It’s World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7, 2009! For 18 years the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and advocates in 150 countries have been celebrating. World Breasfeeding Week is designed around protecting breastfeeding during emergencies from the influence of marketing breast milk substitutes. During an emergency, nursing is key to infant survival.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond. I took these recommendations to heart. Nursing my son was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life – and I am sure his, as well. I say “was” because a week ago, on the 25th of July, our breastfeeding relationship came to an end. My son was only nursing in the morning when he woke up, but, on Sunday morning when he awoke, I was in London with my husband finalizing our relocation to the U.K.
My mom said he took it well. He didn’t ask to nurse. He didn’t cry. He didn’t refer to breastfeeding at all. I was glad. I was torn about weaning him and chose to do it gently and slowly with the help of a wonderful lactation consultant. We went weeks between dropped feedings. No rush. We were both adjusting well. But, on the last morning I had envisioned a beautiful, peaceful last breastfeeding connection with my son, only to find that he woke too early and our little rule that we only nurse when the sun comes up was being challenged by him. This rule allowed me to finally get some sleep when he turned 21 months old. I held steadfast as he cried.
Looking back, I should have just nursed him, since I knew we would be gone for 5 days afterwards. It ended up that he was having teething pain and wanted the comfort. What could have been a loving, sweet final goodbye turned into a struggle until the sun started creeping up on the horizon – and I gave in. I have since let go of the guilt. My son was breast fed exclusively for 2 years and 2 weeks. I found support when I looked for it and never felt pressure to cover up or nurse in a bathroom. I nursed openly and freely everywhere I wanted. My son received great nutrition, immunity from some illnesses, comfort and the benefit of skin to skin contact. He further benefitted by co-sleeping for a very long time (and still does for naps and nighttime, on occasion).
The first morning he woke up to me back home he was happy to come into bed and just play before breakfast. But this morning, he came into bed at 3am and slept with us. When he woke he asked for “boob” – his endearing term for nursing. “More boob, more boob, no milk gone”, he said. It was painful to re-direct and tell him it was, in fact – all gone. After a few minutes he cuddled in and smiled at me and said “oatmeal”. I let out a big sigh of relief. He had released me.
So during this week – World Breastfeeding Week”, I will not be attending any nurse-in, and I won’t be nursing my son any more. But I am celebrating that I dedicated two years of my life to my son to provide him with the best possible start in life. It was difficult at times, with serious lack of sleep and plugged ducts. But, breastfeeding was truly a panacea. And, I would do it again. I will recommend breastfeeding and support it. My son is growing up and weaning was bittersweet. But, his hugs and cuddles remain and I look forward to a deepening relationship with him as we both grow from the experience we’ve shared as a nursing pair.
My little boy