Nursing was hard for a long time after L. was born.
Here's the short version of our breastfeeding saga: nursing hurt and pumping hurt and I was engorged and in pain until I quit working when L. was seven and a half months. I was producing way more milk that she needed and I didn't have anywhere for it to go. I'm totally grateful my problem was overproduction and not the opposite, but it didn't make it feel any better.
After I quit my job and we moved, nursing got easier. My boobs got smaller. The constantly clogged ducts and threat of mastitis gradually went away and I was comfortable nursing. Nursing was wonderful. It wasn't that I'd never enjoyed it before, it was just nice to relax and watch L.'s smiling little face with milk dribbling down her chin without my nipples hurting.
We had several glorious months of peaceful nursing and cuddling.
Then L. turned into a toddler. She started walking at ten months and never looked back. She developed a skill we've come to call "extreme nursing". She wiggles, she twists, she does downward dog...sometimes she gets distracted and tries to jump off my lap without unlatching herself. She waves her arms and will fight (with surprising strength) to grab whichever boob she isn't using with her free arm. I think the milk tastes better if she's pinching the other nipple.
So, after we've been nursing for a while and she's upside down and groping me while trying to put her foot behind her head (and accidentally kicking me in the face), I think about quitting.
I think about quitting for good. I think about weaning her completely. I think about saying no and never nursing her again.
And then I feel sad.
I think about her little face lighting up when it's time to nurse. I see her tilting her head to the side with a sly little smile while she signs "milk" and says, "nurse?" L. signing "milk" is really one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
I hear her little giggle of gleeful anticipation.
How can I say no?
But she's been getting more possessive and aggressive. No matter how many times I cut her off if she pinches me, she still pinches. No matter how many times I say no if I'm eating or going to the bathroom or cooking or it's just not a good time, she has a tantrum. She cries and screams and pounds her fists saying, "mine, mine, my nurse!"
So I'm exaggerating a bit. She doesn't have a tantrum every time I say no, but it happens often enough that it's tiresome.
She thinks my boobs are hers. She's told me. She points at my boobs and say, "my boob." She'll point at other peoples boobs too (she's a big fan of boobs in case you hadn't noticed) but she knows who they belong to. She'll point at her grandma's boobs and say, "Mimi's boobs" but if you ask her where L.'s boobs are, she'll point at mine.
When she screams and yells I want to quit. I think I'm ready to be done. I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to find new ways to comfort and cuddle with her. She's a big girl now, right?
But she has good timing. She's knows when I'm reaching my limit and then she's really sweet. I think about how much I love her little face resting on my breast early in the morning when she's calm. It's almost like she's a little baby again and I hate to let go of that. I know there is no stopping the fact that she will grow up. I know she won't nurse forever, so why would I want to cut her off and let go of these moments before she's ready to do so on her own?
Nursing makes her so happy. A lot of the time it makes me happy too. It's something no one else can share with her. I'm totally scared to give it up.
I know rationally that I'm not going to damage her by weaning her before she weans herself. She's a very well attached child. I know that. I know I have to do it gradually to avoid my hormones completely freaking out.
I know that it will be okay when we're not nursing anymore. We'll find other ways to connect and snuggle and I'll still be able to comfort her. I'm her mom after all.
But the fact remains that I'm scared to quit. Aside from the fact that I love the good moments and it makes her happy...it's easy. It's an easy snack if we're somewhere we can't bring food or if we run out of crackers. It's an easy way to keep her entertained if we're someone she needs to be quiet. It's an easy fix if she falls and scrapes her knee. It's an easy way to make sure she's getting enough fluids on a hot day at the beach.
Nursing is wonderful and it's easy fall back on. That's my dilemma.
I want to cut back and sometimes I think I am ready to be done. I know on some levels L. is ready too. It's more entertainment, habit, and comfort for her at the this point.
I'm just totally nervous to do it right now. I think about waiting until her second birthday. We're getting fairly close. I tell myself I could hold out a little longer. I remind myself that The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years.
Then I wonder if I might go crazy in the next three months. The fact that I don't know if I can make it that long should be enough to convince myself I'm ready to wean.
But we're going to have a lot of long plane flights in the next two months...