If you would have told me I would have been breastfeeding a four year old before I had a child I would have looked at you like you had three heads and twelve eyes. If you would have told me I would have been breastfeeding a four year old on the first day of my breastfeeding journey I would have said, “let’s get through four weeks first.” If you would have told me I would have been breastfeeding a four year old four weeks into the journey I would have said, “yea right.”
January 23, 2017 made four years breastfeeding for me and JustaBXgirl. It was also our last day on the journey. To every mother that has tried breastfeeding, to every mother that has breastfed for a few weeks, to every mother that has breastfed for a few months, for every mother that has breastfed to one year old, to every mother that has breastfed for over a year you know the love and annoyance that comes to the act of breastfeeding. You know the stress and anxiety that can come with breastfeeding. You know the judgement and opinions that find their way into your heart and head about breastfeeding. And you know the sense of loss that comes after your baby has latched for the last time.
From age three to four JustaBXgirl really only nursed mornings and nights. Right after her third birthday I gave her an ultimatum, she had to choose between keeping baba (breastfeeding) or continuing to wear diapers. She potty trained herself in less than a week! While she was three I took my first work trip without her. I was gone five nights. Before leaving I spoke with her about the possibility of that being the end of our breastfeeding journey. During the trip I hand expressed a little to keep my supply. I knew she was trying to be a brave girl but could also tell during FaceTime conversations that she was anxious and sad. One of the first things she asked when I got home was if she could have baba. I said a silent prayer that I would still have a supply and we went back to normal morning and night nursing sessions.
Approaching her fourth birthday she started needing to nurse more. I had a few conversations with her about her getting older and maybe it being the right time for us to stop. She would tell me we were never going to stop because baba was her favorite thing in the whole world. Finally, I got her to agree with her birthday being the end. The morning of her birthday she woke up and asked me very gently, preparing herself to hear no, if she could have a little bit of baba. How do you tell the birthday girl no? I couldn’t. I started wondering if she really wasn’t ready to let go. My fears were my own anxiety taking form. The next day she woke up, asked if we could snuggle and then started her day. I let her fall asleep that night before I got into bed and for the next few nights I did the same. A few times in the middle of the night I had to redirect her (she would normally feed on demand in the middle of night since we co-sleep) but overall once she put her mind to it just like everything else she excelled.
I can say I might have had a harder time adjusting than she did! Less than a week after we stopped nursing she caught a cold. All I could think was that it was my fault because she was no longer getting antibodies to protect her. There were definitely more than a handful of experiences in the past month where I missed the magic of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding moms know we depend on mama’s milk for so many things in our children’s life. I now have to find different resources.
Every once in a while she’ll still tell me she loves my babas or that she misses her milk. We’re both still adjusting but I love how now instead of asking for baba she will ask for snuggles. Our journey wasn’t an easy one. It took me a long while to adjust to breastfeeding. My supply was always a concern for me. There were times when I was working in an office that I didn’t pump enough then I would get more anxiety over my supply which of course would cause it to drop even more. Around eighteen months she decided that she would no longer drink milk in a bottle or sippy cup. I would have put money on our journey ending shortly after. I would have lost big!
I share this not to brag about how long I was able to breastfeed (I know it was a blessing). I share this not to make you feel like you need to breastfeed until four or beyond. I share this because someone somewhere is being told that her choice to let her child decide when their journey ends is being bullied into stopping today. I share this because I am proud that even when the support started to dwindle off (after the first year) I remembered that my decisions have to be for my daughter and not for others.
I’m a firm believer that #fedisbest. Do what works for your family.