I nursed my baby for the last time this morning.
His disinterest has been gradual, aided by a stressful weight check at the doctor two months ago, a part-time job that had me trying to start a new pumping protocol, and a new enthusiasm for table food. He’s only eleven months old, and with eight teeth in his mouth, he’s had nursing strikes before — nursing strikes so intense that he’s lost weight because of them.
But this was different.
On Sunday, I pulled him close to me, and he stared up at me quizzically, as though this weren’t a ritual we’d done every single day of his life for the past three hundred and some-odd days. On Monday, he opted for breakfast with Dad over milk with mom. By Wednesday, he was eating three square meals a day and snacks, and I could only convince him that nursing was a good idea when he was groggy.
This morning, he gave it one more go. And I held him tightly, and I kissed his forehead, and I cried for the millionth time this week because we’ve both decided to let it go. Phillip will pick up cabbage leaves on the way home from work. I am down to the last few bottles in my freezer stash before moving on to whole milk. And Wynn could not be happier to crawl away from me whenever I try to offer him one more nursing session for the road.
And all I can think about is the first time my midwife placed that tiny little boy on my chest.
Dear newly nursing mama — don’t miss this.
I remember the day I realized that I had tracked every nursing session — every wet diaper — every poop — and every nap — for every single day of Wynn’s life.
Every single one.
I remember going out with a friend and self-consciously watching the time, thinking about when he would need to eat next. I remember timing his feedings and scheduling a meeting with a lactation consultant because he ate “too fast.” I remember monitoring his weight gain like a hawk.
The fact that I was my child’s primary source of nourishment used to keep me up at night, staring at the ceiling, waiting for him to cry. For the first ten months of his life, we were the nursing family who didn’t have a backup formula in the house, and who stockpiled a freezer stash big enough to stare down a zombie apocalypse.
It Gets Better
And then, one day, I looked up and had gone the whole day without timing a single feeding or counting a single wet diaper.
It was a miracle. We had found our groove.
And life was grand. I had him on a fantastic feeding schedule, he was sleeping through the night, and he was meeting all of his milestones. As the battle with PPD waged in my heart, I would often tell my husband, “I stink at everything in life except for being Wynn’s mama. Being Wynn’s mama is the only thing I’ve got under control.”
We were perfectly in sync.
Sure, we had bad days. The teething wasn’t fun. The nap strikes were the worst. The defiance reared its ugly head. But the more Wynn and I got to know one another, the more we began to operate like a well-oiled machine!
It Is A Victory
I once had a friend tell me that she didn’t view breastfeeding as a victory. She had formula-fed her children, and they were just as healthy as any breastfeeding child around.
I get it. She was tired of all of the self-satisfied “lactivist” mamas calling her a slacker. That’s not cool. I was formula fed, and so were my eight siblings, and my mom is the best mom I know — hands down.
But you know what is cool?
That God, in his infinite wisdom, designed female bodies with the capability to sustain their children for the first year of their lives. He gives us all that we need. And, no, mama cows don’t go around feeling like the stuff after their calves come off of their udders, but they’re also not trying to live a full life while pausing every two-four hours to feed a kid.
If I were sitting butt naked in a field all day chowing down on the grass while my kid nursed at will, I probably wouldn’t feel victorious in my nursing journey. But bipeds have a little bit more going on, especially when they’re juggling home life, marriage, career, and carrying the burden of their child’s nutrition on (well, between) their shoulders.
High-five. That is not easy.
You Are Not A Failure
But you can talk to that same hand if you use the blessing of being able to nourish your child as a status symbol.
Some mothers don’t nurse. Sometimes that’s by choice, and sometimes, that’s because of circumstances.
Even my nursing journey hit a snag. Wynn and I have needed some extra help in the last couple of months.
When I gave my child his first bottle of formula, he didn’t stop loving me. God was still using me to nourish him. The nourishment was coming from a different source, but Wynn was still being taken care of.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: ultimately fed is best. And life with a very picky eater and a newly done nurser is teaching me that in ways I never imagined.
It Is Not Your Identity
I would not trade this time of nursing my son for anything.
It has taught me so many lessons about how fearfully and wonderfully made we both are. It’s taught me what it means for my body to be a daily sacrifice for my son’s needs. It’s taught me what it means to trust God’s provision, because, ultimately, it’s not me who provides for Wynn. It’s taught me the value of patience with a learning curve.
My nursing victories have taught me the sweet triumph of perseverance. And my nursing snags have shown me the ultimate joy of finding my identity in Christ.
My child is done nursing. But I have a feeling he’s not done helping me develop deeper gratitude, worship, and reliance on my Heavenly Father.
I’ve been in Atlanta all week with my husband. We’re here half for ministry (for me), part for work (for him), and part for some quality time with just us two. We left on the heels of hosting my family all the way from Zambia. In fact, seven of my siblings, my mom, and my dad are back in our eighteen hundred square foot home with our sons. I should be laying in a hotel bed binging Parks and Rec with my husband. And I will be soon. But I have something to say about motherhood and mom guilt.
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