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Breastfeeding: You Never Know When It’s the Last Time

“I feel like Jack is going to be one of those kids that breastfeeds until 7 years old,” I said to my husband one day when Jack was around 1 year old. I had been learning a lot about breastfeeding, mostly through the moms at The Badass Breastfeeder Facebook community. I learned that kids who are not weaned early can breastfeed anywhere from 2.5 to 7 years old. Before kids it would have completely freaked me out. Now that I had celebrated my very first nursiversary, after fighting tooth and nail to save what seemed like a doomed breastfeeding relationship, I couldn’t imagine why on earth I would ever wean him. My husband took a bit longer to adjust to the idea of coloring so outside the box, but ultimately we both felt that what helps Jack is much more important than anyone else’s opinion.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding Jack.

Jack is a sensitive fellow. He feels things deeper than most people. He can sense your mood the moment you walk into a room. He cries at unkindness, even when it’s not directed at him. Lights are bright, sounds are loud, he’s a picky eater and clothes are scratchy. He’s been in occupational therapy to address his auditory sensitivities. Nursing aversion set in during my pregnancy with his brother and I worked hard to create boundaries around breastfeeding to make it more manageable for me because I didn’t want to wean him. I wanted him to have breastfeeding, even if it was just a few times a day, until he felt ready to stop. As I got to know my little baby boy I knew he would be in it for the long haul.

“I bet Exley weans before Jack,” I said to my husband when Exley was about 1 year old. Breastfeeding was old hat around my house by then and I was totally fine with both boys breastfeeding (along with boundaries that I placed for my own sanity) for as long as they wanted. I was confident in my decision that we would steer this ship together with honesty and respect as our guide.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding Exley.

Exley is a tornado. He is strong-willed. He’s also physically strong. He can do a flip on the rings in slow motion. He can throw a truck right at your forehead from across the room. He can flip the dinner table, I know this because he’s done it. He is a force to be reckoned with. I never owned child safety locks before Exley was born. They were a waste anyway because he figured out how to open them. If he gets the slightest inclination that you don’t want him to do something he will make it his life mission to do that.

I can relate to Exley. I don’t like rules and I mostly them see them as things to break. I can relate to Jack too. As I learned about Sensory Processing Disorder and Highly Sensitive People. I learned so much about myself and my childhood. Breastfeeding has always been such an important piece. At 6.5 and 3.5 it’s not by any means their only coping skill, but it’s one they have always known and one I feel should be eliminated by them when they decide they have fully transitioned to other skills.

Jack has nursed only one time a day (to sleep) for more than a year now. And even that has gone through stages. From filling up on breastmilk before dozing off, to latching on for a few seconds before turning over and asking me to put my arm around him. Last year we were in a hotel room and he said, “I can’t wait until I can fall asleep on my own.” I told him that he can fall asleep on his own. He falls asleep on his own whenever he is too congested to nurse or when I am out late or out of town. I told him he can fall asleep on his own whenever he wants. He said, “Well, I’ll have boobie tonight anyway.”

Abby Theuring. The Badass Breastfeeder, tandem nursing, tandem breastfeeding.

Not everyone will breastfeed this long. Some will. It doesn’t matter, that’s not the point. The point is to do what you feel is right for your kids no matter what other people say or what twisted cultural norms exist. Screw the haters and even screw what you yourself thought about it last month. No one can make this decision about your life, but you. You are the only one in this moment with your child right now.  Breastfeeding belongs to you and your child. No one else.

Jack is 6.5 years old and has gone a week without nursing and Exley has nursed today. So technically I was wrong on both of my predictions of when they would stop. But you have to admit I was pretty damn close, I think they will have weaned by summer. I have no milk in my breasts at all anymore. It’s been more than a few months since I have been able to express even tiny drips at the nipple. Sometimes Exley will go a day or 2 without asking. I feel the end is near.

It won’t be long now that I will no longer be choosing clothes based on breast accessibility. It’s happened much as I suspected it would for us. Jack went about a week without asking to nurse to sleep. I wanted to tell you all. It’s how this post ended before my final edits. But then I brought it up to him, “Jack, you know you haven’t asked to nurse in about a week.”  He said, “Yeah, I know, I know it’s uncomfortable for you.” It made me feel guilty at first, but then I realized he has heard me when we are talking about boundaries. He’s taking my feelings into consideration, he’s old enough for that now. Being open and expressing myself in this relationship has paid off. That night he asked to nurse.

You never know when it will be the last time.

I am emotional about the end, the knowledge that we leave that phase behind. Breastfeeding isn’t something I get to go back to. I got one chance. But I’m also ready. I’m not depressed or sad because we did it our way. I get to cry happy tears of the end of an intensely profound era in our lives. I get to sleep well because it went the way we wanted it to go. And I get to marvel in awe at this insanely beautiful life that breastfeeding has shaped for us.