Modern Parent
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Modern Parent

Retiring the Easy Button

Reflections on the journey of nursing and weaning

looking down a hallway to a mother rocking a baby
Photo of the author by Erin Perrotta, Lori and Erin Photography

This is not easy to articulate, but I want to explore the complexity of this season: Weaning.

My first attempts to express the situation were very negative. “It started so selflessly, now it ends selfishly. I started this for you, and I’m ending it for me.” Then I had a revelation: weaning is not negative. It is hard, and it is necessary.

I consider breastfeeding one of the proudest achievements in my life. The first six weeks were a huge learning curve of pain, consultants, engorgement and leaking. But that was followed by sixteen months of relative nursing ease.

You’re tired? Have some milk.
You’re cranky? Have some milk.
You hurt yourself? Have some milk.

Nursing was the Easy Button. The one guaranteed way to soothe, and only I could do it. Sure, it could be a time-consuming inconvenience, but for the most part it was actually enjoyable. I will certainly miss:

  • The way you open and close your fist to say “milk” in sign language.
  • The way you giggle just before you latch.
  • The way your eyes lock on mine as if I am the center of the universe.
  • The big smile after you have had your fill.
  • Even the cute little burp before you head off to the next fun activity.

In an effort to remember, I have taken many photos of this time together. Tried to capture the feeling, the look, the hold. But there is no lens you would look so lovingly at. No lens that could replicate the exact framing and distance from my eye to yours. No lens that could capture the contentment and perfection of our exchange.

So I write. I have written plenty about the challenges, and while weaning is certainly going to be a challenge, this essay is also a love letter to the process. I write to remember. Not just the hard times but the beautiful ones too. It has been an unexpected journey, and I am so, so proud of us. I am proud that I was able to produce milk for you. The healthiest, most natural food in the world. I am proud that you were able to overcome a tongue-tie. I am proud that we were able to solve our issues with chiropractic care and not lasers. And I am proud that we ignored any comments about your age, and nursed as long as we did.

But to deny the reality of night time feeds would be ignoring half the story. There are many potential paths we could have taken, but the one we found ourselves on required nursing you to sleep. Maybe we could have avoided this if we had done things differently, but we’re first timers over here. We made our bed, and we certainly slept in it. And now it is time for you to sleep in your own bed, without the aid of mama’s warm milk.

Weaning really may be the largest hurdle you have faced thus far, but it all comes down to this: you, me, your dad… we all need to sleep. Our physical, mental and emotional health depends on it. We have tried everything, and my intuition tells me that weaning will lead to sleep.

So we begin in earnest. We will phase out one feeding at a time, until none remain. I choke up just thinking about that last time, and it is still several weeks away. Taking this away from you may be one of the hardest things I ever do. How do I let go of what we fought so hard to have?

So let’s savor these last few weeks, and let us let go, together.
I. Love. You.

For those of you on a similar journey, I hope these words resonate, inspire and empower. You’ve got this.

Dedicated to all the women doing hard things.

You can do hard things

Remember:
This is necessary
We need to sleep

Remember:
This is necessary
You will still snuggle

Remember:
This is necessary
You will still have special time

Remember:
This is necessary
He doesn’t need the calories

Remember:
This is necessary
He will be alright

Remember:
This is necessary
Its a two way street

Remember:
This is necessary
Treasure while you can

Remember:
This is necessary
You have done your best

Remember:
This is necessary
You made the right choice

Remember:
This is necessary
You are a superhero

Remember:
This is necessary
You must be strong

Remember:
This is necessary
It’s okay to grieve

Remember:
This is necessary
You can do hard things.

words 17 months postpartum
photo 12 days postpartum

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