Getting Real with Kira Hazledine
In case you missed it, breastfeeding a toddler was on my unfulfilled list of “nevers”. Yet here we are. My daughter, Hallie, is 16 months old and the little gremlin (bundle of joy) has no intentions of being weaned anytime soon. Anytime I ask for advice, it ranges from anywhere to “let her take the lead” and “cut her off” to “every child is different” and “you’re still breastfeeding?”. Great, that’s literally the most helpful thing ever. I know exactly what I’m doing now.
Breastfeeding is a controversial topic, not that I know why. There are boobs everywhere in our culture, but one that produces milk is somehow horrifying to the general public. Regardless, I’m an advocate of “fed is best”. I could not care less how you feed your child if they are healthy and happy, and if YOU are healthy and happy. Can’t forget about mom here, since we’re the walking milk factory.
How do we breastfeed the “right” way?
How long are we supposed to breastfeed for? If you missed all the statistics flying around this year’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Week (typically the first week of August), the global average of weaning is about 4 years old. Crazy, right? Especially when in our culture, anything beyond 1 year is considered weird, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending breastfeeding beyond age 1 for “as long as you and your baby wish to continue”. Did I just read a reference to a personal decision? I was under the impression that society would throw rocks if I did any such thing.
How do we wean the “right” way?
I did make attempts to wean Hallie when she turned one, because I wanted some space between being a milk factory and a baby factory. I researched a lot, suggesting dropping only one feeding a week, and if Hallie resisted I backed off. After about 2 months Hallie was weaned completely during the day with only a few night-time sessions. Then, I can only assume that Hallie thought harder about her decision to be cooperative. In classic toddler fashion, Hallie decided she was not going to be weaned. She went from drinking several ounces of whole milk each day, to none, combined with a horrible cry to breastfeed ALL THE TIME. For a few days I struggled, thinking it was a phase. How silly of me.
It took a few weeks, but Hallie gladly drinks whole milk throughout the day. However, this is not to be confused with weaning. She demands both “titties” (that would be my foul yet hilarious language emerging early in her speech) and milk, and it’s a battle every day as I refuse at least a few day time sessions. She breastfeeds at wake-up, before nap, and throughout the night. And that’s as good as it is going to get for the time-being.
Breastfeeding is a relationship.
Could I push the issue with her and decide that I’m done? Of course! A breastfeeding relationship must go both ways. Hallie is lucky that I still enjoy breastfeeding and the demands she continues to make of my body. It would be a rough few days, but she would be no worse for the wear if I decided to wean cold-turkey. But I’m soft, and I’m also too lazy to fight her on this when it really doesn’t matter that much to me. I’ve just come to terms with the fact that she’s in charge, which is clearly a lesson I need to learn early.
The decision to breastfeed, or not, and when to wean, or not, is up to you and your baby. For us, weaning is hard and breastfeeding is not. For others, breastfeeding is hard and weaning is easy. Guess what? Your body, your baby, your decision. Unless your child is like Hallie, and you just convince yourself that you have a choice. You do you, mama.