I think that Aidan is finally—after 2 years, 7 months and 12 days—done with nursing.
Not to say it isn’t still a struggle. It is definitely still a struggle.
I mean, his favorite word in the whole world—even more than “car!” or “no”—is Mommymilk. He loves to say it (almost as much as he loves to drink it). First thing in the morning, first thing after his nap, in public to get a rise out of strangers, on Skype to get a rise out of my mother, for the hell of it when we’re playing with trains, at the playground as he jumps me from out of nowhere and shoves a greedy hand down my shirt and pulls out a flailing, unsuspecting boob.
He loves the word, he loves the sweet, watery nectar. As much as he digs Aidanmilk, be it the cow, soy or rice variety, Aidanmilk is just no match for the real thing. My kid loves him some Mommymilk and he loves him some boob.
One day not so long ago, we were having a post-nap nursing session. He had gotten up super cranky and crying for it, so we cuddled in my bed and fell asleep nursing. When I woke up, something like a half an hour had passed and he was still sucking away.
“Are you still getting any milk?” I asked him.
“No, just boob,” he said, and cracked up.
Clearly this whole Mommymilk thing wasn’t about milk anymore. It was about boob. It was about Mommy.
I was planning to wean Aidan by the time I had the new baby. I’m a huge proponent of long-term breastfeeding, but he was two and he was big and he was drinking tons of cow’s milk, and I just didn’t feel like he needed to nurse anymore. Plus, I kind of wanted him to stop. Even without the snide remarks from my mom, I was feeling ready.
Before I became a mother, I had a story I would often refer to as if I knew what the hell I was talking about. I interviewed a director in a coffee shop and she showed up with her daughter. While we talked, the little girl ran around the café, climbing on chairs and chatting with the waitstaff and customers. At some point during the interview, this walking, talking child climbed into her mom’s lap, pulled out one of her breasts and started to nurse. I was horrified.
Then I became a mom—a crunchy one at that—and decided I would let my delicious son wean himself when he was good and ready. But what happens when your son ends up being totally boob-obsessed and shows no signs of ever wanting to stop breastfeeding? I envisioned him still pulling my boob out in coffee shops when he was seven—or seventeen—and became very uncomfortable.
I talked to a lactation consultant and told her I wanted to wean him in time for the birth of our new baby in June. I would be giving him all those good antibodies through flu season, but I would not have to nurse two kids at the same time. She gave me some tips and I got to work. We got rid of the morning session easily: Harlan just started getting him up in the morning and taking him straight downstairs for breakfast. At bedtime, I began giving him a sippy cup of Aidanmilk instead of the boob and that one went without a hitch, as well.
My big hurdle was post-nap, because sometimes he wakes up so unhappy, nursing is the only thing that will soothe him. He was often so distraught, I just couldn’t withhold it. I didn’t know what to do. Then my pediatrician advised me to stop stressing about it. He said these were my last few months alone with Aidan and I probably shouldn’t add any unnecessary stress or pressure to our relationship. He said some kids naturally wean themselves when a sibling is born, and others, who are already weaned, regress and want to start nursing all over again, so my efforts might be for nothing anyway. He asked me why I really wanted to wean Aidan anyway. I wasn’t sure. Was it societal pressure? Or was this really the right time for me and for Aidan?
I didn’t get a chance to think too much about it, because I lost the baby, at 34 weeks, five and a half weeks before I was due. She stopped moving one day after a midwife’s appointment where everything was fine. My baby girl died inside me. We will never know why. My world went dark.
During the saddest time in my life, nursing Aidan provided enormous comfort. My milk came in and suddenly I had aching, leaking porn-star boobs that all the frozen peas and cabbage leaves in the world couldn’t relieve. Expressing in the shower helped, but my midwife said it should be a last resort, since my body would think I was nursing and continue to produce milk. With milk literally squirting out of me at all times, Aidan suddenly wanted more. I talked to another lactation consultant who said, “He’s no dummy,” and recommended nursing him a bit more often. She said it was more natural than expressing and eventually my production would slow down and we would find a balance. What the hell, I thought. It relieves my discomfort and it makes him happy. And we got to spend some incredible time nursing, cuddling, just being together. Sometimes I would bawl into his soft baby hair, letting out the devastation, the rage, the bewilderment that was consuming me, whispering over and over again how much I loved him. He seemed alright with it.
Eventually my breasts went back to normal and Aidan’s Mommymilk intake decreased to once a day, but I started feeling that even that was too much. In September, he began going to preschool three days a week and taking naps there, so I was only nursing him about four times a week, following the naps he took at home, and sometimes he would forgo one of those if he woke up in a good mood. “I want to go downstairs!” he’d announce and we would have toast and Aidanmilk and do a puzzle instead. But even those two, three, or four times a week started bothering me. I felt like he was a big boy, too big to be breastfeeding. And I wanted my body back.
As I resisted, Aidan became aggressive, grabbing my breasts in public, trying to pull my clothes off, shouting out, “Mommymilk!” at the most inappropriate, often embarrassing moment.
I decided it was time.
But when we would talk about stopping, Aidan would spend some time afterward, hours or even days, upset. He’d wake up in the night crying, for example, or cling to me, big eyes welling up, when the babysitter arrived.
Then the other night, we got into a huge fight. He’d thrown all his bath toys out of the bath at me and splashed water all over the floor. When I finally dragged him out of the tub, he ran off without putting on his pajamas or brushing his teeth, and I wanted to strangle him.
Instead I said, “Aidan, we are not going to have any more Mommymilk. We’re done.”
“No!” he said.
“I want Mommymilk,” he said.
“You can have Aidanmilk,” I said.
“I want Mommymilk,” he said.
I gave him a huge hug and touched his sad little face.
“I love you so much, baby, but we’re not going to have Mommymilk anymore. You don’t need it. You can have as many hugs and kisses as you want from mommy and we can still cuddle. You will always be my baby, but we’re not going to have any more Mommymilk.”
He ran off.
That was about a week ago. He hasn’t nursed since. He did climb into bed with me yesterday and grabbed a boob and tried to shove it into his mouth, giggling and maniacally shouting, “Mommymilk!” So we might not be done yet. 100%. Officially. But we’re close.