My Chipmunk is almost two and a half years old. I don’t know where the time went. But it’s funny how things change so much in such a short space of time.
As a baby my daughter had an undiagnosed lip tie. The first week after I birthed her, as we established our breastfeeding relationship, was a kind of hell on earth. But we persevered. Soon we had a kind of rhythm, an easy acknowledgement of the many hours needed to nurse a newborn.
I am much less tolerant now than I was then. Even through the teething, the pulling, the clamping down so hard I feared blood would come instead of milk,there was always the sense of resigned forbearance through it all. My baby needed me. She was still so young, even at ten months old. She had just barely begun to flirt with the concept of solids. I knew all the WHO recommendations, knew the biological norm of breastfeeding – so much longer than society’s idea of “normal” – the benefits to her gut health, to her immune system, and perhaps more important than all that, the psychological benefits, both to me and to her attachment and burgeoning independence.
So I held that safe space for her. I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep. I held her close in the night, dream feeding and comfort nursing through teething, and sickness, and wonder weeks that felt like months. I held her on my lap as she explored gymnurstics and feet and tried to twiddle my spare nipple (something that I simply cannot stand). And she thrived.
Almost without my noticing, she has grown and changed. We went from barely rolling over, at five months old, to crawling at nine months. An age of crawling later (but really only six or seven months) standing became the new in thing. She walked at fourteen months or so, and has been nearly unstoppable since.
All this obvious motion obscured the changes in our nursing dyad. It was only when an acquaintance asked how often she fed that I stopped and really noticed the decline in our nursing sessions. By the time she walked we were mostly down to pre-sleep feeds, dream nursing a few times in the night, and a wake-up boob in the morning. A quick comfort nurse here and there during the day.
Hours of our lives at the breast had been replaced with mere minutes. But those minutes – they’ve stretched on and on. This pattern has been repeating for more than a year. How can such a short time now feel so long? So utterly unbearable?
This feeling didn’t come overnight. It has been rising slowly in me for some time. Occasional grumpiness at a toddler demanding “mah boob!” has more and more become outright distaste for nursing her. The changes in her latch – already shallow from the lip tie – started my aversion. The return of my cycles just before Chipmunk’s second birthday has exacerbated it. Now, a couple of times a month, the thought of nursing her makes my skin itch and my nipples protest.
I’m tired. Mentally, I’m tired of it all. Physically, health- and nutrition-wise, I’m fine. But my mind and my body are over it. I can feel myself becoming the parent I don’t want to be, because I can’t give myself space to breathe.
My Chipmunk is still so young. She still very much wants the comfort my body provides. But that comfort can be given in other ways. And even though she’s young, she’s old enough to understand boundaries and respect them. She’s old enough for a kissed booboo instead of a boob. She’s old enough to fall asleep curled into us, back to chest – and often does at night. She’s even old enough to go back to sleep on her own, a parent either side to comfort her.
And because of all that, it’s time to stop.
Not right away. An overnight shift in such a fundamental thing is too much for all of us. But over the next few days, the Raccoon and I will be talking, figuring out a plan of action. We’ll talk to Chipmunk too. Explain that this change needs to happen. That Mum’s boobs are very tired, and they need rest. That it’s OK to be sad.
We’ll take it one step at time, one day after another. We’ll find new ways of being, new rhythms in our lives together. But this part of life will be over soon.
It’s time to stop.