The looming specter of weaning

Happy, full Go
Happy and full Mr. Go

Hugo and I aren’t anywhere near ready for weaning, but I started taking a good look at my ideas about it lately.

I knew I wanted to breastfeed before Hugo was born. My mom breastfed me, and I was allegedly an avid nurser. Family legend has it that she knew it was time to stop when I looked up from nursing and said “Tasty, but needs salt,” imitating Cookie Monster I think. Is that when it’s time to stop?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for at least one year and that babies only consume breast milk for the first six months of life.  The World Health Organization echoes the six month rule “with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

It’s been almost six months. So what have I found in my experience? I wouldn’t trade breastfeeding my son for anything. I was lucky – Hugo seemed to know what to do from day one (hour one, actually) and we never struggled with poor latching, low supply, infection or any other difficulties I’ve heard about. Once Hugo regained his birth weight in five days, I never worried about being able to feed him.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of knowing I am able to provide everything my baby needs. When Hugo has been sick, scared, tired, or in pain, breastfeeding was always what he wanted. When he sleeps next to me in bed, neither of us have to wake up fully when he needs to nurse and he sleeps longer stretches knowing that I am by his side. It’s almost like magic. How amazing is it that my body has given Hugo exactly what he needed for the first six months of his life?

I was discussing breastfeeding recently with a friend from the new mom group I attend at the hospital where I gave birth. Our babies are both around six months old and she said she couldn’t bear the idea that her daughter is halfway to weaning and had decided to continue breastfeeding beyond one year. I agree! I like the idea from Attachment Parenting that breastfeeding should continue until the child decides  to stop.

I became anxious about the idea of stopping when I read a post about weaning in an Attachment Parenting group. I don’t want to push Hugo away while he cries and tugs at my shirt! Most people that I’ve discussed it with seem to think that it’s odd (or gross?) to breastfeed a child over the age of two. But plenty of people seem squeamish with breastfeeding at any age.

I’m comfortable breastfeeding in public now. I use a cape to cover up if the people I’m with seem uncomfortable, even though it doesn’t involve baring much skin. Hugo is fed on demand but he’s finally at the point when I can count on him to go at least a couple of hours between feedings. There were a couple of occasions early on where I ran through a store holding a screaming Hugo – confused as to why food was taking longer than usual. It isn’t all smooth sailing.  I worry about getting an infection or mastitis now that I don’t have health insurance.

Next week we’ll be entering the unknown with solid foods. I decided to introduce them by way of baby led weaning, where foods are presented to a baby in solid form rather than purees and he feeds himself from the beginning. I’m very excited about it and look forward to sharing our experience! It is strange to think that Hugo will be getting nourishment outside of breast milk but I know it is time. We just took down his mobiles and bassinet today since he is now pulling up.

One of the forums I read linked to Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding, which further cemented my commitment.  One of my favorite bloggers still breastfeeds her four year old son. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to do the same. I can’t imagine denying Mr. Go as long as he wants to continue nursing.