The Boob Goes On

This is going to be a bit of a weepy blog. At least for me.

My baby is 17 months old today. For 17 months, I’ve nursed him when he’s sad, when he’s tired, when he’s lonely, when he’s bored, and when he’s hurt. And for the first time yesterday, I had to ease him onto a pillow on the floor beside me while we watched nursery rhymes instead. While I repeatedly distracted him from the nursing session he very much wanted.

Extended breastfeeding is absolutely normal in most countries and it has a lot of benefits. But in the US, we start getting uncomfortable. We start creating false dichotomies, insisting that if a mother hasn’t weaned by 12 months, she’s ABSOLUTELY still going to be breastfeeding at 4, 5 or 6 years old (not that there’s anything wrong with it, just not for me). Or that her child will have some weird complex with breasts.

He still gets up to nurse at night. But in the next month or two, our nursing sessions will probably be gone completely. I may or may not continue to express milk until his second birthday — I don’t yet know — but it remains the same:

The birth of his next phase of his life is the death of this one.

I never knew that I would wind up so emotionally attached to nursing. It was cost-effective, health-conscious and freely available, so why not? But as the day of my last time nursing my baby boy draws near, I find the emotions threatening to bubble up and overwhelm me. I’ve spent the last 17 months gazing down into crystal-blue eyes as they roll back into his head contently and he falls into a peaceful slumber. I will still rock him to sleep for years to come, but it will be different.

Not necessarily worse, but different. Getting rid of the pacifier, his bottles, even strictly pureed food didn’t have the emotional impact that this does. For the first time, I’m keenly aware that my little one is growing up and becoming independent. And that’s scary.

I cried yesterday as I tried to get him down for a nap without nursing him. And I cried again tonight as I thought about the end of our nursing relationship.

Better things are still yet to come in our lives. I just never expected to feel so emotional over one that is so transient and so simple.

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