Do you hate breastfeeding your toddler?
I actually don’t. Hate breastfeeding, that is. Maybe you can tell from the near-thousand breastfeeding photos I’ve shared on Instagram or the tens-of-thousands of words I’ve pressed into my keyboard about it here. But have I been enamored with every second? Certainly not. My love for breastfeeding is, in my own experience, a synchronized dance that swings along with the lyrical back-and-forth love I have for parenthood.
By now, the days of early nursing awkwardness seem so ancient, I might require a paleontologist to dig up those bones. I’m stuck like a thumb in a door jamb in a progressed era of breastfeeding, one that’s rarely talked about. I’m doing the nursing aversion thing… again.
Yes, I’m on my second run with this. My first child weaned a little after he turned six. My husband asked, “Are you sure he’s done?” I said, “I’m sure I’m done.” My son hasn’t asked since, and I believe he won’t again, but if he does… I don’t plan to consent (in as loving a way as possible).
You see, I’m a bit overwhelmed with the daily nursing aversion catapult from child number two. We’re in this weird phase that involves lazy latches, hormonal changes, disturbingly fluttery suckling, ill-timed requests for “nanoo” at the same early morning hour that reminds me of past trauma.
But god, I can’t get enough of the way his hair and scalp smells when I can get my nose right in it. And the way he curls into me, melts into me, heaves a sigh of relief the weight of cement blocks after ten seconds in my arms. I’m simultaneously physically disgusted by the technicalities of the event, and impassioned with oxytocin by it. Because I love him, and at the lowest-level shelf of my core, I truly love breastfeeding him, despite what surface distractions wish to complicate matters. Not just for the benefits and blah-blah-blah. Breastfeeding is a torrid love affair.
After one and a half runs with nursing aversion, I’ve learned what to expect. I don’t even really know how to effectively deal with it honestly. I just am dealing with it. Many mothers in a similar situation choose to discontinue nursing. I completely understand this instinct. However I avoid finite decisions like no one’s business so I haven’t balanced on the cliff edge just yet. I’m more of a “slow death ’til it kills me” type.
So here I am making excuses every single day, an arsenal of tricks to weasel my way out of nursing when I need it, easy outs that minimize feelings of upset or betrayal from the one person who needs what I’m incapable of managing in that moment.
“Let’s do nanoo after breakfast, okay?… after the car ride, ‘kay?… right before daddy gets home, k?”
“We need to switch sides, please. Other side now. Otherrrr siiiiide!”
“Just a little bit, okay?”
“Don’t you want water? Almond milk? A snack? A breakfast bar? You must want a breakfast bar, right? Bar first, okay?”
“Yes I love to nanoo, too. Let’s do two minutes, okay?”
Yep, I say “okay?” a lot. I want him to know this is a mutual decision. And during those few (or many) minutes of nursing that inevitably happen, I might feel like jumping out of my skin. But I focus on what I’ll miss when this is all over one day. The same things I miss about his older brother nursing. The feeling that we are in a separate space and time. No one can touch us here. And something serious looming, a knowing that this will not be forever.
My nipple is acutely disturbed as he drinks. There’s not much milk left anymore. What used to be propitious oceans are now more like forlorn drinking fountains. He prefers the right side now, and the imbalance of supply/demand sends a chill down the unstimulated median. Each breast feels molested in their own ways.
The rest of me is equally as uncontrolled: I scoop him closer, kiss his forehead, restrain myself from gnawing on his delicious face, playfully nibble on his features to the tune of toothy toddler grins. I can’t even keep quiet as my mouth bursts open to spill the words “I love you, you’re such a good baby, you know that, right?”
Fucking confusing, right.
It seems like every day I’m planning new ways to skirt the “nanoo” issue, while daydreaming about how wonderful it will be to do our cozy, curly, warm breastfeeding thing yet again.
If my previous experience is any clue, this will last another 1-3 years. And I say — bring it on. Breastfeeding through aversion will not be what overthrows my emotional health, of all the things. Because hard things, I can do those. And I will wrap my arms around them with a kiss and a deep inhale of the addictive scents and maybe even an indulgent nibble.
Hard things, I see you. I’m going to enjoy my time with you. We’ll be done when things aren’t so confusing, when I can be sure… it’s time to let go of the urge to consent, and of the need to connect in this particular way (with many other loving ways at our disposal).
Nursing aversion makes breastfeeding confusing because it makes me appreciate what we have even more.
Other posts on nursing aversion:
- “Get Away From Me! I Love You.” (Alas, nursing aversion has found us)
- Setting Boundaries With An Older Child (Plus Nursing Aversion)
- I Feel Just Like This Cat After A Week Of Bad Nursing Aversion
- When You Want To Wean — But Also Don’t
- Breastfeeding With a History of Sexual Abuse: Women Speak
- Encouragement For Full-Term & Tandem Breastfeeders
- Reasons Why My 4-Year-Old Nurses (His Words & Mine)
- (Incorrectly) Assumed Reasons Why My 4-Year-Old Nurses