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At Their Own Pace

By Sheri Hodinko
Fairfax VA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, p. 155

A few nights ago was my son Kyle's last nursing. It was a wonderful, long bedtime nursing. He fell asleep when he was finished and I tucked him in with his beloved stuffed animals. He didn't ask to nurse the next night, or the next, or the next. It was the night before his fourth birthday.

In our family, the amount of time a child breastfeeds is measured in years, not months. I believe in the many benefits of extended nursing. I didn't start on the path of motherhood planning to nurse that long -- it just happened. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, Ryan, I assumed that I would nurse for six months to a year. It seemed like that's what people did. Well, Ryan was a fussy baby who needed to nurse a lot. I really enjoyed mothering him that way. By the time he was almost 11 months old, most of my friends from a playgroup I joined had already weaned or were planning to soon. At that point, our breastfeeding relationship was wonderful and I couldn't imagine ending it anytime soon, so I attended my first La Leche League meeting. I met other like-minded mothers and received the support I needed.

Soon after, I found out that I was pregnant again. Nursing through pregnancy isn't for everyone, but it worked for us. La Leche League gave me the confidence I needed. Kyle was born when Ryan was about 19 months old and we began tandem nursing. It wasn't easy, but I enjoyed our time together.

When Ryan turned three, I began to wonder if it was time to start the weaning process. He was in preschool and seemed like such a big boy. He was also showing me in certain ways that he was ready. I initiated weaning and he responded well. He weaned completely by the time he was three-and-a-half. I felt sad, but I was ready after two years of tandem nursing.

Two weeks later I became pregnant. I was starting the process of nursing through pregnancy and tandem nursing all over again. Scott was born when Kyle was two-and-a-half. Kyle was vocal and often told me what he thought of nursing and the plentiful supply that Scott's birth had brought.

As Kyle neared the three-and-a-half mark, Ryan often told him he would have to wean soon. After all, he had weaned at three-and-a-half. This made me laugh. Kyle always became sad when he heard this and would look at me. I told him that he didn't have to wean at that age just because Ryan did. He liked this answer and decided on his own that he would wean when he turned four. I have to admit that I didn't think he would keep his word! In a busy household with an older brother and a younger brother, nursing was our special time together before bed.

When he nursed on the night before his birthday, I wondered if he would really wean and I shed a few tears as he fell asleep at my breast. After this evening, I no longer wonder if he has weaned completely. He was tired and cranky and became upset when he lost a game to his older brother. He collapsed in a fit of tears and, as I comforted him, I knew that if he was going to continue nursing, he would ask right then. But he didn't. He was happy being comforted and tucked into bed. I'm proud of him for setting a weaning date and sticking to it, but I still feel a bit sad that our special time is over.

Two years after his weaning, my oldest son, Ryan, doesn't even remember nursing. It is amazing to me that something so important to him has been forgotten. It makes me wonder if Kyle will remember nursing and how important it was to him. In the end, I guess it doesn't really matter. I know that I gave my children the best start in life. Nursing through babyhood, toddlerhood, and beyond has shaped who my children are today and who they will become. This gives me immense satisfaction.

Last updated Wednesday, October 25, 2006by njb.
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