On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity
Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
Weaning. I have thought about, started, restarted, forgotten about, discussed, and then started again, writing about weaning. I am flat out terrified of the idea. Other than a brief period, lasting less than a year in 1997, I have been nursing since 1993.
For 18 years I have nurtured a child at my breast; the intensity of the newborn period, the unbroken daily ritual of the next one to two years, followed by the gradual decrease that accompanies a new pregnancy or an aging child. For most of my experience this decrease has been joined by a new newborn where I would struggle to balance the demands of two (or once three) children who seemed to feel most connected, most satiated when mothered at the breast.
Not only has breastfeeding defined my mothering journey, it has defined my adulthood. My oldest was born months after I graduated from high school. Just as I was beginning to understand the autonomy that was associated with choosing what you did and when I had another person who was depending on me for care and nourishment. I’m not sure who I am if I am not a nursing mother.
When I’ve shared my experience with other mothers they are sometimes horrified, commenting about wanting “their body back” from a nursing baby. To be sure, I have been known to stamp my foot in protest when a toddler demands to nurse for the umpteenth time while I was trying to make dinner. I recently participated in a discussion with my four year-old that went like this:
Me: Please stop twiddling.
Me: Because it’s my breast, and it bothers me.
Her: No, they’re my breast.
Me: I don’t think so. They’re attached to my body.
Her: Well, we shaaaare them!
But the experience of having my “body back” is so long ago that I have no memory for which to wish. It would be as foreign as suggesting having one’s body back from teeth brushing or showering or any of the dozen other things that we do with or to our bodies on a daily or semi-regular basis.
She will wean. I want to erase that sentence.
She will wean. All of the others did. I always limit nursings at some point – I am really bad at nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing and even without those externalities somewhere close to age three things simply start to be uncomfortable. But I’ve never actively weaned a child. In fact I don’t remember the last nursings of any previous children. In some ways I’m really sad about that. However, I don’t remember that last time I carried any of my older children, either. Or the last time I cut up their food or tied their shoes. I suppose that when breastfeeding becomes so intimately intertwined with mothering, it loses some of the distinctiveness and mystique with which it is associated in our current culture.
She will wean. As difficult and physically uncomfortable as I find nursing an older child to be, it is nothing compared to the identity crisis I fear facing when I am done breastfeeding for good.
Breastfeeding taught me how to mother.
It connected me with the women who had come before me and let me reach out to the women who came after. It showed me that responding to an infant’s needs was easy and did not mean that I would subjugate my own. I nursed as a single parent, while dating, and in a traditional marriage. I’ve worked full-time, part-time, and not at all. I’ve gone to school and completed two degrees (working on a third) while breastfeeding. I’ve spent months in close, constant physical proximity to my breastfeeding children and have been separated from them for a week or more at a time. Breastfeeding enabled me to quickly find like-minded mothers when moving to a new town for the first time in my life, and now it helps to pay the bills as I help other new mothers.
She will wean. And I will still be her mother. I will still be a mother. I will still be a breastfeeding mother.
None of what breastfeeding taught me or gave to me will disappear when I am no longer nursing a child.
Jessica is honored to share this life journey with her five children, her partner, and an amazing assortment of family, friends, and random folks who make it all so very interesting. Most likely due to being exposed to 1980s issues of Mothering Magazine during her impressionable childhood years, she has been known to engage in such devious activities as homebirth, home/unschooling, breastfeeding past infancy, and otherwise questioning the dominant paradigm. Jessica blogs in random spurts at Instead of Intuitions.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):
(This list will be live amind updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)
- On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity — Jessica at Natural Parents Network has been nursing one or more of her children since 1993 – breastfeeding is wrapped up in her concept of mothering and herself. She shares her thoughts on weaning.
- two tales of weaning — Aspen at Aspen Mama writes about their countdown to wean.
- Wean Me Gently — Tam at Please Send Parenting Books shares a beautiful weaning ceremony.
- You say potato, I say bleeeuuuuch… — Anelie at Mindcradle had read the books and knew just how to introduce her baby son to solids—unfortunately, he had other ideas.
- A Post Called Weaning — (Not) Maud at Awfully Chipper writes about how weaning her son took longer than she expected.
- On Weaning, Pregnancy and Emotion — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about her mixed emotions as she allows her son, Little Man, to guide her through his weaning process.
- half of her life — Staci at Springpatch Jam looks back on her nursing relationship with her first born.
- Is it just this After Forty Mom or is it harder to wean when its your last? — Amanda of After Forty Mom shares her emotional journey towards the impending self-weaning of her toddler daughter.
- Nursing Limits — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she has weaned her toddler down to minimal nursing and her guilt about the decision to do so.
- Weaning Video Series #1: Preparation for the Weaning Process — Why is weaning such a taboo topic? Dionna at Code Name: Mama got mamas from across the blogosphere to start talking about weaning – on video. Come check out the first video in a series of five that she’ll be posting this week.
- Weaning due to anxiety — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about how she had to wean to preserve her mental health.
- When Will I Wean? A Guest Post — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a guest post from a mama who contemplates when her breastfeeding relationship will end.
- On His Own Terms — Momeeezen shares her heartbreak from when her son weaned much earlier than she anticipated.
- Our Weaning Story – Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season — Weaning doesn’t always go how we imagine. That Mama Gretchen shares the story of her daughter’s sudden weaning and how she has embraced this new season of motherhood.
- A Tale of Two Weanings — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares the similarities and differences of how her nursing relationships with her now six-year-old and four-year-old daughters came to a close.
- She Doesn’t Remember — Alicia at Lactation Narration finds that her 6 year old no longer remembers nursing, only one year after weaning.
- It’s The End of the World As We Know It — A story about the end of a tandem nursing relationship on Never Mind The Rain: A toddler moves on to a new phase in her life before mom is fully ready.
- A Natural End To Our Breastfeeding Relationship — With two self-weaning children, Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots does not know when the end will come, but that it will be natural and without regrets.
- Child-Led weaning: It’s Not Extreme; It’s Biological — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children explains why child-led weaning is based on biology rather than social constraints.
- 6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps — Jess at miniMum shares how and why she let her first child stop when he was good and ready.
- Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
- Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
- Weaning Aversion’ — Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced ‘feeding aversion’.
- Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma’s evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
- Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
- Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn‘s super power is diminishing.
- Reflections on Weaning – Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
- Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success — MudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
- Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer’s Daughter.
- 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
- Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
- I thought about weaning… — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
- Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
- Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
- Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
- Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn’t have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
- Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
- Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
- Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure… — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it’s time to wean?
- Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.
19 Responses to On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity