Time magazine once had a controversial cover that showed a mom breastfeeding what looked like a 5-year-old boy under a headline that read, “Are You Mom Enough?” I remember staring at it and thinking, Whoa! Who would nurse their kid that long?
Breastfeeding was a swing and a miss with my first child. Despite every effort I made, it just didn’t work out. I felt guilty about it and vowed that with my next child, come hell or high water, I would find a way to make nursing work. Apparently, the universe heard that vow and nearly three years after my second child figured out how to latch on, I am desperately trying to wean.
And I mean desperate.
The first few weeks of nursing were glorious. After I fought my way through the pain of breaking in my nipples, I found nursing to be this heavenly experience that encapsulated every gauzy daydream I had about motherhood. I nursed proudly. I refused to cover up in public. I drank Mother’s Milk tea, I ate kale, I did yoga, and I maintained low stress all in an effort to keep my milk factory running smoothly.
As my child gained weight and appeared to be thriving, my pediatrician asked me if I had thought about introducing a bottle. “No,” I said. “What if there is nipple confusion?” What if my child stops nursing and I fail at this a second time, I wondered. The pediatrician made some great points, calmed my fears, and off I went to buy some bottles and new lines for the breast pump that sat in a closet for the last four years.
For the next couple of months, I tried to get my kid to take a bottle with no success. I tried making a game out of using a pacifier. No deal. I tried those cute little square foot blankets with the satin edge and the adorable animal head in the center. Not happening. I tried my finger. I tried warm milk in a cup. I tried talking up being a big kid. Nothing worked. This kid only wanted boob.
My kid would happily eat bowls of oatmeal, smashed bananas or avocados, and hummus by the bucket load, and he would drink cups of milk or water. But he still insisted on nursing.
When he turned 18 months, I told myself that that was a great age to wean. I would just give it my all, and we would figure out weaning together. But the more tactics I tried for weaning my child, the harder my kid worked to double down on nursing.
I was screwed.
On one particularly tough night after my kid had turned 2 and was in the middle of a horrible round of teething, my husband said, “You know that you are a walking binky, right?” And that’s when I realized that this entire refusal to end nursing made total sense. My poor kid had an emotional attachment, not a nutritional attachment.
It would be like someone asking me to never eat carbs again. I got it. I understood. I felt like a big fat jerk, but I also felt like I really just wanted to stop nursing. Soon there came a point when during nursing my skin felt like it was crawling. Every part of me wanted to say, “Dude, we gotta talk…”
So I turned to my mom friends for help. I asked for advice on how to break up the bond between my kid and my boob. By this point my boobs had become nothing more than pacifiers, and honestly, I was getting so tired of having to nurse. The bigger my child got, the more self-conscious I was about nursing him, especially in public or in front of opinionated family members.
I knew when he asked to nurse after every meal, before every nap, any time I said the word “no,” we had a problem.
He is 2 ½ now. The battle for the boob has escalated, and I find myself doing horrible things in order to avoid nursing. After consulting with my friend who is also a lactation consultant, I tried gradually ending day nursing. It didn’t work. I tried gradually ending night nursing. That failed spectacularly. And now I am at a place where I never thought I would be and that is the tactic of cold turkey.
There is a date circled on my calendar. This will be the day that I crush my poor kid’s emotional soul with a wedge of lemon and a turtleneck. Not only will I shove cabbage leaves into my bra cups, but I will rub lemon juice on my nipples, wear really difficult to access shirts, and put my foot down (and my earplugs in) while my poor kid will howl in disgust. I am told this will last for roughly a week.
I loved nursing. I loved that bond. But at some point I had to admit that, despite what time wanted me to understand, I was mom enough to know that I wanted to nurse until now, but now I’m mom enough to know that I am done.
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