Hadley and I have been nursing ("I" because it takes both of us...can't nurse him sleeping, can I? If so, I never figured out a way ;-)) for various periods of time for just shy of 22 months. I declare this number because just at the end of last week, I finally decided to have a talk with him.
See, I had no idea how to ween him. He had gotten down to one pre-bedtime nursing session (a very brief one, at that) and one extended middle-of-the-night/early-AM nursing session (which generally took a good hour to hour-and-a-half out of my sleep schedule nightly...if I could get back to sleep, argh). During the day, he had moved on to watered-down whole milk and juice, and plain ol' water, so I wasn't pumping anymore.
I realized that he was going to continue on with the nightly sleep deprivation
So, during one of the pre-bedtime sessions last week, I chatted with him using the sweetest language I could muster, thinking that a) I was quite possibly borderline insane for thinking he'd comprehend and b) I was a horrible mother for taking this experience away. I still feel a deep twinge of sadness over it all, but let's just say that a miracle happened. He stirred a bit at his usual "get up and nurse" time, but fell back asleep after a brief back rub, not to awaken again until the morning.
Next night: Even better, no stirring.
Following night: Same. Happy Mother's Day, Mama!
Sunday night: A touch of whining, but back to bed like a champ. (Of course he awoke a bit; it was a school night. Why wouldn't he get me up?)
Noticing a trend? We're still doing our very brief, pre-bed "snack", along with a heartfelt mother-to-son chat about whether he wants to get up for a nurse later on, but the killer middle-of-the-night wake-up calls have pretty much stopped. One night, he sat up wide awake and I chatted with him about it -- he didn't really want to nurse, he implied (yes or no questions are da bomb), so I explained that it was time to go back to sleep. Head down, eyes shut, bam. Asleep.
It's almost (pretty much) the end of an era. I kept hitting milestone points. We made it to 12 months. We made it to 18 months. He's hardly gotten sick, hooray for breastmilk.
So, why am I still feeling guilty that I've ended it? There's a badge of honor amongst nursing mamas these days -- not all, mind you, but a handful -- that the longer you do it, the more...I don't know...the better(?) you are.
At the same time, I try to remind myself that this is what works for us. I wasn't planning on having a 4-year-old still regularly nursing. Our nursing wasn't much about comfort for Hadman, either (different kids do it and use it for different reasons; he never sought nursing out when he was emotional or upset or hurt). I'm proud that I was the first woman in generations of my family to "make it work." And I still hold firm to the belief that if it doesn't work out for you, it's NOT your fault, and you can only do what's best for you and your family.
Not that there's one "best" that works for everyone. Or that my "best" is better than yours. It's not.
It's just mine. And ours.
Happy 22-month birthday, Hadley.