Breastfeeding With a Weaned One Watching

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I wrote a post a while back about wondering whether 3.5 year old MaiTai would tandem nurse with his baby brother, Julep. MaiTai was still nursing regularly then, and it wasn’t until my eighth month of pregnancy that he stopped altogether (minus a few ‘test tries’ to see if the milk had changed its taste yet).

Between then and now, he’d accumulated a host of new bigger-kid needs and the long-standing breastfeeding one got booted to the back of his priority list.

When exactly did this happen? His becoming a ‘big boy’ was seemingly overnight! It was like one day he was still asking for ‘nanoo’ regularly, to touch base with me, a way of playing with me, connecting, cuddling… and the next, the option no longer crossed his mind. In reality, it was the culmination of a progression that took place over years, but now I caught sight of the clear finality.

Being third trimester pregnant and struggling with nursing aversion, I was thankful to have some autonomy over this part of my body again. As household activities increasingly involved talks and plans about a new little baby, MaiTai began to see himself more as a ‘big boy.’ Now that Julep is here, MaiTai recognizes the many differences between the baby and himself. After more than a week of on-demand feedings and comfort nursing for Julep, I suspect MaiTai now views breastfeeding as a ‘baby thing.’

Part of me truly believed him when he said he looked forward to the return of my milk when Julep would be born. So I didn’t grant the deserved space or time to grieving the end of his breastfeeding days. I assumed I would just ‘know’ when it would be ‘The Last Time.’

In a way I’m sad. I’ll never know when was the last time he nursed; like really, truly, nursed — in my arms, enjoying the milk, without distraction or interruption, enjoying this inimitable closeness for longer than five minutes. I’m sad that these special times we shared just us, with no one else, are over. But I’ll admit, I do feel relieved to know tandem nursing is off the table.

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A week postpartum, I was sitting on the couch with milk-drunk Julep cradled in the crook of my arm and one breast out. “I want to try that,” MaiTai said, pointing at my nipple. So try we did.

I was keenly aware that this might really be the last time he ever asks. He nursed briefly and made a face. He said he wanted to try “the other one.” After a few suckles he said with a smirk, “It’s not good. It tastes like… bad food.” Oh! Well then.

TDD gave me a pitying look like he felt a little sorry for me, but I wasn’t offended at all. MaiTai’s accompanying grin could’ve either meant he was joking (if only you knew his sense of humor…); that he realized he’s totally over this nursing thing and needed to express a reason for not wanting it; or that he really did think it wasn’t as good as his favorite ‘big kid’ nom-noms.

So MaiTai has outgrown his breastfeeding need. Is this just how natural-term breastfeeding goes? Or did the increasing aversion he must have sensed precipitate the weaning? Was it simply a matter of pragmatics (dwindling/changing milk supply)? Did my pregnancy force him to grow out of his need sooner than he would’ve if the pregnancy was delayed? I wonder all these things and feel the guilt. I do believe everything happens for a reason, though.

Maitai is still involved in breastfeeding even if he can’t do it himself. He loves on Julep as he nurses; strokes his head, gives him gentle ‘baby’ kisses; he brings me Kleenex or my water bottle or phone when I request it.

Julep has nursed wonderfully since day one with no issues on his end (oversupply, engorgement, constant leaking, strong letdowns on mine), so that has helped make for a smoother transition. We’re all still getting accustomed to the changed dynamics around here. It’s our new normal, and it’s actually pretty great.