If I could talk to the old me, the mother of a nursing newborn me, about the path my breastfeeding would take over my daughter’s life, I would want to tell her, most of all: Don’t worry. During the first eight to ten months of breastfeeding, I was consumed with worry. My mind raced:
Is she getting enough?
Will my pump break down again?
Will she start (or ever stop) biting?
Can my supply keep up?
How will I know when it’s time to wean?
Will she ever wean?
How can I keep this up, for two years?
This panic about milk supply and pumping and biting and being enough made it so hard to fully enjoy the experience. I loved it, but it wasn’t easy.
Now, I am on the final months of my life as a breastfeeding mother, and it’s become easy. I know that sometime soon after her second birthday, my daughter will likely be fully weaned, a slow process we started from the moment she had her first solids. I am looking for ways to say goodbye to this phase of my life as a mother.
When I imagined “extended” breastfeeding as a mother of an infant, I couldn’t imagine enduring the toil of constant feedings, of constantly being touched. I never envisioned how easy it would be to nurse a toddler, how gradually we shifted from three to four feedings to one to two feedings. I never realized how much of a comfort it would be for me, as a working mother, to reconnect with my daughter at the end of the night, to hold her ever-growing body across my lap, to listen to her sigh and drift close to sleep, to be her source of comfort and nourishment.
I wouldn’t trade this sweet and finite time for any other time in our nursing relationship. I know it was built on the relentless work of breastfeeding on demand for the first year or so of her life. We wouldn’t have gotten to this easy point of drifting away, if I hadn’t worked so hard at putting our breastfeeding relationship as our highest priority during that first year. It influenced everything in our family’s life, from my work schedule to my husband’s care of our daughter during the day, to how we chose to spend our free time. My worry, even as hard as it was, served a purpose. Now, breastfeeding is almost an afterthought, an “oh yeah, did I nurse her last night?” as we discuss our evening.
I am so grateful for the work of motherhood in these 22 months, the mental and emotional work my whole family contributed, to develop and sustain our breastfeeding relationship. At this time next year, when I celebrate World Breastfeeding Week as a former breastfeeding mother, I hope I’ll remember the quiet, peaceful nights of breastfeeding, much more than the panic and worry. Most of all, I hope I’ll hold in my heart a small portion of the stillness that my daughter and I shared, for all those months together.