They quit me. Just like that and it was over. One morning it was a refusal, and then another, and then another. They just kept coming.
Uncomfortable, breasts engorged from unexpressed milk, I wasn’t sure what to do. “Maybe, it’s a phase,” I thought, “or maybe it was a strike. I’ve heard that babies can have milk strikes after a change, or from discomfort, or from pain, etc. I have just been out of town for two days, it must be a strike.”
I started to google. I found so many sites, all pointing me to a milk strike. Meaning that this would be temporary. I should just hang in there and keep offering. Even try nursing when they are almost asleep, or in a quiet room, or when they need comfort. So, I kept asking. They kept signing no.
A week later at the pediatrician, I asked for help. She told me that she hasn’t ever seen a baby this age, 18 months, go back to nursing after a week of refusal. She was probably right, but I googled some more just to sure. Then, I saw it.
A post from a nursing parent also seeking answers for their 18 month old. One day their baby had just said no. Expecting more advice on nursing strikes, I kept scrolling anyway. The first post was from a parent who said what I needed to here – “It sounds like baby has decided to stop, you should respect their decision.”
I knew in that moment what I had been doing. I had been holding so tight to nursing…for so many reasons…supposed health benefits, immunity, nutrition, nourishment comfort, and connection. I started to think back to the last few weeks and realized that they had been showing signs of being done. They were finishing early, not always really latching, refusing occasionally, and needing a song sung to them at bedtime in order to focus on nursing.
This worry, this trying to find answers, this googling was all for me. And I made a misstep in not respecting their boundaries. This baby of mine had made a decision. A big kid decision in their toddler-hood and I was refusing to hear it.
In this moment, I let go. Breasts still in pain, full of milk, probably because I held onto it emotionally.
I cried. Not just for the loss of nursing this little one who is growing so fast, but also because this is the last baby I will nurse. The ending was more abrupt that I expected, and it was not in my control. This was not a mutual decision. And it was never supposed to be.
I write this, still with sore breasts, a weary heart, but also a deep understanding of my misstep in teaching boundaries, respecting boundaries.
With babies, boundaries can be blurred as we as the adults have to make so many decisions when they can’t tell us sometimes. But this baby did tell me. They are making decisions every moment and I missed this one. Today, I forgive myself and I am also paying attention.