Weaning and the Changing Role of Mothering
My baby has weaned. He’s three an a half years old. A big boy, yes. But my baby – my last baby.
I still vividly remember nursing him . . . my little snorting, grunting, squeaker. Snuggled up to me, tiny feet against my belly, filling his own. When he was full, he’d pull his head away with an audible POP!, purse his lips to the ceiling, then settle his tiny head on my breast and sleep, fulfilled, satisfied. My little one. So long ago, but I can still easily bring to mind the feel of the top of his head pressed against my upper arm, and my breathing in the warm, sweet, milky smell of his baby fine hair as we’d drift off to sleep. Breastfeeding mama-and-baby bliss.
His weaning marks the close of one of the most amazing parts of my life, so far: breastfeeding my children. The six years I have spent nursing were some times when I felt most needed, most helpful, most challenged, most useful, most utterly female.
To think of the years I spent nursing my two children and that I will likely never nurse another baby again nearly brings tears to my eyes. It’s not all sadness, those tears, not really . . . it’s a strange feeling. A bit of loss, wistfulness, pride, remembrance, transition. The transition was easier for me with my first, because when my daughter weaned herself at nearly four years old, my son was still nursing. But now that they are both done, now that I am no longer nourishing and healing and comforting my children with my breasts, my mothering role is changing.
Certainly, what it means for me to be a mother has been in continual flux for years – changing ever since my first baby was born – you really do grow along with your children. And the role of breastfeeding itself changes too – from the constant need for physical nourishment of an exclusively breastfed infant to much less frequent emotional comfort needs of a nursing toddler. Thankfully, Mother Nature makes those changes gradual: when babies and children self-wean, they do so in a way that lets you, your body, and your mind (and that of your children) more gracefully accept and adapt to the changes. But still, it’s not easy. Even though its been months since I’ve nursed, the real thought that I’m no longer a nursing mother – that I’ll no longer be able to use that valuable mothering tool of breastfeeding – for soothing, comforting, feeding, nourishing, healing – feels a bit uprooting.
But breastfeeding was, and always has been, primarily about what my children needed. They no longer need my milk; they’ve both transitioned out of their baby stage. And thus, I’ve been transitioning myself out of my baby-nurturing stage.
I’ve been putting out some new mothering roots, trying out new tools, and am feeling excited to continue venturing into this next stage of independence with both of my children. I will always treasure – and be eternally grateful for – those years of breastfeeding that I was blessed and lucky to be able to share with my children.
I watch them now – nursing their own “babies” – and I hope that their current belief and understanding of breastfeeding as normal, natural, nurturing, and wonderful stays with them through their lives; that they will have the privilege and good fortune to breastfeed (or support their partner in breastfeeding) their own children in the future.
Kelly Moore, Author of KellyNaturally.com Kelly is an attachment parenting, gentle disciplining, vegetarian, working mom of two Montessori-schooled kids. She’s been a family bed sharer, tandem breastfeeder, and babywearer. Kelly loves to garden, read, help her husband run their business, and find fun places to go adventuring with her family. She blogs at KellyNaturally.com.
Kelly is an attachment parenting, gentle disciplining, vegetarian, working mom of two Montessori-schooled kids. She’s been a family bed sharer, tandem breastfeeder, and babywearer. Kelly loves to garden, read, help her husband run their business, and find fun places to go adventuring with her family. She blogs at KellyNaturally.com.
Photo credit: Kelly @KellyNaturally.com
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