When I posted this picture
a couple of days ago, Libby wondered in the comments section if I have any weaning plans. Of course, gracious soul that she is, she prefaced her question with the hope that it wasn't too personal for the internet. And maybe it would be a personal question for some people. But since I've written in the past about my firsthand experiences with post-partum incontinence
and baby constipation
, it's obviously not too personal a question for the likes of me. Also, Sam long ago made my boobs part of the public record without asking my permission, so why stop now?
Here's my weaning plan:
I don't have a weaning plan.
I thought about couching my lack of planning in some groovy terminology about "child-led weaning" and "organic development," but all of you who know me in real life would immediately call shenanigans. And you'd be right to do so.
Something I'm learning about myself in my mom role is that my parenting philosophy seems to go something like this:
If you're not sure what to do, do nothing.
It's great! It's kind of like procrastinating, but I'll let you in on a secret: it kind of works.
Oh, it didn't work on our sleep issues
. I'll freely admit that. And I have a feeling that potty-training isn't going to take care of itself. But almost everything else? Not too shabby. Some for-instances, you rightly demand? Okey-dokey.
1. Tummy time. Sam hated it. Screamed his fool head off every time we tried it. I gave up. No more tummy time. Oh, maybe if I was at a playgroup and all the other moms and babies were doing tummy time I'd make a token effort for show, but that was it. And what do you know? Sam still figured out how to crawl on his own.
2. Solid food. "Hated" is too strong a word, but Sam definitely didn't see the use of it. I didn't push it at all, even though a well-meaning public health nurse told me that if babies aren't eating lumpy foods by the time they're eight months old, they'll never want to eat it. I could've fretted and stewed about this, which wouldn't have been unlike me, but I let it go. And lo! And also behold! At around the nine-month mark, Sam's dining motto suddenly became "I'll have what you're having." This philosophy extended to veggie sushi, Indian food, and lumpy mashed avocado. (I should point out that none of these foods had crossed my lips until I was at least 25 years old. My boy, the epicure.)
I could try to conjure up a third example, and it kills my expository-essay-loving soul not to do it, but I want to get back to my point about weaning. Or one of my points, anyway. Which is this: of all the women I know, everyone has handled weaning in her own way. And from my (admittedly total outsider's) perspective, every one of these fabulous moms has handled weaning in the way that best suits her and her baby. That's all any of us can do, right? This is what we're told: that as moms, we're the ones who know our babies best.
And yet... and yet...
Why does our culture seem
to support this mom-knows-best belief on the surface, while at the same time completely negating this belief any time the public is challenged to accept something it finds discomfitting? And man oh man, do people ever have strong opinions about if and when you should stop breastfeeding.
There are, of course, the people who think you should never breastfeed at all because it's dirty and wrong and perverse and bestial and something that only happens on the pages of National Geographic
. And then there are the people who think you should definitely do it for the first few days or weeks so that your baby can derive all the powerful benefits of early breastmilk, but then you should quit. If you soldier on, though, people seem okay with leaving you alone until the six-month mark, and then the questions start again. And once you get past THAT hump, you get another nice, long unmolested stretch, until you start homing in on one year, and boy, people sure come out of the woodwork then.* You can almost see what they're thinking: "But... if she doesn't stop at a year, when will she stop? Will she keep doing it... FOREVER?"
I have to confess to a perverse feeling of glee every time I see this anxiety flicker behind someone's eyes. Hee.
The great thing about still nursing past a year is that I feel like I've got this wildcard aura about me. As if all the people who might've challenged the value of breastfeeding early on are too daunted by my crazy extended-breastfeeding schedule to make a peep of protest.
Or maybe I'm overthinking this. It's been known to happen.
Something I learned during the first six months of Sam's life -- when he seemed permanently attached to my boobs -- is that, well, he really, really likes nursing. I've always gotten the sense that, for him, breastfeeding is only partially about food-related nourishment. He passes through phases where it's obvious that he gets powerful emotional sustenance from nursing as well.
I know that, as a parent, my job is to teach him ways to bolster himself, and this is a responsibility I take seriously. But as a pre-verbal one-year-old, he's just not there yet. Right now, nursing is by far the most powerful tool I have in my mothering toolbelt, and if I take it away, I don't know if I have anything comparable with which to replace it. And trust me, happy little clam that Sam generally appears to be, I'm constantly aware of the tempest that is always simmering in that innocuous-looking little teapot. Until Sam is more verbal and -- let's not mince words -- amenable to reason, my boobs are on standby.
There are trade-offs, of course. While Sam only nurses around four or five times a day (this may sound like a lot to some people, but it's a lot fewer than the BAJILLION times a day he used to nurse), this means that I don't stray far from home without him. It means that, when we go to parties or restaurants, I'll maaaaaaybe nurse one weak cocktail all night long. It means that I have to drink umpteen glasses of water every single day, because if I miss a day I wake up the next morning with skin that has the approximate texture of an alligator purse.
I sort of lied earlier. I actually do have a very rough plan to think about
weaning at around 19 or 20 months. Of course, I was the person who originally didn't think she'd even have children. Or breastfeed. Or breastfeed past the first couple of weeks. Or the first six months. Or the first year. So you might want to take my words with a grain of salt.
If I become one of those moms with a three-year-old hanging off my chest like a baby possum, I do have one regret: that I can't travel back in time and freak the shit out of my 25-year-old self.
*I'm not referring to you guys. I'm talking about people with whom I normally don't
discuss my breasts.