When I had my son 20 short months ago, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. He was born early and had to stay in the hospital for two weeks after I went home, and he wasn’t quite strong enough to get the latching and sucking thing down for most of that time. I always knew I’d want to nurse my child, but the fact that our birth experience was so unlike the natural and miraculous event I had been expecting and hoping for made it that much more important to me to have this one special thing — this one “motherhood experience” — go the way I hoped.
So every three hours for the first two weeks of my sons life I woke up or stopped what I was doing to hook myself up to a breast pump, not only so he could eat that day, but also so my body would get used to producing and be up to speed when he came home from the hospital.
I was so excited when he finally did latch and learn to nurse, even though the nurses in the hospital said it would be hard for him to get the hang of it — they were trying to teach him to use a bottle since I couldn’t be there 24/7, and some babies get confused. And I was so glad to see that the fact that he didn’t get to lie on my chest immediately after birth, or that we didn’t get to try nursing for the first 24 hours, or any of those things said to be so important for a newborn’s bonding and nursing ability didn’t seem to affect him.
I was so appreciative every single time we got to snuggle up on the couch and nurse, and I was so glad he not only got the hang of it after a few weeks but also clearly loved it. Soon we could nurse easily in public, we could nurse standing up, we could nurse one handed while typing on the computer. Before I knew it, the six-month milestone had flown by, and then the year mark. Soon it had been a year and a half, and he was showing no signs of getting sick of nursing. I was shocked to realize I was starting to have thoughts about not wanting to nurse anymore.
Once we got nursing down all those months ago, I thought I would never want to stop. I feared he would self-wean before I felt ready to leave this special time behind. And I was afraid that if he didn’t, I would end up being that mom who still wanted to nurse her 4-year-old (no judging — but I realized at the time that it would be a bit impractical for us).
Sometime around 18 months, though, the nursing became so playful I was sometimes terrified at what he would do (though he has never really bitten, thank goodness). He became quite deft at reaching into my shirt and taking what he wanted, no matter what we were doing or where we were. He was so active that nursing more resembled a gymnastic floor routine than the sweet cuddles curled up on the couch that it used to be. I got so darn sick of feeling thirsty and dehydrated all. the. time. And I slowly started realizing I would be completely happy if he was ready to stop nursing.
I’m lucky that my son is affectionate and loves to hug and sit and snuggle with me. These are the things I know I would miss from nursing, and it would certainly make me sad to leave it all behind. I feel so fortunate that my son loved nursing and wanted to do it so much, so that I didn’t have to experience the feelings that would have come with him choosing to wean before I felt ready. Right now, he still shows no sign of stopping, and I don’t want to force him to wean until he’s ready. But at this point, I’m ready for that to be any day now!
For any new mamas out there nursing your babies and thinking you’ll never want to stop, I have news for you: You might actually feel ready eventually. I never would have believed it if someone told me a year ago, either.