Thursday Morning Wood

Posted by Wood | Thursday, October 05, 2006 |

On this past Monday, October 2, two days after Juniper turned 20 months old, I stopped breastfeeding her.

For the last 4 months, the only time Juniper nursed was during the still-dark hours of the morning. She would wake at 5:00 or 5:30 and call for me, requesting "booboobs." After twenty minutes of breastfeeding in our bed, I'd return her to her crib or, more recently, her big girl bed. Then she'd sleep for another hour or two, and when I finally got up for the day, our early morning nursing session seemed shrouded in exhaustion, like a distant dream.

I was barely conscious during these last months of nursing. I also rarely admitted to anyone that Juniper wasn't completely weaned. It wasn't that I feared judgment from childless friends who said, the way I sometimes did before I was pregnant, that breastfeeding a toddler when she's "old enough to ask for it" was gross, it was that I really felt like she had weaned. My breasts were never engorged anymore and had returned to their pre-pregnancy (or an even smaller) size, I didn't even know where my breast pump was, and I hadn't breastfed in public or worn a nursing bra in months. Nursing no longer regimented our days like it did for the first year of Juniper's life, and since I was only half-awake when she breastfed every morning, it just seemed easier to tell people that she wasn't doing it. I was a closet extended breastfeeder.

On Monday, I decided that the early morning nursing session, which on Sunday took place at 3:45 a.m., was getting in the way of her sleep. For weeks, she'd been waking early and sleeping poorly after breastfeeding, and it seemed as though the morning nurse was no longer making it easier for her to sleep, but instead making it more difficult for both of us. I had been hoping that Juniper would one day just sleep through until 7:00, and I pictured myself rolling over one morning, glancing at the clock in surprise, and walking into her room to find her still sleeping peacefully after the sun had risen. On Monday I had to admit to myself that was never going to happen, and that's just not the kind of kid Juniper is. Instead, by becoming a total pain in the ass from the hours between 4:00 and 7:00 a.m., she was letting me know that she was ready move on.

Monday we went cold turkey. I told her on Sunday night that we were "all done" with "booboobs," and she repeated me and said "yeah," over and over. That night she had the worst night of sleep she's had in six months, even worse than the nights spent sleeping in cars and transferred to hotel beds in Nevada and Nebraska on our cross-country drive in August. I have to think that she understood, and that she was troubled and worried. When the morning came on Monday and she wanted to nurse and I didn't let her, she was pissed and screamed like a feral mongoose while I held her and tried to tell her that everything was okay, that I was there, that I loved her. When she finally fell asleep again that morning, she slept through my departure for work and I arrived at the office with aching boobs and a broken heart.

The mornings since then have gotten a little easier every day, but this morning at 5:45 she still said, "booboobs," pointed out the door of her room towards our bedroom, and plunged her warm, sticky hand down my shirt. My breasts are more engorged than they've been since December, and knowing that there is milk in there after months of forgetting about it makes it nearly impossible for me not to rip my shirt in two and nurse her just so I can watch her fall asleep on my breast one last time.

I know that Juniper was ready to wean and I'm confident that in a few weeks, she'll be sleeping better than ever. Now that it's over, however, I'm not sure that I was prepared for that fact that I'll never nurse this baby again. So here I sit at my desk, staring at this picture of us that Dutch took in March, on a flight from Detroit to San Francisco.