Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Secret Language

I'm saying a bittersweet goodbye this week.  Goodbye to what feels like an old friend, goodbye to what allowed my child to thrive for his first year of life, goodbye to the decider of when I slept/woke up, what I ate/drank, and whether I could be away from home every single day.  After 13 months, I'm saying goodbye to nursing.  It's actually quite difficult for me to write this post, as saying it aloud means admitting to several baby is no longer a baby (did I appreciate his "babyness" enough? why did it go by so fast?); our special time together is no more (does he need me less now?); after almost 2 years of pregnancy/nursing, I have ownership of my body again (will I feel the same as before? what happens when I no longer have hormones to blame when I act like a crazy person?).  But alas, I am saying it aloud anyway.

I should start with the disclaimer that I am in NO way judgmental of moms who do not or cannot nurse their babies.  It's a personal choice (or a physical impossibility) and the mommy wars fueled by incendiaries like the provocative Time magazine breastfeeding cover and idiot supermodels who liken formula feeding to criminal activity REALLY piss me off.  I don't think I deserve a gold sticker for nursing.  I'm confident that the only reason I was able to do it for so long was because I was lucky enough to have 6.5 months of maternity leave and then a travel-less job where I have my own office and a schedule that allows for regular pumping at work (how many full-time working moms do you know who have nursed for a year or more?  I only know a couple, it's just not easily doable). 

That said, nursing has been one of my greatest joys of motherhood.  It was the first way Noah and I communicated with each other.  A secret language only we could understand.  A profound, symbiotic connection that showed me really early on that I would always put Noah's needs first, but that I also needed to take care of myself in order to take care of him.  I have never felt as physically empowered as I did following pregnancy/birth and throughout nursing.  That doesn't mean it was always easy.  I did every nighttime feeding, I have never slept in later than that first morning cry, Adam and I couldn't do overnight trips or weekends away from Noah (we still haven't done this even though Noah has slept through the night since he was 4.5 months - turns out this one wasn't much of a sacrifice), and I couldn't drink caffeine or alcohol at whim (this one was :)).  I was pretty hormonal/emotional/insane as a breastfeeding mom (I think because of the low estrogen levels) and this sometimes made me want to quit.  Oh, and pumping at work was the worst.  But it was all worth it in the end for me.  There is just nothing quite like it.  My advice to new moms who want to nurse is to not give up on it the first 1-2 months when it can be incredibly exhausting, painful and draining (assuming your baby is growing properly).  Seek encouragement from those who have done it (even my well-meaning mom suggested formula everytime I complained about my colicky/sleepless newborn, ugh!).  Keep the faith that it will get easier, because it does.  But if you decide it's not for you, or aren't producing enough to sustain your child, let yourself off the hook and don't feel guilty about it.  When you make decisions with your child's welfare and your own welfare as your top priorities, without worrying about what someone else will think or what society says you "should" do, you are always making the right decision. 

And now, as this chapter of Noah's life comes to an end, I am looking forward to all that is to come (like my possibly sleeping in on a Saturday!!).  I know he will soon forget our secret language, but I never will.  As he gets older he will likely share things with his dad that I am not a part of or don't understand, but this...this was ours, and it will always be ours, and I am so grateful to have had the experience with him.  On tough days over the past year I would often remind myself that he would only be a baby once and that one day I would miss it.  And, just like that, it seems like that day has come. 


  1. Mimi,

    My brother, Rob, grew up with Adam, and he gave me the link to your blog. I have to say it has been a completely enjoyable read, and I do hope that you find the time to continue. this blog in particular has really struck a chord with me. I'm working through the weaning process with my 13-month old daugher now & share all of those bittersweet feelings. The bond that I've built with her due to this closeness has been amazing. And, after watching some other mothers struggle with the process I feel really fortunate that I've been able to provide milk to my child for so long. While I am ready to have my body back under my own control, I think the passing of this stage will be both exciting and sad.

    I do wonder though, are you finding that Noah is reluctant to give it up? Paille has been a bit uncooperative & while we have scaled back, I'm curious abouth methods other mothers are using to cut off the tap so to speak. Thanks!

    Jen Block (Edwards)

    1. Hi Jen! Thank you for your kind words and I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog! That's so great you have been able to nurse this long. I started weaning Noah a couple weeks before he turned 1 and he had milk 5x/day at the time (7, 11, 3, 6, 8). I didn't do comfort nursing and I never nursed him to sleep (except for when he was a newborn) and I think this made weaning MUCH easier. He was also increasingly inattentive/distracted while nursing, so I think he was really ready. Weaning the 11 and 3 feedings was easy because on M-F he had bottles of pumped milk while I was at work (so we could just replace bottles with regular cow's milk). Weaning the 6pm feeding when I got home from work was a little harder..he was clingy for a few days, but distraction was key (we just went outside or I gave him a snack instead). The morning feeding was the hardest to let go (for me)and I held on to it for an extra month! It was the one feeding where he wasn't totally distracted and it was our quiet morning time. I switched back and forth between a sippy of regular milk and nursing and then slowly just took away the nursing this week. I still rock him while giving him a sippy so the morning "ritual" is the same. He doesn't seem to miss it. Having your husband get your daughter in the morning (or at other feeding times) while you are out of view with another source of milk will also help. Every kid is different, but I think distraction and substitution (and patience - we took our time scaling back) are key. Hope that helps. Good luck!!