The Day My Baby Suddenly Stopped Nursing

When nursing your baby comes to an end
When nursing your baby comes to an end

Hayden is my third baby I've nursed to a year old. With all three, I exclusively breastfed for as long as I could, and supplemented with bottles of pumped breast milk when need be. When my milk started to run low and pumping got harder and harder, I also supplemented with formula, but in the end, breast milk was always the primary milk supply. Both of my older children self-weaned between 12-14 months old, and at the time, I was good with that. With my third though, he was looking to be on course for a much longer round of extended nursing. Until last week, that is.

If we had been discussing this topic right before Hayden's first birthday in August, I would have said he would be nursing until he was at least two years old, he seemed to love it so much. I have photographic proof in fact of his interest in nursing, with countless photos of me holding Hayden, and him reaching down trying to pull on my shirt, his signal that he was ready to nurse. But this past week, things seem to have dramatically changed.

As of last week, much of my milk had dried up. Between Hayden eating solids like a champ, the gradual introduction of cow's milk at 12 months, and ever-increasing mobility, he was quite quickly showing less and less interest in long nursing sessions for comfort or nutrients. A short overnight trip for a friend's wedding, our first time away from Hayden since he was born, sealed the deal though, and now he's nursing just once a day.

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Before we left on our overnighter, I was nursing Hayden in the morning and before bedtime. Some days if he seemed to need a lot of extra comfort, I was able to get enough milk to nurse for those in between sessions as well. When we returned from our trip, just before bedtime, he nursed for just a couple of minutes and then showed no interest. I persisted for several minutes but he refused to have any more of our routine nursing session. He still showed signs of hunger so we offered him a bottle, and he took it happily. I tried not to make too much of it, but after he refused for the next 2 nights, I knew we were approaching the end of the road.

Currently, after over a week since this lack of interest began, he is only nursing first thing in the morning when he is still a little groggy from sleep. This morning, I had to tend to the older kids and get them ready for school, so I wasn't able to nurse until an hour after he woke. His alertness in the situation at hand made him only mildly interested. If this goes on, what little milk I have will surely go away over the next week or so. I'm trying to process my feelings over the approaching end, and still feel a bit conflicted about it.

The positive points of him no longer nursing are being able to reclaim my body for my own again, and ditching my nursing bras. Because my body seems to change shape and size every time I nurse, I will undoubtedly need to shop for some new bras, which could be fun. I would also no longer need to worry about being available for him when he needs to nurse, mainly to keep up my milk supply at this point. But since he's nursing so rarely anyhow, and I work from home, the issue of inconvenience hasn't been much of a problem at all.

The negatives would be missing that close time we share together, especially since he is my last baby. Knowing that I'll never nurse another baby again seems so final. It would be the end of an era, after all. For some silly reason, nursing him helps me to still view him as a baby, and allows me to remain in denial that my baby is growing up, much too fast in my opinion. While I knew that this was inevitable, and never had any plans to nurse much past 18-24 months, I still never expected it to happen so fast and occur as suddenly as it has. And at this point, I'm not sure if I should just put a final end to it and ceremoniously document our last nursing session, or just keep this up for a couple of weeks and follow his lead. I think I'll choose the latter, but hope I can know if it's our last nursing session so I can hold onto it and cherish the process even more.

So how did you feel when you stopped nursing your baby? Did you wean, or did you let your baby self-wean, and if so, how suddenly did it happen? With my other two, self-weaning occurred over the course of weeks, not days like it has with Hayden. I'm trying to look at the positives and appreciate the fact that I've been able to nurse for over a year, but I can't help but be a little saddened by it all. I'd love to hear other women's experiences with this.

- By Andrea Howe

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