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There’s been something afoot in the last week or so that I have been uncharacteristically silent about, mainly because I’ve been upset and unsure of exactly how I feel at any given moment.

Simon has begun to self-wean himself. For the first nine months of his life, he nursed seven to nine times per day. For the next three, he nursed five times per day. Then, within days of turning one, he decided he was largely uninterested. One day in the last week he nursed three times, most days he’s nursed twice, and the last couple of days he’s nursed only once. I still offer him the chance five times a day, but he usually latches for 30 seconds or so and then either bucks and cries or calmly pushes himself into a sitting position.

While this change has been sudden and easy for him, it’s been much, much harder for me. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve been through most of the seven stages of grief in about as many days.

  1. First, shock. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Simon loves to nurse? He throws away his pacifier when I approach. What’s going on here?
  2. Then, denial. I didn’t think he was weaning. I thought he was too tired, too busy, too full, or on a strike. Surely this would pass in a day or so.
  3. Next, bargaining. OK. So maybe he really only needs to nurse three or four times a day. I’ll catch him when he’s hungrier, pump to make the milk come faster, and this will pass in a day or so and we will resume at a reduced rate.
  4. Then, guilt. What had I done wrong? Too much food? Too slow a let-down? Did I need to call in a consultant or try harder? If I had kept up pumping would this have happened?
  5. Embarrassingly, next came a foray into anger. How could Simon reject me like this? Maybe if I withheld food and made him sit on this bed with me long enough, he would come to his senses and nurse.
  6. Predictably, when these heavy handed tactics failed, I moved straight into depression. I wasn’t going to continue mothering as I had planned. My baby was growing up and rejecting me. What was the point of staying home with him if the most hands-on part of my mothering was ending? And how could I have failed at something so important?
  7. And in the last 24 hours, thanks to several books and websites and the shoulder of a few friends and family members, I have reached a fragile acceptance.

Maybe Simon hadn’t really rejected me, but was just moving on faster than I expected. Maybe I will enjoy being able to drink a full glass of wine or real cup of tea after nearly two years. Maybe it will be good to be able to be away from Simon for more than 3 hours. Maybe if my hormones go back to normal, my freakishly straight hair will curl up again. Maybe this change won’t be so bad after all.

I’ve certainly learned two valuable lessons from this experience. One is that Simon is a little person with likes and dislikes of his own, who is not going to behave according to averages and statistics I find in books. Or, for that matter, according to how I envision and plan.

Another is that you sometimes find comfort in unexpected places. About the last resource I considered consulting was the La Leche League website. Those people advocate the sort of baby-led weaning that has pre-schoolers still nursing. Wouldn’t they just make me feel worse? Desperate for answers and information, I finally hit their FAQ on weaning and was amazed to discover that they say babies self wean as early as ten months. One group leader reported her experience with six babies: three weaned by 13 months, the other three went past two years. This made me truly believe that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Then, of all places, I found a section in a book called It’s All Too Much, a guide to decluttering, that helped me understand my feelings better. The author, Peter Walsh, describes going into the house of a mother of three. She could barely move in her house because she had so much stuff in it—mostly stuff her three children had outgrown that she could not bear to part with. Looking things over, he asked her one question: “Do you believe your best times with your children are behind you or in front of you?” She began to cry, and he realized why she was holding on to all that stuff; she was desperately clinging to what she feared would be the best times ever with her kids.

She’s not alone. I can’t seem to part with Simon’s old clothes. I get sad every time he outgrows a toy. I’m obsessed with when babies become toddlers. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I still have his cord stump.

But no amount of wishing or hoarding can turn back the clock, so I’m resolved to not ruin the time ahead of us by mooing over time already passed. And since every morning that Simon nurses might well be his last, I’m going to relish the time we have left. Finally, I’m going to focus on the amazing smiles I get from him every day. Because while I am/was hung up on what this weaning might signify, Simon doesn’t seem to love me any less today than he did three weeks ago.

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