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My Toddler Weaned Before I Was Ready

Photograph by Twenty20

When it came to weaning, I expected to be the one making the decisions. I anticipated being ready to wean long before my second child was ready to call it quits. But sometime over the last few weeks, it became evident my 18-month-old had a different idea.

Over the course of five days, our breastfeeding relationship abruptly came to an end. This was not what I envisioned for this whole weaning. I half-expected sleepless night after sleepless night followed by fitful days. I never would have guessed our transition into this new season of our relationship would happen so easily, so suddenly.

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A few weeks after she turned 1, I cut way back on how much we were nursing each day. Pumping so I could work away from home had become a hassle, so I limited my daughter to first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon or evening. Since I replaced her nap time mama milk with a warm bottle of milk, she was perfectly happy with the change.

But then a few weeks back, my work-at-home schedule changed. To make time for some extra work, I was locking myself in my bedroom in the early mornings and evenings while my husband was home. During a particularly hectic work week, I was so focused on keeping up with my increased workload that breastfeeding kind of slipped my mind. Instead of taking a quick break from work when my daughter woke up to nurse her and have a cup of coffee, I stayed tucked away in my bedroom. Who forgets to breastfeed their toddler for several days in a row? I do, apparently.

I know these events are glimpses of what's to come, hundreds of micro-heartaches while I loosen my grip on my babies.

It wasn't until day five when I realized my new morning routine had accidentally pushed breastfeeding out of the picture. Settling into the couch with my daughter that afternoon, I offered her the breast and she very matter-of-factly said, "No!" and hustled off to play. That was when I realized I hadn't offered her the breast all week because she had simply stopped asking.

This is where I admit that I know I should be happy. I understand how many moms struggle for weeks on end to wean their toddlers, giving up on sleep and sanity day after day. I feel like I should be grateful weaning came so easily for us, but I'm not.

Instead, I spent a few crappy days overwhelmed with guilt, feeling like I was to blame for our breastfeeding relationship drawing to a close before I was ready. I had been prioritizing my work, and even though I knew in my head this was the decision I made so we could aggressively pay off debt, I was still feeling rough about my the way things happened.

The guilt subsided after a few days, but I was left with this surprising sadness I can't seem to shake. I hadn't prepared myself for weaning, and the unexpected end of breastfeeding has left me feeling a little raw. There was no ceremony, no knowing this was the very last time we would nurse—we simply stopped without so much as a warning.

The way things ended has left me feeling as if I missed a milestone for both my daughter and myself. Not only did I accidentally look over the very last time she would nurse, I may have looked over the very last time I will nurse a baby. Lately I have felt like I am done birthing babies, done nursing babies, and the thought of that makes me incredibly sad.

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Looking forward, I know this is just one occurrence in a line of many when my children will move on toward independence and growing up much more quickly than I would like. I see evidence of this when my oldest drags a chair to the counter to make her own peanut butter toast each morning or when my youngest runs off the play at her grandma's without so much as a tear when I drop her off for the day.

I know these events are glimpses of what's to come, hundreds of micro-heartaches while I loosen my grip on my babies and allow them blossom into their own, beautifully independent people. I see how motherhood is learning to let them find their footing, to fail, to separate themselves from me with each new skill and each new season of their lives.

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