Last week my son decided he didn't want to nurse to sleep for his nap. This was surprising and a little hurtful. I was completely confused at how my dedicated little nursling could suddenly do something so out of character. But the following day, he refused to unlatch for the entire length of his nap, so I shrugged it off.
However, in the days since, our nursing relationship has taken a sudden and dramatic shift. And this is none too pleasing to this little mama.
For the first couple of days, he still nursed overnight, but a couple nights ago, he refused to nurse to sleep and then when he woke up at 2 am, he refused to nurse again. He didn't seem to know what to do with himself, and frankly, I felt the same way. For the past 19 months, our go-to move has been breastfeeding. He cries, I nurse. He's teething, I nurse. He has a cold, I nurse. Whatever the ailment or trouble was, nursing was a surefire fix. But suddenly, he rejected it.
And the breastfeeding relationship is so intimate that it's really hard to not feel like he's rejecting me. In fact, it's impossible to feel any other way. Around midday yesterday, I started to feel engorged, so I pumped a measly half an ounce. I gave him that milk in a sippy cup with dinner. He guzzled it right down. So when my husband did the bath and PJs routine as he always does, I pumped again. This time I got two ounces. Again, he guzzled most of it and only left a little in the cup. So today, I pumped in the morning, at midday and in the evening with the intention of giving him a nighttime cup of milk. But he rejected it.
I've met every milestone of his with a smile. I couldn't have been happier to see him start crawling, then walking and talking. Every big boy move of his has seemed amazing to me. I love to watch him learn new things and explore the world, and he does it all with this look of pride and amazement on his face.
But this is a milestone I'm not happy to see.
Sure, there's a chance that this is just a nursing strike. He has been stuffy, and he's definitely cutting his molars. But there's something about his steadfast refusal to drink my milk, both from the breast and from a cup that feels very final to me. I'm going to continue to pump and hope that he changes his mind. But if this the end of this part of our life together, I wish I had known.
I'd have held him closer the last time we nursed. I'd have inhaled his sweet milk breath one last time. I'd have kissed his little hands and tickled his toes like we used to do. I'd have memorized every little sensation and look, and as cheesy as it sounds, I'd have cherished it more than I did. As it is, I can't quite remember when the last time was. Was it that nap? Or sometime overnight since then? I honestly don't know.
There's so much that's indescribable in our time together as a nursing pair, so much that I'm not ready to let go of. And I'm so surprised that he is ready to let go of it. I feel blindsided and sad and confused. How will I comfort him now? What will I do when he has a bad dream or falls and hurts himself? Holding him and rocking him was never enough. He always needed milk to help him feel better. Will it be enough now?
I feel like I have to learn the ropes all over again. I feel like I did in those newborn days when he cried endlessly and I didn't know how to help him.