It was a Saturday night almost a year ago when I became unexpectedly upset as I ended my shower. Hubby had already started settling Miss T for bed. It had suddenly dawned on me that the Tuesday night just past might have been the last time I would ever breastfeed my daughter, my first child, our little miracle, and I hadn’t expected that. I felt a great rise of emotion that I can only assume was grief. And it shocked me. I had always assumed we would have a clear plan for weaning, our final little ritual, and that I would just know when it would be the last time.
Miss T had not fed to sleep for 3 days. The past couple of nights I had tried to express and see if anything was left. Both times I had a drop but that was it. The realisation that my milk might dry up really hit me. Because, even if she was not ready, if my milk was gone, then it would be over. Just, over. The emotions, when faced with that possible reality, slapped me in the face and I just started sobbing…….
I finally calmed myself and went into her bedroom. I told hubby not to be concerned if I looked upset but saying it out loud set me off and my sobbing began again. I didn’t want to upset my daughter by crying, but it was hard to hold back. Hubby understood what I was saying and that I was upset and he let me put her to bed. As he was leaving her room, he told me he loved me and he told her too.
I picked her up and sat her on my lap. Part of me, a big selfish part, hoped she might want a feed. The other part of me said I might cause her to regress and I should resist. She didn’t initially ask for a feed but after a few minutes she did. She was offering me “my last time” and I took it without hesitation.
Knowing the significance of the moment, all my actions were done purposefully. As she fed, I made myself aware of how it felt. It wasn’t painful, like it had been at times during our breast-feeding journey beginning with her birth. It wasn’t annoying, like it had been starting to feel in the lead up to that night. And for a change, I didn’t really even mind her wandering, fondling hands whilst she drank. She was quite tired so it wasn’t a frenzied feed. I could feel her sucking, though not too hard or vigorously and I could feel the gentle motion of her teeth on my breast tissue as she nursed. She didn’t bite me accidentally. It was comfortable and calm. She didn’t seem concerned about a lack of milk so maybe there was some after all. Or maybe she was comfort sucking.
When I sensed she was drifting, I unlatched her. She protested oh so mildly. I cradled her, then laid her in her cot. She fussed slightly, asking for “mich” but I gently told her she didn’t need it anymore and started patting her. She very quickly drifted to sleep, and that, was it.
Our breastfeeding journey had been a long and mostly enriching one, despite a few distressing bumps along the way. Some mothers never get to breastfeed successfully. Others have babies who self-wean before they realise it and they never get to say, “Goodbye”. At least, that night, I felt I had closure. I had once last chance to feed her and say my, “Goodbye”.
In years to come, she won’t even remember it. No one remembers being breastfed or weaned. It was another one of those things on the long list of many things I know I will have to learn to let go of as my children grow. And I can only imagine there will be many more moments in years to come that will bring tears to my eyes and slight sorrow to my heart. But these milestones have to be made in order for our children to become who they are meant to be.
She was almost 18 months by then. She was ready to be weaned and I knew that. It was really I, who had to let go.
Did you have a plan for weaning or a little ritual to say goodbye? Did you grieve when it ended? Or were you “oh so” ready?
I’ve written this in support of World Breastfeeding Week.