve had the joys of cracked nipples, engorged breasts, bouts of mastitis, a baby that fed hourly, a baby that nibbled. I’ve had to work my life around the regular feeds, and I’ve passed up on dinners out, and day-long events, and romantic weekends away because I chose not to use bottles or express. For me, thankfully, it was an easy choice.
I wanted that closeness. I wanted that dependence on me – that feeling that I was the only person who could nurture my baby and give her exactly what she needed. I wanted to twirl my fingers around little ringlets as my baby gazed sleepily up at me while suckling. I wanted to do my very best to give her everything she needed for the best start in life.
So I was happy for Lucy to feed for as long she liked. I let her wean from each feed as she was ready. And last month she was down to just one morning feed every two days. I knew the end was near.
And then recently she got sick. She was off her food, and wouldn’t eat or drink anything. My first instinct was to breastfeed her – at least to keep up her fluids, and also to know that at least she was getting SOME nutrients. Gratefully she latched on and started sucking. I patted her hot forehead, and held her little hand. As she changed sides, she looked greedily down for the second helping. And she fed some more. Afterwards, some colour had returned to her face. She wasn’t grizzly. She smiled and snuggled in to me, and sat quietly on my lap.
And that was the last time I will ever breastfeed.
For some reason, literally overnight, she decided to become a big girl. Now each morning, when I lift her out of her cot, she points to our special feeding chair, and she pats my shirt – her little sign that she is ready for a feed. But every single time I have offered the breast she just shakes her head and simply nuzzles into my neck. I love that she still seeks that closeness with me, that special time for just her and me as we cuddle on the lounge. But I can’t help but feeling a little heartbroken that she has cut that final tie of physical dependence. She’s growing up.
I try so hard not to listen to that voice but I can’t always drown it out. Because it’s a chapter of my life that has closed. And it was one of my favourite chapters so far. Conceiving, carrying, birthing, feeding – such primal instincts for a mother. And while I didn’t do so great on some of those things, I did bloody fantastic at breastfeeding.
I am so very very grateful for the opportunity, the chance, the ability and the honour to breastfeed my babies.
So one door closes, another opens. My baby years now move on to another new phase. But this one – this one filled with quiet midnight feeds, and sleepy suckles, and beautiful blue eyes staring up at me – has been one that I most certainly, will never forget.