Dear Amalah with the beautiful pants, hair, and babies that I love,
My almost 14 month old has recently weaned (two weeks). We were down to just nursing before bed and I realized on the nights I had class and he did not nurse, he slept all night! 12 and a half hours! So I just stopped offering…and he is okay. Doesn’t even want to cuddle. He just lays down in his crib and goes to bed.
I thought I would be so happy. Just a few months ago I was still pumping 3x a day at work, plus nursing 3 times a day…and now my boobs are mine! I can finally buy new bras! But I am DEVASTATED. I am heartbroken and do not know what to do. I miss cuddling before bed and have tried to a few times and he hates it. Now every time I put him to bed I go lie down and cry 10 minutes or so afterwards. He does not want to nurse, runs all the time, and wants independence. My baby is gone. How do I get over this? I didn’t know the end of breastfeeding was going to be so, so hard. My husband is putting him to bed when he can, but he works evenings a lot, so it is mostly my job.
Am I crazy? Is this normal? Is this just from a change of hormones (I still have not had a period and am wondering my hormones are kicking in now, however if I pinch my boobs milk still comes out)? Thank you so much. I never thought I would breastfeed this long, much less miss it when it was over.
You’re not crazy. You’re also not abnormal. And yes, your hormones are DEFINITELY going through some big ups and downs, especially since you’re still producing milk and not menstruating yet. But listen: my period had already returned by the time my first two babies weaned (it comes back approximately 10 minutes after my children take their first bite of cereal, EVERY TIME I SWEAR). And my milk dried up within a day. And I still felt very similar. So, so, SO SAD.
But. Daily crying for two weeks or more COULD BE a sign that there’s something going on here. Please read this post and this one, and see if you recognize yourself in either of those fine ladies’ words. Post-weaning depression/anxiety are real things. It should pass with time, but I want you to promise to be mindful of your moods and make sure you aren’t consistently getting worse. Or whether your sadness over the lost cuddle time is interfering with your interactions with your son or your ability to feel happy/joyful about life/motherhood in general. Promise? If any of those things starts happening, you need to talk to a doctor.
Okay. Now we can move on to the part where I rub your back and tell you that dude, I totally understand what you’re feeling.
Some women absolutely do feel the way you thought you’d feel. A mild bittersweet mix of nostalgia and relief. Happy to have their bodies “back” and to toss the nursing bras and tanks and stick the pump in storage. I was pretty okay when Noah weaned, mostly because it had been such a difficult, oftentimes miserable experience. So I was surprised by how upset I got when Ezra weaned. It had always gone so well! And I figured it was better to let him make the decision than for me to “cut him off” at some vague point in the future, and yet…. After I stopped offering, I was seized with terrible WHAT HAVE I DONE BABY COME BAAAACK regret. So much that I even timidly offered the breast a couple days later JUST IN CASE, and he stared at it like some kind of baffling foreign object, like I might as well have been putting my elbow in his face.
That “oh my God, my baby! my bayyyyyybeeeee!” feeling is really, really hard. We all get it, either from weaning or donating the baby clothes or saying goodbye to the crib or whatever random milestone happens to jump up and stab us in the heart. Welcome to motherhood. The only job in the world where you are signing up for guaranteed heartbreak and your primary duties ultimately revolve around making yourself obsolete. I dread the day when my children won’t want to hug me, when I won’t be able to just grab them and smother them in kisses anytime I want. Growing up is hard, and watching your children grow up is perhaps even harder.
I think the first “holy crap he’s not a baby anymore” realization is the hardest, especially when it’s tied to something like breastfeeding, what with the hormones and the bonding and the importance we all place on it. You did GREAT, by the way. You nursed for 14 months and also recognized when your baby was ready to move on and let go. Now it’s time to focus on finding new ways to bond with your son — you of course want cuddles and kisses, but he wants to be chased around the living room or to build forts or go on nature walks and hand you the bugs he found under a rock. Do it, and learn to enjoy the next stage, because it’s awesome. Your baby becomes a little person you can DO STUFF with, and talk to and play with.
Instead of straight cuddling before bed like you used to, try bringing his bedtime stories to your bed and see if he’ll maybe snuggle a bit while you read. If books don’t hold his interest, try some song games or peek-a-boo in the covers — just to give yourself a special extra one-on-one step in the bedtime routine before you put him in the crib.
And while it doesn’t feel that way right now, 14 months old is definitely still a baby, in my expert opinion. Does he still have dimples where his knuckles should be? Baby chub and soft, smooth skin? Can you still nibble on his toes without gagging from the smell of his feet? Sorry, kiddo, nursing or not, you’re still Mommy’s little baby. Deal with it, and give her a cuddle every now and then.
Photo Source: iStockphoto/ThinkstockPublished April 4, 2012. Last updated October 29, 2017.