This personal and precious story is shared here for YOU. I am writing it down so that you and others may benefit from our weaning experience and in turn pass on those benefits to others in your own way.
We, mothers, learn; share; then duplicate, personalise, and replicate again and again through the ages.
And so it’s been for aeons now: after all, women sharing stories and helping each other is how we have become the mothers we are today. It is both generational and eternal, an almost sacred process.
The Back Story
First, some background.
My first child was born into a relationship which although founded on real love was fraught with challenges. Our relationship wasn’t able to withstand the rigours of parenthood so, within his first few months, we had called it and started the long hard process of mending our hearts and moving on. This meant the young fella shared his time between his father and I. That didn’t stop us from bonding and establishing good feeding habits though, and (in a testament to the adaptability of babies) we breastfed successfully from birth. After about a year and ten months of combined breast and bottle-feeding (between home and his Dad’s) natural and gradual weaning just sort of happened on its own.
By the time our daughter was born a lot had changed. After seven years of single parenting my first child I went to a party and met Mr Large. We started dating and sometime later (after losing our first pregnancy to a sudden miscarriage at 12 weeks) we conceived our divine Miss J. She was a real fighter. I had experienced a post-40 pregnancy that left me exhausted and depleted – severe reflux, gestational diabetes, pubic symphysis disorder to name just a few of our challenges. A combination of all those pressures on the body combined with some incomplete support and advice around breastfeeding and our little breastmilk partnership was over by the time she was ten months old.
Four years and a whole of fertility story later, Monsieur Cole Bear was born. Skip ahead almost three years to the present, and here we are beginning to night-wean our third and final child. It is emotional to say the least.
Which Brings Us to Now
I am sitting in our living room on our big navy couch. It’s a lovely spring day outside, birds are tweeting in the budding garden outside the big sliding doors and the kids are chattering as they help Daddy pack up as he prepares to take Cole camping for two nights. My husband is taking him bravely down to a nearby campground to get him used to sleep without me (and also without night-feeding).
I am wildly emotional. I feel proud of him, now almost three years old and talking, running, almost toileting by himself. I sent him off with his ‘binky’ bunny wrapped in my pyjamas so he could smell me if he needed to. Bless.
Reflecting on our breastfeeding story, I am struck by all the remarkable moments we have shared. From his first crawl across my chest just moments after coming earthside, my body still shaking from an incredible birth at the hospital in Bath. He found the breast like a champion and suckled almost immediately. And all the following moments – some idyllic and blissful, some so painful I cried and wailed as he fed. And then it all settles down. The rhythm sets in. We slept side by side on a mattress on the floor since day one save two nights of mum-freedom (one in London, one in Edinburgh).
With the bed-sharing has come frequent night feeds. His chest against my belly, blankets pulled back, both of us synching our biology, our sleep cycles aligned, my milk adjusting to his needs. Our bodies have continued communicating with each other long after we were physically detached from one another with the cut of the chord. Our spiritual chord is well intact, my intuition naturally honed to his needs.
Almost three years now of us sharing these moments of connection throughout day and night have led to a beautiful bond. He is a very happy boy, quick to settle himself when he gets upset, resilient and sociable. If something happens to distress him he cries and then he will say, “I”m ok now” shortly after. He feels safe and secure. He still has full days at daycare without breastfeeding, and he can go to bed with others if need be, but most times it is me and him and the breastfeeding that has transitioned him from waking to sleeping. I have loved the feeling of being that close to him when he needs me to be. It is wonderful when he was been sick to have been able to soothe him and hydrate him and console him in such a natural way. And similarly, it is natural now that we move on.
And now, with part-time work, and my other children requiring my attention, I feel the need to sleep more and breastfeed less. It won’t be a hard wean – days are still fine – and we will see what happens with this experiment. His Dad and he have gone camping locally whilst our other two older children and me remain at home. On the third night, he will sleep here and I will stay out. We are hoping three nights will be the charm and I may reclaim my sleep – go further into my career, start training in earnest for my black belt and perhaps reduce the ever-present dark circles that currently reside beneath my eyes.
Reclaiming the Self
This is my third and final child. It is a bittersweet moment to be reclaiming my life after 8 continues years of either pregnancy, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. Nothing will ever feel the same as being able to feed my baby, my body providing to another all that they need. The sense of relief that comes with a healthy latch, the comfortable discomfort of a letdown, the beautiful feeling of lying next to my baby, looking in his eyes while he drifts off into his feeding happy place – these are all unique and indescribably satisfying morsels of motherhood.
I have been blessed to have the support of my husband, who has slept without me for over three years. I have been blessed to have the confidence to do what was right for me and my baby throughout this time. And most of all, I have been absolutely so fortunate to have had access to the Bath La Leche League and their incredible support when I needed it the most. It is this which I would suggest to anyone willing to listen that has been the key to our successful breastfeeding story. BLESSED and GRATEFUL, I move tentatively through this emotional transition and await the mysteries of the next stage of his little life.
It will certainly be surreal to sleep alone tonight, and there may be some tears (on my part, that is!). It’s a fairly solid prediction that some extra cuddles will be happening tomorrow.
Alena Turley is a founder, mentor, ethical content creator and mother of three based on Sydney's Northern Beaches. She is equal parts loved and fired up to support mums in making deep and lasting changes inside and out. We at the Soul Mama Hub acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we live, learn and create and invite you to feel deeply and tread lightly.