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Adjusting to Limits

April Almeida
Hamilton Ontario Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 10

During the early weeks and months after the birth of my daughter, everything in my life revolved around breastfeeding her. I made sure, as when pregnant, that I ate well, took care of myself, and followed her cues. She was a happy baby and easily satisfied. She thrived on what my body was designed to produce for her. And I thrived watching her.

As we grew in our nursing relationship, I learned all I could about breastfeeding. I researched and read everything about the basics through books and online. I read stories from other mothers about how they overcame their problems, and I learned about the purpose of nursing beyond the first year of life. I became a member of La Leche League, and attended meetings when I could. I treasured knowing that what I was doing was best for my daughter and enjoyed being around other mothers who shared my passion.

Somewhere along my learning journey, I don't remember when, I had decided to practice child-led, or natural, weaning. This, to me, epitomized what parenting was, and my husband and I shared this belief system. Parenting with loving guidance, rather than forcefulness.

As my daughter turned one year old, nursing was still the way she received most of her true nourishment. It was a wonderful way to feed her, but also to comfort her, love her, teach her, and parent her. To many, a nursing toddler was something odd, something not in the societal norm. To us, and those who knew us, it was just our way of life.

Of course, there were many times over the span of our nursing relationship when I just wanted to be left alone, when I didn't want to sit still for a feed, or offer yet another comforting moment. And true to form, that was precisely when my demanding child insisted I do just those things. But, every time she asked, there I was. Ready and willing. It felt natural, and I knew she trusted that I would always let her nurse, for whatever reason. I could not refuse her sweet face looking adoringly up at me, wanting to be nursed. And when she was older, the bond grew because she was able to verbally communicate her need to nurse. There is nothing more amazing than actually discussing with your nursing child how your milk tastes to them, how it feels to nurse, and why they like it. I soon learned all these things and it brought tears to my eyes. I knew I had made the right choice in continuing to breastfeed until she decided she had enough.

When my daughter turned two years old, the nursing sessions and her fierce need for my milk started to diminish. I noticed that, as she developed in leaps and bounds in other areas, she lost her desire to breastfeed. At that point, we cut out the naptime nursing. I prepared her weeks in advance of what was to happen and she happily accepted and even started to lessen the time on her own at the breast overall. Naptimes were now happy reading times that lulled her to a tired state, as the breast once did. She nursed only in the morning, in my bed with me, and in the evening, before bed after reading time. I shed many a tear as she matured and needed me less in this respect. I knew logically that she needed me in the new and exciting events as she was learning, but nursing had been what we were about-our foundation. This time, I had to be the one to adjust to the limits being set, instead of the other way around.

When my daughter turned three, we were down to one nursing session before bed, and soon, that stopped. I was shocked that she had not asked to nurse for days and I knew that our breastfeeding relationship had come to an end. My baby was growing up, and had clearly decided for herself that she'd nursed enough.

Since she has weaned, my daughter has asked me if she could taste my milk on two occasions. Of course, I let her. The first time, she decided she didn't want a taste after all, before even latching on. The second time, she licked my breast, giggled loudly, and said, "No mommy, I don't have that anymore I am a big girl now. Booby is for babies. Can we have a baby please and can I give some to the baby?"

Needless to say, we are onto bigger and better things. Our relationship is strong, secure, and I am learning new ways to parent with the same loving approach I used when I nursed her. I truly feel because of nursing her as long as I did, and allowing her to self-wean, I have offered her a way to develop and grow on her own schedule, and with confidence. I see that now in all other aspects of her learning. Nursing is a beautiful thing, and I am proud to have helped her get to where she is.

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