Thursday, June 28, 2007



It's been nearly 5 weeks since Eve last nursed. And about 3 since she last asked to.

The last time she nursed was early morning when she crawled into bed with us.

Eve: "Where's my binky?"

Me: "I don't know."

Eve: "I want nummy nums [her term for breastfeeding]"

I let her nurse and she fell back to sleep quickly. I popped her off before she was done, but after she was satisfied and she drifted off, as did I.

I didn't know it would be the very last time, but for each time before that for weeks I tried hard to enjoy and remember our time together, because I knew it could be the last, and I wanted to be able to remember it.

After that night, I began stashing a spare binky on the windowsill at the head of the bed. That way I would always know where one was, if she asked.

The photo at the top of this post was taken by Tom. I was somewhat frantic to get a few shots of Eve nursing before it was over, for her sake and for mine. I remember one time on a Sunday when she nursed to sleep in my lap, and I thought, This could be it, this could be the last time. I don't know where the camera is!!!.

The next time, I prepared, and out of a dozen shots, I actually got her face in about 4 photos, the best of which are below.


Until you've tried it, you simply can't imagine how hard it is to do a "self portrait" of you feeding your baby.


Prior to these shots, the only photo that exists of me nursing Eve was taken about 15 minutes after she was born, in the hospital, with me looking like...well, like I just gave birth with an IV of fluids in my arm (dumb hospital policy). That's kind of a bad record given the number of photos we have of Eve, and the number of hours she spent in her little life nursing.

Assuming I can get my act together, I'll be more careful to get pictures of Eve's little brother nursing earlier and more often. Of course, there is this rumor that you don't take anywhere near as many pictures of your second as you do your first. I am not going to say that won't be true for us, but I do hope there's a higher ratio of breastfeeding photos than in Eve's vast portfolio of photos.

Eve has asked to nurse once since that night. It was early in the morning, and I was downstairs exercising. She wasn't getting enough attention from me, was still tired, and hadn't yet had breakfast or even a drink. I picked her up off the couch and she asked for "nummy nums"

Me: "Sure honey. But would you rather have a snack instead?"

She nodded solemnly, with little perfect tears brimming in her eyes. and said, "uh huh."

So I took her upstairs, got her a bowl of cereal, and she never looked back.

We've spoken about it some. She misses it a little, and she's still interested in my "nummy nums" and talks about how Peanut will have them. She's committed to helping Peanut learn how to nurse.

Her weaning is not quite the perfect weaning I might have hoped for. Due to the need for me to work part time away from home from the time she was about 4 months old, she's always had a certain tolerance for bottles and binkies. Until I became pregnant, the binky was really a second-rate replacement. Since pregnancy, and the subsequent drying-up of what little milk remained, there was a slow but steady shift in preference for the binky.

The upside to this, is she never really had to go through a time when she didn't get to find comfort in sucking. There's was never a need for me to put my foot down and say, "no more" or "only for a moment." There were no tears to this weaning, despite the fact that she has not quite outgrown her need to suck.

The downside, of course, is that I will now have to wean her from the binky, which will be harder, since I have control over my body, but quite a bit less control over little plastic plugs that seem to turn up magically, as if growing right out of the carpet.

Just this week I have really seen the challenges involved in losing a valuable mothering tool like breastfeeding. Eve has her first post-nursing cold, and I cannot comfort her as I once did through the fitful nights. Her behavior has been quite awful, excusable because of her illness, but not the norm. Nursing helped her through discomfort and tough feelings in a way that a binky simply can not do.

In addition, my germaphobe nature is rearing its ugly head. I can no longer provide her with additional nutrients to augment her diet, consisting of almost nothing because of a decreased appetite. I can no longer provide her with my immunities through my breast milk. She's not protected as she once was, and I find myself feeling a bit nervous that we never went to her 2-year well-baby appointment to get another round of vaccines, which before never seemed to be much of a priority.

God knows how frantic I'll feel when she gets the stomach flu. Nursing has been the way to comfort, nourish, and hydrate through such an illness in the past. What will I do if she won't drink? Will a binky and stroking my hair as she rests in my lap be comfort enough? How will we get through it without nursing?

But the biggest challenge I thought I would face hasn't materialized. She falls asleep just as easily (which is not very easily, quite honestly) as she ever did. She still cuddles and strokes my hair, and it's just a little bit harder for me to tell when she is truly asleep, as the binky provides no signals as to how her sucking pattern has changed. I look forward to the day when she won't need the binky, and when it takes a bit less time to get her down for the night, but for now, I don't mind the arrangement (most of the time).

And then there's simply the wistfulness.

I'm sure that if I were not pregnant, and a mere 6 weeks from the due date of this new baby, I would feel a great deal more grief than I do. As it is, I know that another nursing relationship is right around the corner, with all its frustrations and joys. So I can look pragmatically at this weaning as a good and necessary change, inevitable and bitter-sweet.