If extended breastfeeding causes dependency, why do my babies keep weaning themselves before they’re two?
No really. I wanna know. I keep gettin’ gypped.
It appears Georgia is moving on from the nursing relationship (at 21 months).
And the thing is…I want to nurse her more. I want to keep this going. But she’s only vaguely interested and gives me a passing glance and asks for “gook” (milk) occasionally and I offer repeatedly…but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that she’s pretty much, well, “over it,” as they say.
WHY? WHHHHHHYYYYYYYY? I’m not ready.
Today in the grocery store parking lot I saw a woman sitting in the backseat with the door open, nursing her baby who was probably about 8 months old. And as they do at that age, the little one was just intent on it – pulling her nourishment with vigor and interest and focus. My toddler? Half-assed nursing at best. Any little something – any little noise – any action in the room – boom. she’s done. Off the lap.
“I got things to do and people to see. I’m out.”
And she takes off to terrorize the house and squeal and climb shit.
It probably has something to do with the fact that she takes a bottle because I went back to work when she was 4 months, and often I’m not here when she goes to bed. So it’s my fault. Obviously. I know that. I accept that.
But it still makes me a little sad, this moving on. The new stage. Clearly it’s fine. And yes, I know 21 months is a good, solid time to nurse your baby.
But she just seems so little still, just a little thing stompin’ around and raisin’ hell. Just a little thing exploring the world, checking it out, venturing into life with strong and sure, but tiny, vulnerable, and innocent steps. She’s little. I can enfold her in my arms. I can pull her into a ball against my chest.
She still smells like a baby.
People. She smells like a baby.
But I’ve vowed to trust her and me and the process, and if she’s done, she’s done. I get to let go. I get to feel the pang of detachment and watch her walk along, in her new independence.
There are times as a mother when I have to put my money where my mouth is. Do I really believe in child-led weaning? Do I really believe my kids will let me know when they’re ready to move on? Well…do I or not?
Cause a part of me wants to fight her on it…wants to keep it going…wants to force the issue (not that you can “force” a baby to nurse) – but you know, ignore her [rather obvious] dismissal, pretend she still wants it — NOT LET GO.
But it’s a selfish move. It’s for me. I want it. She is clearly quite undisturbed by the whole thing.
But when it gets down to it, I know my job is to provide a foundation, not BE the foundation. I build a solid ground upon which she can grow, in whatever direction that takes. I don’t get to determine HOW she grows. I don’t get to mold her into what I think she should be. She already is.
She is already complete. Everything she needs is within her. I nourish what’s there. I do my best to create a setting in which she can thrive. Find herself. Find herself.
Not find me.
It’s my job to find myself, and keep looking for me when I can’t see me — and if I ever, EVER start looking for “me” in my kids – looking for “me” in another individual, well then, I know I’m looking in the wrong place, expecting a child to make me whole, placing on them a responsibility for my well-being – demanding of them, taking away their freedom, making my existence their problem.
And I won’t do that.
So go, little Georgia. Go on, baby one.
I’m here when you need me. In whatever form that takes.
And I sure loved it while it lasted.
StacieWednesday, 9 May, 2012 at 23:15
I love you!!!
LisaThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 0:59
THIS is why I love you. Swirling thoughts. Maybe she isn’t “over it” but just testing the waters?? A bright young thang her age realizing everything going on might have to see how Momma feels. A day or two in, does she want the Mommy boob comfort, or has she found it without the boob?
There is also the idea she is actually ready. If so, you will see it, you will know it. She will show you, if she can venture out.
Jennifer @ Also Known As the WifeThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 5:00
You’re wrong…it’s not your fault. It’s all up to Georgia’s discretion and from how you describe her on here it sounds like she knows herself and what she wants and needs. She doesn’t need the boob any more but she’ll always need her mom, just with her boobs in her shirt. 😉
I fear the day that my daughter and I end our nursing relationship and even at 10 months I see it fast approaching and my heart hurts a little. Why do they have to grow up?????
JulieThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 6:48
You are truly an AMAZING writer. The way you put things into words is simply moving. This brought tears to my eyes. 21 months is a perfect amount of time to let her decide. Your words about creating a foundation but not being the foundation….incredible. I will read anything and everything you write- hell I’d even read your grocery list! Thanks for continuing to do what you do best!
MarisaThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 6:48
I would feel the same as you if my little one wanted to wean at 21 months. I have been on a different trip than you. I think you’ve mentioned how great she eats. Remember that. She is getting nourished. Yes, I know it’s not just about that, but my little one has some allergies and gag reflex problems, so we have been on a long road to eating for us, which means lots of nursing past the 2 year old mark. I have tried to let my little one lead the weaning, but I don’t think she would have ever done it. So I have been gently limiting. Maybe she’s not done, like what Lisa mentioned.
MarisaThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 6:50
Okay, some of that didn’t make sense, this is what happens when I try to write before caffeine…
ShanThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 8:51
I’ll be honest, I started reading this with a “well I’ll trade you (not really, but kinda)” attitude. I’m home with the girls today. Fynn’s already been up for about three hours and we’ve spent at least half the time nursing.
But I know it’s not gonna last. And I know I will feel the same way when she decides to move on. And she mostly is working toward moving on. She wants “booboo” at night before bed, but then she wants Daddy to put her down.
