I’ve decided it’s time to wean my daughter off breastfeeding. She turned one this week, and it was a breastfeeding milestone I never thought I would reach. And now, I’m ready to stop.
I’m ready to stop because breastfeeding exhausts me: emotionally, physically, mentally. For me, it is a blessing but a huge challenge.
I’m ready to stop because I work full-time, which means I have to make time to pump breast milk during every single work day, and this is not easy. In the past year, I’ve been on a dozen business trips, which involve incredible planning and logistics to leave enough milk at home, and to pump and travel with dozens of ounces of milk.
I’m ready to stop because while I love the bond that nursing created, it’s exhausting to be the sole source of a baby’s milk. It means that every decision – see a friend, work late, exercise (just kidding!) – requires an extra set of plans about how long I’ll be away, whether I’ll need my pump, whether I will have a private place to pump, whether I will need a cooler and ice packs, and what I need to wear to get access to my boobs.
I’m ready to stop because breastfeeding is starting to keep me from other great things about parenting a small child. I watched my husband this morning, laughing with the kids. I spent the first 20 minutes of the day nursing, so while he was playing, I was showering, shoving breakfast in my mouth, and making my son’s lunch before work. Sometimes I want to be the one to play with the baby while someone else sorts out, you know, nourishing her.
My daughter is one, and I’ve produced thousands of ounces of milk for her with a machine, while on conference calls, in airplanes and airports, in storage closets at conferences, and in cars.
My daughter is one, and we are bonded. We love each other.
My daughter is one, and she is funny and silly. I am ready to interact and play with her the way my husband and son do, rather than thinking about the next feeding. I am ready to give up one bond – nursing – to create space for a new type of bond.
I’m ready to stop.
Today, I reached out to other breastfeeding mothers for advice on how to wean my daughter. I belong to some breastfeeding support groups on Facebook, which have been a helpful sort of virtual village to me. I’ve contributed a lot, too, helping first-time moms navigate a practice that seems like it ought to be “natural”, but that can be painful, frustrating, and confusing. I need women like these women to help me figure all of this out.
I posted to one of these groups: Can you help me figure out how to wean my 1-year-old? Which feeding should I drop first?
Four women commented on this request. Two had helpful advice. Then came the other two, who told me, "I never forced mine to wean. That's crazy to me..." and "I'd suggest aiming for 24 months as a minimum to full weaning, as suggested by the World Health Organization."
My post made it clear that I’d made my decision. (I did not ask: Should I do this?) Yet judgment and pressure were served up to me within minutes of hitting "submit".
When I wrote back and said thank you, but I've made my decision and am just looking for practical advice, I was called "ignorant" and my membership in this support group was revoked.
Women have raised children in communities for all of human history, and that’s the only way it works. But what I saw in my village today was women discounting my needs, because they thought their own way of doing things was superior. That’s not community. That’s not the village I need.
So I have this to say to the women in my virtual and real villages: I need you. I need you to support me, to build me up, and to come to my house and pour me wine when my arms are full of a screaming toddler. I need you to trust that I am making the right decisions for the complex world of my life, my marriage, and my children, which is different from your complex world. I need you to trust me enough to give me the help I’m asking for, rather than the help you think I need.
I’m ready to stop, and without you girls, I’m lost. Come back to the village.
**Update! I've written a follow-up to this post, after getting some wonderful and unexpected support from a stranger. You can read it here.**
Work. pump. repeat.