By Tiffany Holley
Jewel and I got off to a rough start with our breastfeeding relationship.
I had been given IV fluids, and my lymphatic system was overloaded. I am naturally busty, so the accumulated fluids causing hard swelling in my breast tissue created a seemingly insurmountable situation for her tiny mouth. We tried pumping (didn’t work at all for me), hot compresses, cold compresses, and anything else we could think of.
On Day 3, she and I both had chiropractic adjustments, and I spent an hour having a lymph drainage massage.
Slowly, things improved. Whew!
She nursed happily, and exclusively, for the next seven months or so. Sometime in the second half of her first year, she began tasting food. This was, of course, the beginning of weaning – although it was a long and peaceful process. I would estimate that Jewel was well past her second birthday before she was consuming more calories from table food than she was from breast milk. We continued to simply allow things to evolve at their own pace.
Around the same time, I became pregnant again. I occasionally asked Jewel to shorten her nursing sessions when I experienced nipple soreness, but for her part the pregnancy did not seem to matter. When Jewel was nearly three years old, her baby brother R.T. was born.
Naturally, I was forced to ask Jewel for some concessions. The baby needed to nurse first, and sometimes I was sore, exhausted, and stressed out (you know, the normal new baby stuff!)…
At one point I realized that she had not nursed for a couple of days (I wasn’t sure how long). I even asked her if she wanted to nurse, and she said “No.” I approached my husband tearfully, terribly upset that I had pushed her away, and unintentionally ended our nursing relationship prematurely.
Nothing serious. No doctor trip. I don’t even think she needed an ice pack.
But she needed mama. She needed to nurse.
I cried happy tears as I put her to my breast, and gave her all the love I had to give. I promised her (to myself) that I would be more vigilant about our relationship from that day forward.
Obviously, the baby was still a baby, and at times he had to come first. But I worked much harder at not totally excluding Jewel. I snuggled her while nursing him, I asked for her “help” more (you know, even when it made things harder), and I tried to nurse her when she asked, even if it was briefly – she didn’t ask that often, after all.
Once we got over the hurdle, we happily tandem nursed for about eight or nine months.
We discussed weaning, and Jewel understood that she would stop nursing one day, as part of growing up. A couple of times she even said she was weaned… but it didn’t mean anything more than the times she said she was a lion.
Then, right about New Year’s 2009, she woke up one morning and announced that she was a big girl, and she was weaned.
It was a different sort of declaration than anything she’d said before, and it stuck. Just like that. She was 44 months old, and her baby brother almost 10 months.
I don’t have a clear memory of our last time nursing, since I had no idea it was coming… But it was perfect and wonderful, and I have no regrets.
We had decided some time earlier that a big kid needed a “weaning party” to celebrate that huge coming-of-age milestone, but we hadn’t yet settled on how to do it.
The answer for Jewel was a lovely “date” with Papa to see the Miami City Ballet perform. Papa wore his tuxedo, and Miss Jewel was dressed as a very grown-up little Princess.
Do you have a breastfeeding story to share? Please leave a comment with your breastfeeding or weaning story!
Tiffany Holley has nursed three children (currently 2 – 16 years old) for a total of 8 years – and counting. She and her family live, breastfeed, urban homestead, cloth diaper, homeschool, and write in Southern Florida (but hope to remedy their location situation soon). You can read about their adventures on their blog, As For My House.