I’m going to preface this by saying breastfeeding is hard. It’s so hard and so painful in the beginning and nothing makes you question your decisions more. For me, being able to breastfeed successfully was incredibly important. And, after the cracked nipples and plugged ducts and nights of crying from the sheer exhaustion of nursing a newborn for six hours straight, breastfeeding got to be—dare I say it—no big deal.
That’s not to say it was all bad in the beginning. My daughter loved to nurse, so it just became the easy thing to do. When in doubt, we nursed. She got her fix and I binge-watched multiple shows on Netflix while hanging out on the couch and trying to avoid dehydration.
Once her four-month sleep regression came and went and she started having some regular sleeping patterns, I found she still fell asleep the best when I nursed her. I didn’t have to rock her for 45 minutes or let her scream in her crib (most nights, at least). The majority of the time, she was perfectly content to snuggle in, drink greedily and slowly drift off to sleep, before I was able to set her in her bassinet for the next few hours. I remember reading that it was very common for babies under a year to continue to nurse at night, so I continued what I was doing without much thought.
But then the comments started coming. The ones from well-meaning more experienced mothers telling me that I needed to let her fall asleep on her own or she’ll never learn to put herself to sleep. That I should let my husband take over at night so I could get more sleep. Because if I didn’t stop nursing her to sleep she would keep my breasts hostage at night until she was in kindergarten.
I will never look back and wish I did something different with my evenings rather than holding her quietly in the dark.
So, of course, I felt guilty. I read articles online and skimmed forums telling me about the importance of creating good sleep habits. Along the way, though, I still nursed her to sleep. Because it was the easiest thing to do.
We would still practice nights away from each other where my husband would put her to bed, and she did great (with the exception of some tears). I was fully confident from that she was capable of putting herself to sleep.
She's now 2 and we’re still nursing most nights. It isn’t about filling her stomach anymore. Really, I’m sure she just loves to nurse regardless, but it’s also our time. Granted, I’m a stay-at-home mom and we’re together all the time as it is. But, in the evening, in the dark, I can put my feet up, grab the blanket and just sit with her in my arms just the two of us.
The truth is, this time is so short. Before I know it, she isn’t going to nurse anymore and I may not even know when that last time will be.
I will never regret nursing her to sleep even though she doesn’t need it. I will never look back and wish I did something different with my evenings rather than holding her quietly in the dark. I know the end is coming and when it does, I will embrace the next chapter of our lives, but for now, I’m just going to soak these moments up with her.