Sunday, January 20, 2013

End of an Era

Peregrine weaned himself last week. And for the first time in seventeen months, I'm not nursing. Ever. I'm wearing normal bras again. And just rocking Peregrine to sleep.

It was the right time. He was ready, and I was ready, too. I know people who nurse all the way through pregnancy, and if I'd needed to, I think I could have. But there is so much strain on my body right now. Feeding a toddler who eats his weight in other food is just not its highest priority.

Breastfeeding Peregrine has had its stresses and challenges, and that deserves a post of its own someday. I think breastfeeding struggles are a lot more common than not. But honestly, the weaning process has felt very easy, and gentle, and natural to me. As much as Peregrine pretty much decided within days that he was done, it felt right. Sad, perhaps, but right.

I've never fed Peregrine entirely on demand. He went from not demanding enough in his first few days to demanding until he vomited in the days that followed. He's never been great about regulating his body, and even with solids, he doesn't do well with snacking all the time. If he doesn't eat substantial meals, he's perpetually hungry and grumpy, even if he's constantly eating. He does better with large meals, followed by periods of not eating. So nursing has been for him primarily a source of food. Comforting food, to be sure, but not just comfort. And as he's gotten older, he's become very used to being told nursing is all-done, or that he can nurse later. It's never fazed him. And who knows, I may do this very differently based on another baby's needs, but I think it has made weaning Peregrine fairly trauma-free.

He's been pretty set in his ways, though, for the last few months, nursing in the morning, at naps, and at night; and I'd wondered how I was going to help him transition out of those habits. I wasn't in a hurry until I got pregnant, and then it just started hurting so much. So one day, I tried giving him a pacifier at the beginning of his nap routine (I usually give him one after he nurses). He took it, didn't ask to nurse, and never asked again before naps. Then I got sick, and Andrew started getting up with him, so he quit the morning nursing as well. I'm sure my milk supply plummeted then, and I could tell he was no longer interested in the night nursing. Honestly, I kept that one up for myself. I couldn't help but remember all the days (and nights!) of nursing my sweet baby, staring at his face, holding him, letting my body feed his. I think it suddenly hit me that once I stopped, that was it. My baby would grow up, if only a bit more, and growing up is irreversible.

But he was ready, and if my soul clung to my baby, my body was ready to let him go. I have another little one to feed, and that little one needs it more. I gave him the pacifier at night, and he didn't look back. I offered to nurse him the next day, just to try to get rid of some of the milk my body still thought it should be producing, but he spurned me in a very toddler-like way. I never really thought my offer to nurse would ever be met with his little high-pitched "no!". The same "no!" he gives me when I give him food he doesn't want, or ask him if he needs his diaper changed, or, you know, suggest anything that might have been my idea first.

So there he goes. My baby just grew into a toddler. It happens, and it will happen again. My toddler will become a boy. My boy will become a man (terrifying, I know!). And I will always feel the tiny piece of heartache that goes with losing someone I knew, someone I desperately loved. But that's how it's meant to be. He'll grow his wings, one feather at a time. And that's good. It's very good.

But you know what? I don't think I have a single picture of me nursing him. I wish I had at least one. Just as a tangible piece of memory.

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