My toddler, Jacob, is now 2 years and 2 months old. He breastfeeds several times a day, especially at naptime or at night.
Nursing remains an important source of comfort for him, and yet I am slowly noticing shifts in Jacob's nursing patterns.
At night now, I can often resettle him without nursing. On a few occasions, he has stopped playing, laid down, and fallen asleep all by himself without nursing. When we're out of the house or doing something fun, he can go hours and hours without nursing. I have noticed that my milk supply is slowly decreasing.
Jacob is not my first nursling. I weaned his older sister, Hannah, when she was two months shy of her third birthday.
No two children are the same. Hannah's nursing style was very different from Jacob's. She still nursed seven to eight times a day at 2 years old; Jacob was down to nursing five to six times a day at 18 months. Hannah refused to go to sleep without nursing until she was weaned; Jacob can easily settle into sleep with just a pat on the back.
I took an active role in Hannah's weaning when we reached a point where our breastfeeding relationship wasn't working for me. I started with partial weaning, using techniques like "don't offer, don't refuse." We worked together to find things to replace breastfeeding, both food and comfort measures.
I was worried that weaning would change our relationship, but through my experience with Hannah, I've come to view weaning as just another step on the path of childhood if handled gently and respectfully. My daughter taught me that all of the groundwork laid through breastfeeding also laid the foundation for growth in our relationship when the time comes to take the next step. Those ties are strong. As babies grow into toddlers, they develop skills that help them to connect in other ways. They become more ready to leave nursing behind.
While I took a fairly active role in weaning Hannah, I can see that Jacob's breastfeeding may draw to a close on a different timetable and without my involvement. Honestly, I feel relieved at the prospect.
I love breastfeeding, and I will look back on this time fondly, but I also love that my son is moving in new directions and finding new ways to relate to me. I am glad that he is finding his own way through that process, or at least appears to be.
The only sure thing about breastfeeding is that it will eventually end. This truth is bittersweet.
There are a lot of unanswered questions about when and how, but I'm not sure that when and how breastfeeding ends are the most important questions. What's important are striving to honor everyone's needs as best I can and enjoying breastfeeding while it lasts. The happy memories I can take away from the time I spent nursing is my gift.
If you breastfed, how did weaning go for you? What do you feel when you find yourself looking back on breastfeeding? What do you enjoy about your relationship with your child now?