Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bigger Picture Moment: The Tango that is Nursing a Toddler

After 39 months of nursing two little ones, 21 of these last months spent solely nursing E, I've been giving considerable thought to weaning.

But as with any tango, it takes two to dance, and it takes two to call it a night as well.

A self-proclaimed lactivist, much of my inner dialogue balks at the idea of even thinking of weaning my little one before the music's ended and he's taken the lead to move us off of the dance floor.

But, alas, here I am wondering how much longer I can dance at this intensity.

More accurately, here I am, a dancer who's all touched out.

Despite all of the reasons I adore our nursing relationship and passionately support breastfeeding from newborn well into toddlerhood or beyond, I'm finding myself at a complicated place of really wanting my body back for a few months before possibly sporting a brand-new pregnant belly again as well as really wanting to take my few scheduled trips sans kiddos without a pump permanently attached to my breast.

I'd be quite happy to simply slim down our sessions to ones just before bed or nap ... but at 21 months old, E pretty much thinks that the land of flowing mommy milk and honey is a God-given right to all toddlers in search of life, liberty and the pursuit of warm mommy snuggles.

So weaning?

Thems fightin' words.

Literally.

Currently, I need a drawbridge and mote to escape my persistent toddler when he is insistent on nursing. My linebacker child has been known to rearrange an entire dining room set and scale the entire dining room table only to plop down right on my lap and sign for milk after completing the obstacle course.

For those who have never nursed a toddler or even a baby, I know probably it seems strange to think that I'd still be nursing a little one who will turn two this fall.

And the above scenario? It probably sounds extremely weird. To the pre-baby me, it would have sounded absolutely ludicrous to continue nursing a child who could wash down his hamburger with some breastmilk.

So I get it -- this so-called "extended" nursing thing is counter cultural, it's really against the grain and it's really hard to explain to those who are outside of the relationship.

I can assure you, though, that the weaning process isn't as easy as just stopping.

Because nursing is about connection, with oxytocin --the mothering hormone -- coursing through mom's body and the calming act of suckling combined with sweet milk flowing to a nursling whose pressed gently against the skin of his favorite person. Even beyond just physical connection, there's something intensely physiological and physcological occurring every time the two sit down and connect in this way.

And honestly?

Nursing has pretty much been the key to much of the relative peacefulness in my and E's everyday life together. It's calming to both of us ... except for when it's not, like now, when I'd really like my body back again before we embark on a third journey that will likely result in a few more years of nursing another child.

These thoughts of nursing and weaning come just days before John and I are going be away from E for a few nights to attend a conference.

I'm sure E will fare just fine without his beloved mommy milk for two and a half days; likely since he'll be with Buba and Grandma, he'll have all of the organic hotdogs and strawberries he could ever want.

When I'm out of sight, mommy milk is out of his mind.

However, I'm not sure sure how we're both going to survive when I return if he finds the previously generous flow of milk has slowed to a trickle.

I'm left nervously anticipating the consequences of such a situation.

Because after G weaned {much to his irritation at there being no milk by the half way point of my pregnancy}, our relationship morphed from one of relative peace and closeness to daily altercations and struggles of will.

I wonder, if an abrupt weaning like that should happen, if E's reaction would likely mirror his brother's.

And how could I blame him? What could possibly seem unappealing to a little person about sipping sweet cream and snuggling up with mommy several times a day?

Fast asleep post nursing

So, I don't know that I'm ready for our relationship to drastically change.

And if we return home, my milk still flowing and unaffected by the separation, I don't know if I'm ready for our relationship NOT to change either. And I don't want to be the soulless dancer just going through the motions.

Because I know that nursing is more than nutrients in, breastmilk out, belly full, breast empty just like the tango is more than a few steps to the right, a few steps to the left and a swoop of the foot before the final dip.

There's heart. And there's soul. And there's love in each step that makes up the complexity, the loveliness of the dance.

So I know -- it truly takes two to dance the tango that is nursing.

And I'm praying that somehow I have the heart to keep up with the rhythm of the dance or that music slowly fades into a new song that we're both ready to learn.

Simple BPM

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