It’s hard to know how I feel tonight. After two years, two months and two days of breast-feeding my daughter to sleep every night, tonight her bedtime routine was missing that previously essential “Mama milk” moment. I expected tears on both our parts, even though I’ve been preparing her for weeks (it’s my decision, not hers). Instead, it was almost too easy.
This morning began in a different city. I’m moving for a job and the job involves travel, so I’m weaning. There are other reasons too… She woke up at six, as she often does and demanded her Mama milk. I happened to be sleeping next to her (our bed was already packed) so I rolled over, lifted my shirt and she helped herself. When she was done, she declared “other side” and climbed over me, lifted the other side of my shirt and helped herself again while my partner snuggled in behind me. My daughter finished up — she doesn’t even say “all done” any more — and declared it was time for food. I knew that if my plan worked, this was the last time I would breastfeed, ever, and I was feeling a little teary. I reminded her that there was no Mama milk in Sydney because she was a big girl now, and asked her if she wanted to say goodbye. She said, “Bye bye, milks” and kissed my right breast. She said “I kissed it!” and I cried a little. My partner wrapped his arms around me and kissed me on the cheek and we all got up for breakfast, and the hectic preparation for an early plane.
She had an earlyish nap in Grandma’s car on the way back from the airport on this side, and then we ran her ragged this afternoon. I made sure she had enough dinner, made sure the bath was lovely, and gave her the warm horchata that we’ve discussed is what big girls drink at bedtime (at least, those with dairy allergies!). When she asked for more food at 8pm, I gave her one of her favourites to make sure she’d eat enough.
In bed at 8.30, about 45 minutes later than normal (I figured that’s what a feed and all the prep around it might take), she asked for Mama milk. I took a deep breath and reminded her we were in Sydney, and there was no Mama milk any more because she was a big girl. I waited for all hell to break loose. Instead, she seemed to think about it it for a second, and then asked “Book?” as if checking that no other part of the routine was gone. “Of course,” I said. “Which ones?” She chose two (and not the two I would have expected), we read them, rang Daddy and Uncle Jack back home to say goodnight. By this time it was 9pm, when she’d usually be asleep already. She said she needed to go to the toilet; we duly trooped over to the potty. Back in bed, I tucked her in, kissed her goodnight, turned out the light and sat down to pat her. She asked for “More Mama milk” which is a standard last-minute “I’m falling asleep and I want to stall” thing and I replied again, “No, honey, you’re a big girl now” and lo and behold, she was snoring within 10 minutes.
I think there were fewer tears than usual. Maybe we’re both ready for this.
Now I just have to get through the rest of the week and I’ll be ready to start my new job on Monday.
There are a couple of things I want to say about breastfeeding to two years old. I loved it. I only found it a burden in the past few weeks, when she started playing with my other nipple while she fed and I know that’s something I could easily have fixed with a nursing necklace if I was really determined. There’s a joy and simplicity in this act — if I’d stopped earlier, I never would have had the pleasure of hearing her say “Mama milk”, of hearing her say, “Bye bye, milk!” one morning as I put a T-shirt on; I would never have seen her pretend to breastfeed her dolls; I would not have been asked to breastfeed her baby doll, her toy rabbit, her toy turtle and her monster truck and various times in our relationship; I wouldn’t have seen her generosity in offering the breast to Fluffy the bunny first, then taking her turn; I wouldn’t have had the ease of comforting her during injections, of helping equalise her ear pressure during take-off and landing, of calming her after a bad fall. I’m so glad I got to donate milk to a friend who couldn’t produce enough herself and I’ll always feel like I have a special connection with her son because of that.
I would have liked to continue until she was ready to stop. At the same time, she has allergies and I’m frustrated that every time someone accidentally feeds me the wrong thing, she suffers. It was starting to be unpleasant for me at times, and I didn’t want to grow to resent it. We made it to our goal of two years because WHO says that’s the recommended minimum time for complementary feeding. We went further because it felt good. And now we’re starting a new life in a new town. I’m not the mother of a toddler any more. I’m the mother of a little girl. And okay, now I’m starting to tear up again.