Providing life-giving nourishment through breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful aspects of motherhood. Breastfeeding also lets the moms bond, soothe, and show their love to their children. But just like how your baby can’t stay little forever, there will come a time where your breastfeeding journey comes to a meaningful close and, for some moms, it can be heartbreaking.
Mom Emily Holdaway shared the final chapters of her breastfeeding story in an emotional post on Facebook. She related how her 19-month-old son Ziggy no longer finds comfort in breastfeeding.
“Ziggy was in pain. His bum was red; his cheeks were hot. He was crying and crying and crying. I offered him the comfort of my breasts, and, through his tears, he shook his head and continued to cry. I looked at AJ,” she wrote.
Then Emily confessed didn’t know what to do now that breastfeeding couldn’t soothe her child. “I felt so powerless… From the moment he was born, breastfeeding has been more than just a source of food. It was what he needed when he was upset, in pain, when he was tired,” she continued.
Emily shared that weaning had come sooner than she expected; she was planning to breastfeed Ziggy for years. But as Ziggy grew and she became pregnant with her second child, her son wanted the comfort of her breasts less and less. She didn’t expect it would cause her so much heartache.
By the time she was 19 weeks pregnant, Ziggy had stopped coming to her for cuddle feeds, and he would only feed during the day when he needed to nap. “If I offer he shakes his head. Then he gets off my lap and runs off. I never expected to have such emotions when it happens, but I do. I feel rejected. I feel useless. I used to be his world, and now his world is expanding.”
The photograph that accompanies her post is of the mother and son skin-to-skin in the shower. It was taken after Ziggy, in pain, refused to nurse, and Emily was finding ways to calm him down. BabyCenter also suggests singing a song together or reading a favorite book to soothe a child who used to find comfort in breastfeeding.
If you’re in the same situation as Emily and finding it hard to let go, experts offer reassuring words. “Weaning from the breast is a natural, inevitable stage in a child’s development. It is a complex process involving nutritional, immunological, biochemical and psychological adjustments,” said Dr. Cheryl Mutch, a pediatrician and newborn specialist, in an article for Paediatrics & Child Health.
“A mother may experience mixed emotions when she starts to wean her baby. She may enjoy some of her newly found freedom, but may also mourn the passing of a very intimate phase in her relationship with her child. It is common for a mother to report a sense of loss or sadness, even with gradual weaning,” said Dr. Mutch.
Experts advised not to think of weaning as the end your intimate bond with your baby. “It just means you're nourishing and nurturing him in different ways,”
As your little one gains new independence, you’ll discover more and more things to bond over, like her favorite mashed vegetable or her favorite dancing song. “By taking a gradual approach to weaning -- and offering plenty of love and affection -- you can help your child make a smooth transition to a bottle or cup,” said Mayo Clinic.