And I won’t feel ready when she’s ready. But it’s not about me any more than it’s about you.
But mostly, I read the last part of this post and thought about what you say versus how I really operate. Do I try to mold them too much? Make sure they fit on the foundation I want them to have? I guess since I’m asking, I know the answer. Much to contemplate.
DahliaThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 12:01
I love this post. Because I am still nursing my 19 month old, and part of me wants to be done (mostly so we can all sleep through the nights), and I thought it would happen when I was away for work last week, and the other part of me is going to be really, really sad when its over. Probably no matter when that happens.
And I love this, thank you for writing it.
“But she just seems so little still, just a little thing stompin’ around and raisin’ hell. Just a little thing exploring the world, checking it out, venturing into life with strong and sure, but tiny, vulnerable, and innocent steps.”
SaraThursday, 10 May, 2012 at 15:18
mine decided 3 weeks shy of a year he was done, but he is still mummys snuggle bug. its just the evolution of the relationship.
also, kuddos with the timing on this with the Time cover. cause i know you did it on purpose and all that shit. 😉
Mad Woman behind the BlogFriday, 11 May, 2012 at 12:37
My daughter self weaned at 10 months. Never asked for it again. BROKE.MY.HEART.
To add to my devastation: my son, nursed twice. While I pumped away for 9 month, he nursed TWICE.
And you just wait, she’ll be a bigger force than you can manage in NO TIME!
Emily @ Southerners in SoCalFriday, 11 May, 2012 at 14:01
Beautifully written as always.
I’m still mourning the loss of my nursing relationship almost six months ago with my then 1-year-old. I thought I was ready at the time and knew he was — he hasn’t looked back but I’m still sad about it. I’ve just had to find different ways to connect with him and show him he’s loved/protected. As Sara said above it’s the “evolution of the relationship.” And 21 months? That’s definitely something to be proud of.
Megan @ Grimm TalesFriday, 11 May, 2012 at 14:35
Even if you tried to ‘force’ her to keep nursing, which I am almost sure you were being sarcastic? Would it work? I mean I try to force my kids to do shit all the time. It never works.
SaraThursday, 10 January, 2013 at 17:33
I’m bawling over here! I went on a 5 day vacation when my little man was 13 months. ‘It’ll be fine’ I said. ‘He’s a comfort nurser’ I reassured myself. ‘There’s no way he’s going to wean himself while I’m gone’ I scoffed. But he did…I felt rejected. My daughter weaned herself at 12 months. I thought this time was going to be different! I tried for a week to get him interested again and then realized I was being selfish. If it was that easy for him isn’t that a good thing? He was over it. And he was a year old. Couldn’t I get over it at 30? I guess so, but apparently it’s taking a while…
MeganFriday, 27 September, 2013 at 7:36
I read this while nursing my 16 month old and it made me a little weepy for the day he will be done. Thank you.
branjoFriday, 8 January, 2016 at 7:28
I realize this post is really old, but today it really spoke to me. I love your blog. Found it a few months ago and want to say thank you for being so open and honest. It is extremely refreshing to read and makes me feel like it’s OK to not love every moment…but, oh, when those perfect moments happen, they are fucking awesome!!!
I wrote the following this morning after one of those beautiful parenting moments that kind of came out of nowhere:
My baby turns 8 months tomorrow. My 2nd baby, my last baby. The time files by us in a blur of feedings and naps and diapers, and it seems like I’ve known him forever, but that I only met him yesterday.
As I sat in the glider this morning putting him down for his nap, he fell asleep in my arms. I should put him in his crib “drowsy but awake” cause I’m trying to get him to sleep/nap better on his own….but I don’t do it. I rarely do it. Instead, after I put down my phone, I stare at him as he sleeps there. That little face, so peaceful, so innocent, and a million little thoughts rush through my head. And now…as I sit to write this, only moments later. I already forget what most of those thoughts were, but I remember the feeling, and it brought me to tears.
– I love you.
– Nursing has gotten so much easier. You just do it by yourself now.
– Have I really been nursing you every day for the past 8 months?
– I’m tired of nursing.
– This phase is like a blink of an eye in my life. Soon it will be a distant memory.
– Enjoy this now. This moment. Because this is it. This is the last baby that I will nurse and nurture.
– Oh, shit. This is my last mat leave.
– In 4 months I’ll go back to work, and you will go to daycare and our relationship will change. You will know a world outside of our home, without me.
– In a year you will be walking and talking. You will still need me, but not in the same way.
– I wish I could come back to this moment. In 4 months, 1 year, 5, 10, 25 years. I wish I could fully remember what it felt like to sit here with you. Looking at your tiny, beautiful face…my sweet, happy boy. Before the realities of the world made themselves known to you. While your whole world still existed in our house, and your needs were still so simple.
I picked my phone back up and took a picture of him, hoping that somehow it could capture what I was feeling in that moment. It doesn’t do it justice. I can’t feel the warmth of his little body in my arms, limp with sleep, or hear him breathing softly, or smell his sweet baby smell.
Some days I’m bored. Some days I’m frustrated. Many days I just go through the motions and don’t think about what I have and how lucky I am. But every once in awhile, when I least expect it, it hits me like a Mack truck. This little boy (and his big sister) have the ability to make me feel things that I never knew existed…If only for brief moments of time before life gets back in the way.